English Vinglish: Sweetish Saltish

So now this movie has been billed as  the biggest comeback of a  Bollywood Queen (after she had spent the respectable amount of time growing tired of domestic bliss). Except they said the same thing with Madhuri Dixit’s Aaja Nachle. And Kajol’s Fanaa. And the married Bollywood actress before that…

Okay, now that the balloon has been busted, down to brass tacks

Sashi (Sridevi) is the proverbial Indian housewife (aka doormat) who is basically ignored by her husband and constantly reduced to tears by her teenaged daughter because she doesn’t know how to speak English. She runs a successful laddoo business but her husband doesn’t give a monkey’s uncle as to what she’s upto while he’s at work “attending an important meeting” (the warcry of all menfolk who go to work). Sridevi feels belittled, ignored, snobbed at, belittled, etc. I do not understand how her onscreen daughter could get away with saying half the things she says <overacting alert>.

And then, out of the blue, she is asked to help out with her niece’s wedding in New York  (now why don’t I get such a chance?:/) and she quivers, literally, at the prospect of going to “Amreeka” alone and lonely as her family would join her later because they have commitments at school and work (another cruel dart at the housewife).

How she successfully navigates the New York subway system then forms the rest of the story.

I am kidding.

No, I am not.

Well, to think of it, the worst part of watching such a once-in-a-while film like English Vinglish is thinking about  all it could have been (The Rise of the Great Indian Housewife), and all it is reduced to (well it is kind of  A Break for the Great Indian Housewife) . Now that’s really sad because this is the greatest comeback of a Bollywood Diva (atleast until Ms Rai Bachchan dons the greasepaint) who, for a change, does not aspire to save a dance academy or falls in love with a Kashmiri terrorist. She “comes back” as one among the millions of married Indian women (and potrays them so well). The movie is upbeat (especially in the parts where she learns English along with half a dozen of mad, assorted characters). It is also subtly unsubtle. But then of course, I could go on picking bone (although I am pure veg). Therefore, to cut a long review short, here are the

Brownie points:

Sridevi, at places (in New York mostly)

Mehdi Nebbou <well, if you think I didnt gloat much about Sridevi’s acting skills, it is because I was too busy staring at him (open mouthed, may I add) whenever he appeared on screen>

Salman Khan and Ramamurthy (not the ones you think!)

The cute little kid who plays Sridevi’s son

Amit Trivedi’s music

Screenplay and direction  (90% of it, especially a certain scene in the subway where Sashi opens up about her feelings)

Ajith! Ajith! Ajith! <120 rupees well spent>

Sridevi’s monologue in the end

Cakey points:

The remaining 10% of the screenplay

The movie is almost Karan Joharesque at places, aka predictable

The overacting daughter and the undercaring husband

The quivers and shivers that comprises Sridevi’s acting abilities

I would have been more happy, like  jumping up and down in the theater kind of happy,  if Sashi had “undomesticated” herself and fully thrown herself into the thick of things, so it is kind of irritating when she says, toward the end of the movie,  stuff  like “At this point of  my life, all I want is respect, not love”. (Cue eyes rolling upward, high toward the half-heartedly functioning air-conditioning ducts of the movie theater.)

The saddest part of it all is that the protagonist aspires to rise only to the level of a carpet as opposed to  being a doormat. Not even a wall hanging.

Now that’s just plain sad.


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