Saturday, October 06, 2012

English Vinglish 

Heroine Veroine

Okay so, the dutiful Pune homemaker cannot speak English. As a result of which, her husband constantly (and casually) puts her down and her daughter is horribly nasty.  If it such a problem, there are plenty of English classes in the city. As for the daughter, a grounding was definitely in order, not being able to speak in English hardly an excuse not to discipline a brat.

That said,  Gauri Shinde’s debut film English Vinglish, with its very thin plot and idea lifted from the old TV show, Mind Your Language (remade in India as Zabaan Sambhal Ke), coasts along on simplicity, the charm of its leading lady and some deft, non-melodramatic emotional manipulation. Will a traditional housewife get swayed by the attentions of a sexy Frenchman?  Perish the thought—she won’t even accept his offer of a coffee!  Aiyyo!

Everybody can identify with the snobbery of English speakers in India, who believe they are a superior species to the ‘vernies.’ Mispronouncing an English word brings on the jeers, when it’s okay to mangle any other language.  When the US visa officer asks how she will manage without English, his Indian colleague quips, “Like you managed without Hindi.”  (Taaliyaan).

The impending wedding of her niece takes Shashi to New York, and for a home-bound woman like her, it’s an ordeal. The plane journey is made easier by her co-passenger (a star cameo), but once in the US, even getting a coffee from a rude and impatient serving woman becomes a humiliating episode.

She decides to secretly take English lessons, and at the class she meets a Mind Your Language kind of multi-racial bunch. She endears herself to the teacher David (Cory Hibbs) both by her eagerness to learn and by being nonjudgmental about his gayness, and to a French chef Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou), who falls in love with her.  

As the story progresses, her body language becomes more confident, and she looks like a new person is emerging out of the shy, insecure and frightened cocoon. While at home, her culinary skills are not given any particular attention, she is thrilled to discover that her small laddoo-making enterprise makes her an “entrepreneur.”

Of course it’s predictable as all worm-turns stories are; of course you know she will dazzle her boorish husband (Adil Hussain) and horrid daughter (Navika Kotia) with a speech in English. But, as it is with all good films it’s not the what that matters, it’s the how—and the Shinde-Sridevi combo makes the very basic telefilms-like inspirational story work well with the little moments that bring out smiles and cheers.   Most importantly, it does the rare thing, puts a 40 plus woman at the centre of a Bollywood film. For that the film deserves to be watched so that the message goes out that a new age audience is not sexist and Bollywood needs to treat women with respect.


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

eXTReMe Tracker