English Vinglish is a story of a woman’s journey to discover her deprived self-esteem, order her own lost self, oncology and mend her warped dignity, all of which have got buried beneath her daily chores & mundane household activities; here her lack of understanding English is used as a metaphor; in reality, it could have been anything. It is a good concept wrapped in a competent film, one I believe will appeal to the ladies audience.
The film is brilliantly written without any extraneous frills, juicily fleshed out from its core. However, it’s strength is somewhat its failure too. The movie is so intimately narrated from the protagonist’s point of view that male audience may feel alienated, which I definitely did. It’s as if Gauri Shinde is sitting in a kitty party and narrating an experience, and the other gender can but just sit back and squirm uncomfortably. Beyond a point, I felt like throwing up my hands and accept, ‘ok we got the message’! Not a very good way of driving the point of home, since I believe that was the purpose in the first place : give respect to your wives, men!
And of course, the other strongly negative aspect is the movie has a very linear and predictable flow-chart, with most of its key-points captured in its promotional videos.
The good parts are many – first of which is the extremely exceptional star cast, led by the diva Sridevi. She slips into the role of an upper middle class housewife with such marvellous ease it’s difficult to imagine that she once made the nation swoon with her deep colored chiffon sarees. She’s the movie’s lynchpin and predictably receives the meatiest part. Each expression – of being inadvertently slighted by her husband, of some stolen moments of uninhibited joy in aping Michael Jackson with her young son, of finishing her duties with satisfaction, of guilt in getting attracted to her English-school classmate – waves past her expressive face & eyes in multi-hued shimmer.
Adil Hussain as her husband, Mehdi Nabou as her classmate are equally good, as are the other classmates and family members. Amitabh Bachchan comes in for a one-scene cameo and does what he is always best at : lustily grab the scene & make it his own!
Gauri Shinde’s direction is skilled; she narrates her story well, keeping an even pace, and provides enough pauses for the thoughts to sink in. Her writing is crisp. There is nothing over-the-top. The editor has cut the film lucidly.
Laxman Utekar’s camera captures the Pune and home shots in tight frames, while going expansive in the New York bits, reflecting the protagonist’s changing mind-scape.
Amit Trivedi’s background score is deliciously non-intrusive & subtle while his songs are used to fortify the collages when the narrative just has to bridge over the sequences. The songs are very good – Piya bin dil lage na, Navrai Mazhi & Gustaakh dil can be heard repeatedly on their own.
Overall, did I like the film? – in a way yes, for it’s competence (why am I just getting that word again and again in my mind!) but in another way, perhaps I’d prefer something spicier & pungent! There is a kind of dullness which settles in once the movie is underway, though it’s nothing to do with what is being shown on screen – difficult to state it, but I somehow didn’t come out very satisfied. And movie watching experience is quite an holistic affair – perhaps it was all to do with the awful chameli-ka-tel kind of smell that the person sitting next to me was emanating ;-))