Cast: Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, Adil Hussain, Sulbha Despande
A few minutes into English Vinglish, and it’s clear why the erstwhile box-office queen chose the film as her comeback vehicle after a 15-year hiatus.
Belittled for not knowing English and often taken for granted by her family, the unassuming Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) is not the same heroine who gyrated sensuously to Kaate Nahi Kat Te Yeh Din, Yeh Raat. She has swapped her diaphanous chiffons for flowery silk sarees and the elaborate make-up for a more understated look. But at 49, Sridevi can still capture public attention.
Hard-working and unassuming, Shashi is content looking after her family and running a small catering business from home. And though she constantly seeks the approval of her indifferent husband Satish (Adil Hussain) and their impatient teenage daughter, she often suffers in silence when they dismiss her efforts. When Shashi is forced to travel alone to the US for her niece’s wedding, she decides to turn things around.
English Vinglish is a heartwarming tale of a middle-class homemaker struggling to earn the respect of her loved ones, who often mock her for not being fluent in the language. Fortunately, she finds support from the women in the family — her mother-in-law (essayed by the delightful Sulbha Deshpande) and a loving niece who eggs her on to live up to her potential.
Along the way, Shashi meets a Frenchman named Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou). Handsome and attentive, he falls for Shashi, showers her with compliments and makes her ‘feel good’ about herself. Of course, this being a Hindi film and the heroine being the quintessential bhartiya nari, the extramarital romance is nipped in the bud. So, Shashi manages to uphold her Indian values by resisting the advances of the delicious-looking Laurent and focuses on the task at hand (that of learning English). At one point she loses her temper and asks him, “Kya tum nahin jaante main do bachchon ki maa hoon? (Don’t you know I am the mother of two kids?)” Yes, yes, point noted!
These few crowd-appeasing moments aside, English Vinglish is a great effort at combining meaningful content with light Bollywood entertainment. Take a bow, Gauri Shinde and team!