ENGLISH VINGLISH is special. Sridevi, who ruled the marquee in the 1980s and 1990s, belting out hit after hit, returns to the silver screen after a hiatus. The film won rave reviews at a recently concluded film festival, with the critics referring to the actress as Meryl Streep of India. That, in my opinion, is the ultimate honor for any actress.
Let me set the prevalent doubts to rest. ENGLISH VINGLISH is not a rehash of the immensely popular TV show ZABAAN SAMBHAALKE or its British version MIND YOUR LANGUAGE. It's as dissimilar as oranges and apples are.
First-time director Gauri Shinde [she has enough ad films to her credit] chooses a subject -- a woman incapable to converse in English and hence looked upon as an embarrassment by her own people -- to send across a message. The larger message is that any individual can triumph over any uncertainty, surmount all apprehensions and redeem the self-esteem, if he/she makes an earnest endeavor to overcome it. Also, the woman [a neglected housewife/a mother of two in the movie] yearns for respect. But respect can only be earned and the woman does so in the most uncomplicated, yet remarkable way. She makes a quiet resolve to learn the language and does so without relying upon anyone else. What really makes the movie stand out, besides a lot of factors contributing to its strengths, is the manner with which the director picks up an issue [which many would consider ordinary] and makes a movie that chokes you with sentiments.
Also, one needs to applaud the endeavor because films like PAAN SINGH TOMAR, KAHAANI, VICKY DONOR, GOW 1 and 2, BARFI!, also last week's OMG - OH MY GOD! and now ENGLISH VINGLISH, hi-concept films all, take the unconventional route, yet enlighten and entertain, both. Sure, masala movies are great fun, but a film like ENGLISH VINGLISH breaks the monotony, shatters the unwritten rules of the game and scores brownie points. Cinema is rapidly changing and one can connect with viewers across the globe even without making the usual mainstream Hindi movie. ENGLISH VINGLISH proves it!
ENGLISH VINGLISH is the story of a woman who struggles with English and is made to feel insecure by her family and society at large. The film depicts the touching and transformational journey of a housewife, Shashi [Sridevi]. Circumstances make her resolute to prevail over this lack of confidence, master the language, teach the world a lesson or two on the way to becoming a self-assured and confident woman.
If Sridevi is the driving force on screen, it's Gauri Shinde who stands out with a near-perfect film in her very first attempt. The concept is oven fresh and the handling of a number of sensitive and dramatic moments is noteworthy.
Gauri smartly integrates the songs in the narrative, although, I genuinely feel, the film would've excelled even without songs. The songs [Amit Trivedi], though situational, are soft and soothing. Cinematography [Laxman Utekar] captures the vibrant colors with dexterity.
ENGLISH VINGLISH is unimaginable without Sridevi. Correspondingly, I don't think Sridevi could've got a more cohesive script to return to movies. This is unlike what the actress has done in the past. Think of Sridevi and you recall films like HIMMATWALA, CHAALBAAZ, NAGINA, MR. INDIA, CHANDNI, LAMHE, KHUDA GAWAH, LAADLA and JUDAAI. But the supremely talented actress also has non-glam roles like the one in SADMA to her credit. She returns to the big screen in a role that's sans the frills, spectacle and theatrics and yet wins hearts. She's stellar, in terrific form, immersing herself in this character, playing her ageâ€¦ so much so that after a point you forget you're watching someone who has immortalized so many characters. What you carry home, and in your heart, is Shashi, a woman who is snubbed by her children and husband on various occasions for her lack of English-language skills, but overpowers her apprehensions and insecurities and emerges triumphant eventually.
Priya Anand, who has several South Indian language films to her credit, is excellent as Sridevi's niece, the only person who understands her well, besides her lovable mother-in-law [Sulbha Deshpande]. Another actor to watch out for is Adil Hussain, who enacts the role of Sridevi's husband, who often taunts her with the remark that she [Sridevi], his wife, was born to make laddoos. He's natural to the core, addressing a role without going overboard. Sujata Kumar, as Sridevi's elder sister, is splendid.
French actor Mehdi Nebbou is just right. Even when he's speaking in French, the expression that he conveys says it all and that is the hallmark of a fine actor. However, when he speaks in French, subtitles in English were essential for the viewer to decipher or decode and would have adjoined considerable value to those extremely significant sequences. Amitabh Bachchan is simply fantastic in a cameo. Wish there was more of this legendary actor! Navika Kotia, enacting the role of the daughter, is first-rate, but it is the child actor, Shivansh Kotia, Sridevi's son, who is endearing and steals your heart with his adorable antics. Sulbha Deshpande is admirable.
Sridevi's classmates, each of them, pitch in neat performances. Right from the taxi driver from Pakistan to a South Indian guy to a Mexican nanny and of course, the English teacher, everyone stands out in their respective parts.
On the whole, ENGLISH VINGLISH is a remarkable motion picture. It's amusing, emotional, heartrending and also insightful. An inspiring film with an overwhelming message. A must-watch for every parent, every child. Strongly recommended!