English Vinglish marks the return of Sridevi who returns to the silver screen after a hiatus of 15 years and not only does she deliver a flawless performance but the film has plenty of subtle happy-vappy and sad-vad moments that everyone experiences in daily life which gives it repeat value. Right from the opening scene, the movie makes you feel like you are in a typical home in India with an uncomplaining and patient wife, a husband who earns a good living, two cute kids and a loving mother in-law, Shulbha Deshpande. The story is about Shashi (Sridevi), a Maharashtrian housewife who quietly puts up with the playful and insensitive jokes from her husband and kids pointing to her inability to speak proper English. It's such a terrific performance by Sridevi that every mother will at one point or the other find herself in the place of Shashi! But it’s not only about English. It’s also about how we take mothers for granted. How we rant, shout, make rude remarks, even feel embarrassed at our own parents (like Shashi’s daughter sulks at her inefficiency).
In return what the mother gives is selfless love. Shashi is not only a doting mother and loving wife but also a small scale entrepreneur who delivers homemade laddoos! It’s the only skill she is proud of but the fact that her husband isn’t equally proud saddens her. Eventually she comes to a conclusion that only English speaking people are stylish and important. The cameo by Amitabh Bachchan fits in the plot and the fun tit bits will be remembered by the audience, for example, the moment she has to fly to the USA she is all panicky and gets up in middle of the night asking her husband not to send her alone. My heart goes out for Shashi in the song “Jiya Ra Dhak Dhuk”.
The main story begins in the US showcasing the dazzling New York along with the skyscrapers where Shashi decides to learn English and meets all her affectionate friends, a collection of immigrants—a Pakistani cab driver Salman Khan, a Tamilian software engineer, a Spanish-speaking nanny, a young Chinese girl who works in a parlour, a largely silent African man who (like the instructor David) is homosexual. Last but not least is the Frenchman (Mehdi Nebbou) who is a cook and a fervent Shashi-admirer with whom she opens up comfortably in Hindi and he tries to console her in French. These are the moments you feel there is no need of a language between two friends to feel good. At times even silence is enough.
The amazing support cast of English class makes you laugh all the way and the nuances of the English language in various regions are funnily portrayed. Priya Anand fits into the role of an empathetic girl with a lot of freewill who likes her Shashi maussi and encourages her to learn English. The tense moment for Shashi where the French man tries getting close to her is portrayed in the song “Gustaakh Dil” that follows and her revelation that she doesn’t need love but needs some respect are all shown so damn naturally.
Sridevi’s expressions undoubtedly add flavour to the movie. The scene where she is all smiles when the groom Kevin is mesmerised by tasting her mouth wateringly fresh laddoo and her husband Adil Hussain (K.K.Menon look alike) immediately cracks a joke that “She is born to make laddoos”, the way her smile fades and her expression changes is well done. “Navrai Majhi” brings you in to the Marathi wedding mood!
The final speech given by Shashi about how important it is to have a family and feel important in this vast world is all heart touching. She thanks the Frenchman saying he made her feel good about herself.
Hats off to Gauri Shinde for this well-crafted movie (debut directorial) and kudos to Amit Trivedi for music which blends well with the movie. Three cheers to Navika Kotia who plays Shashi’s daughter is also a natural along with son Shivansh Kotia who is as cute as a teddy bear. All said and done this is a full-on Sridevi movie and she passes with flying colors. Though aged she is beautifully balanced with dignity and grace but keeping the girly kiddish charm which she always had. Welcome back!