In a scene from English Vinglish, Shashi is described by her husband as someone who was born to cook and make laddoos. All Sashi does in response is look up smiling even as her eyes firmly question the utter lack of respect for her as a human. English Vinglish is a sum total of such subtle moments that touch a chord without overwhelming and preaching.
Sridevi is Shashi, a maharashtrierian housewife and mother of two who is not given enough respect in her family as she can't speak English. A marriage in the family takes Sashi to New York all alone where she decides to learn English through a four week classes set. Through the language, she learns to respect and love herself, how she does that is the crux of the story.
Debutant director Gauri Shinde uses every trick in the book to tug at your hearts. Precocious kids, Indo-Pak friendship on foreign shores, gay support , every cliche thinkable is in here. Yet, she infuses them with subtlety and warmth converting them into moments that make one smile.
English here is a metaphor, not the destination but a means to regain the respect that sometimes gets lost in relationships, be it parents and kids or spouses. That language need not be a barrier to understand people is also exemplified in the tender moments where Sashi and the french Lorvent speak to each other in the resepctive native languages and yet understand each other thoroughly.
Learning English is Sashi's way of finding her way back into her life, of finding her self worth back and as she says in the climax to regain the balance in her marriage. The narrative is light, sensitive and does not at any point remotely try to preach. Things get a little stretched post interval where the picture suddenly starts resembling Mind Your Language, but then a rivetting Sridevi makes up for it.
That brings us to Sridevi herself. As Sashi, she is vulnerable, cute, warm and immensely determined at the same time. Sridevi wins your heart over in the very initial scenes and from then on, you cannot but marvel at how beautifully she conveys a woman who though clad in cotton saris all the time is as modern in her outlook as one can be.
With a permformance that is nothing short of perfect, Sridevi shows that the only difference age makes to an actor is to give layers of experience to every twitch of the eye, every smile and gesture in front of the camera. Sridevi the actress, the woman is the focus here not the star and the director does well to not let her break into a trademark dance number just to live up to her image.
Watch her in the scene where she is elated at being called an Enterpreneur for the first time in her life, and you know that Sridevi is a class act.
English Vinglish also wins because of a beautiful supporting cast that enables Sridevi rise above the rest without overpowering them. Then there is Amit'smusic that underscores every emotion and nuance perfectly. Watch this one for some simple storytelling and undiluted honest performances.view less