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English Vinglish  : ‘Feminism Weminism’ Works
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Gauri Shinde
Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, Adil Hussain, Priya Anand
English Vinglish Movie Stills
Low on self-esteem, a housewife takes up the challenge of learning English on the quiet and ends up feeling pretty good about herself.

The plot: In her quest to please husband and kids (which includes a rather rude, school-going daughter), Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) unwittingly becomes the epitome of tolerance as she allows herself to become the butt of all-round jibes. Her one big talent is making and supplying laddoos to people whose nod of appreciation is her little escape from folks like her daughter Sapna, who’s eternally putting her down, and typical Indian husband Satish (Adil Hussain) who’d like her to give up her modest laddoo business because only he should enjoy her fantastic cooking. The big bane of Shashi’s life: she can’t speak English for nuts and that makes her an easy target for everybody’s darts. Her daughter, especially, is so ashamed of her mother (never mind if she tucks into her food without a thank you) that she’s embarrassed when Shashi can’t hold a conversation with her friend’s mother or with her English teacher. It takes a very hesitant trip to New York all by herself for her sister’s daughter’s wedding for Shashi to break free from domestic humdrum, overcome her huge handicap by enrolling quietly for English language classes and discovering that she can pick up the lost pieces of self-esteem. Just then arrives the man who demands his morning cup of tea and she has to choose between the thankless tag of being an unrewarded housewife and finding her self-worth. Heartwarmingly, Shashi does it both.

The good: Right from the credit titles where just one alphabet is in red Devanagiri, it’s refreshing content that writer-director-on-debut Gauri Shinde works on. Most of it is real and relatable and steadfastly keeps away from getting preachy. It’s feminism without the fiery Germaine Greer brand which punches all the right emotional buttons. The detailing of a typical Indian housewife is taken care of magnificently and there’s plenty here that most women would identify with.

There’s freshness in the writing and humour that’s not ho-ho but keeps you smiling. The bonding among the motley bunch of students learning English is warm and there are really no villains.

With 250+ films in her kitty, Sridevi makes an impactful comeback, with the energy of a newcomer hungry to deliver. She is splendid, her round, saucer-like eyes doing most of the talking. Adil Hussain does a good job of being the Indian husband who takes his wife for granted. Radha (Priya Anand), the niece who is Shashi’s staunch supporter, is also spot on. Amitabh Bachchan makes an immensely likeable, breezy cameo up in the air.

The bad: The genre limits the appeal and there is a question mark over whether a young audience would welcome it as enthusiastically as the mature woman would. Apart from the young, would the angrez ambience albeit with an Indian heart, connect with a wide cross-section of men and women?

Overall: An unadulterated, sweet family film full of enlightening moments which touch the right chords and entertain.

– Pooja Thakkar
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