May 4, 2014 By Razeena Ayesha

English Vinglish: A Mom’s Cinematic Self-Discovery

It was a Cool Sunday morning. Ours is an extended family, so the clatter at our home on a Sunday is much noisier than in today’s nuclear-families. But like any other family, ours too was enjoying this “Holy Day”. The best thing on that day is one can put aside the Grandfather clock – that device, which plays quite an important role on week days by regulating our schedules, and thus the term “routine” is ousted out of everyone’s psyche. The decision-makers on Sundays are most often, my teenaged kids – Yes, in chorus comes a unanimous decision – Movie today!

Yay! Meanwhile a close friend of mine calls me and says, hey listen, there’s a lovely movie running at the Crown Theaters, heard its awesome and a must-watch! So the planning begins with a jostle – one picks up the newspaper, jots down the time, another googles to have a glimpse on the reviews so that the movie doesn’t result in puckered brows later. Time’s decided; tickets booked and then one by one, excitement writ large on their faces disappear from the living room to their own creative world to finish of their chores before heading for the movie.

Meanwhile, my husband and I rush to meet a guest from the US, a gentle-woman of 60’s. She is a renowned Professor and writer. We have a lovely breakfast- meeting with her, who also shares her work on the issues of gender inclusiveness in the Muslim world. The activism in me, hidden deep within, unfolds and I come back home with renewed energy. An amazing quality I found in her was, despite being in her 60’s she yearns to learn more, which is a rare phenomenon in this part of the country. By now, it’s almost noon, and we once again hustle to meet our parents, who live half-an-hour drive away. Visiting one’s old parents gives immense contentment, which is the fuel to survive for the next one whole week!

Close to the movie hour – the clatter of noises, and excitement once again back and finally we reach well fifteen minutes before the movie begins – we settle down well, the renovation at the Crown Theatres has given a multiplex effect, which adds to the comfort. The movie is on, and then we realize it’s INTERVAL – how quickly the time flew, how could that be? We look at our watches to confirm, has an hour flown by? Yes it was true! And then we realize how successfully the Director held us together for 120 minutes. So, now I have to call out to the moms of the world to give a big applaud to the Director Ms Gauri Shinde for her amazing debut English Vinglish.
Readers, confused? Why call out moms? Well, it’s them, who often tend to hear from their beloved kiddos the typical statements such as, “Oh Mom, come on! This is BULLSHIT! Don’t come out with your outdated ideas – Mom, this is the 21st century – you will never understand anything“. A sarcastic laugh from the dads turns the frown into a scowl. Ms Shinde has brought out this theme in an incredible way. Her attempt to bring out the story of an ordinary woman should be quite appreciated.

The Protagonist – Shashi, played by Sridevi, the well-known and much sought-after actor of the yesteryears, hits the big screen with a bang stunning the audience. She does justice to her role as a middle-class wife/mother/daughter-in-law/sister/aunt. She enacts her role with such grace and diligence that the movie holds the audience together with abated breath till the end. Shashi literally fights for her self-respect, which she is denied right from the beginning of the movie. She puts up a selfless silent fight. Her existence, her identity is questioned, rather undermined only for the mere reason she’s illiterate in the Queen’s language.
Ms Shinde meticulously brings in laughter, cry, excitement, fear, empathy etc in varied ways; the most profound and touching instances such as; Shashi’s teenage daughter is embarrassed to have her mom attend the PTA meetings, there’s this instance, where Shashi runs out of the café at New York humiliated as she was unable to express to the waiter what she wants; her passion and the only way she makes her pocket money by making motichoor laddoos is degraded and taken for granted by her “affectionate” husband!

Any movie cannot achieve the desired success unless all the characters equally contribute to it with heart and soul, and fortunately for the viewers’ delight, almost all the characters have put in their best efforts! Would like to mention a few of them here; The Shehenshah of the 70’s also known as the Big B of the 90’s, none other than Amitab Bachchan, with one-shot pivotal role, brings the audience to explosive laughter. Gifted with a deep voice and a charismatic persona, his sarcastic remark on the English-Hindi tussle creates a patriotic fervour in each viewer, a fact that was quite obvious! Shashi’s husband, Mr. Satish Godbole (Adil Hussain), tall and dark, an executive plays a typical patriarchal, insensitive, husband in a brilliant way. French lover, Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou) gives an impressive and solid performance, and Shashi’s two kids were brilliant in their own ways- the daughter Sapna uses every opportunity to ridicule her mother. And the little boy, Sagar, amuses the audience and has done the dialogue delivery exceptionally well. Radha (Priya Anand), Shashi’s niece in the film is remarkable, the character she plays is in fact a stereotyped one, but it did give the audience a beam on their faces, and lastly but not the least, mom-in-law (Sulabha Deshpande), plays supportive role in an adorable way.
Before winding up, I need to mention that the movie is not without its flaws, though. The language center reminds us of the much-famous British TV series “Mind Your Language”. The second-half drags a bit, nevertheless, the movie has greatly influenced every growing child somehow or the other. It helped the children to realize and introspect if they have ever laughed at their mothers or any other human being for being ignorant in one or other aspect. NDTV reports that Dalit girls in Bihar has been greatly influenced and motivated to learn English. So dear readers, the movie in brief renders a powerful weapon for one to introspect. “Discover yourself and realize how worthy you are!”

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