Comeback films are difficult for any actress. To make a comeback in a female-centric film is risky. We all remember Karisma Kapoor۪s Dangerous Ishhq۪ (2012) this year which didn۪t do well at the box office at all and had many critics questioning why the actress had made sucha bold choice in the first place. Sridevi is an evergreen actress and ever since she stopped making blockbuster Bollywood films, the industry and the audience were eager to see her back on the big screen once again. Her comeback was remarked upon even more because she had decided to star in a film which was directed by small-time director Gauri Shinde who is not well known in the Bollywood industry. When the trailers hit our screens, anticipation for English Vinglish۪ grew as Sridevi was not portrayed in her usual glamorous self butinstead as a middle-class housewife wearing simple saris and running amok through the streets of New York.
Shashi (Sridevi) is a shy housewife and her life is centredaround her husband (Adil Hussain) and her two children. Her special skills include making ladoos which she sells from home and sheprides herself in her making people happy through food. The one thing she lacks is the ability to speak English which often makes her the subject of jokes in the house, reinforced by her businessman husband and her teenage daughter (Navika Kotia). When the family are invited to her niece۪s wedding in New York, Shashi is sent off to support her sister in preparing for the family wedding. Shashi, fed up of being belittled by her family, finds a four week crash course in learning how to speak English and skives off from wedding planning to do this.
In her class, she finds that her classmates are a lot like her, they all struggle speaking English and due to this, are often mocked by their colleagues. A Frenchmen, Laurent, finds himself attracted to Shashi and, through him, she learns to love herself and starts a new life where she demands respect from her family and her teenage daughter.
This film is no doubt about female empowerment but it does strike a chord in everyone۪s heart regardless of gender. Shashi۪s struggle to understand a language that was never taught to her is shown in an endearing way and is displayed so sensitively that it touches the audience. The concept of the film is not a difficult one but Shinde۪s ability to tell it so sweetly has to be commended. Shinde has taken the best elements of each of the cast members’ acting abilities and created a story that is relatable and with a pure heart. Every one emotion is played out beautifully and in a real way and that is what makes this film such an easy watch.
It’s safe to say that Sridevi is back and she is better than ever. With the focus on being glamorous and having a flawless imageis beingreinforced so much on the Bollywood big screen these days thatone forgets how important the acting really is. Sridevi conveys every emotion -happiness, sadness, anger, frustration -often without even saying any words. Her character۪s struggle to speak English is conveyed effectively byher and with a quiet on-screen presence where her actions truly do speak louder than words. She carries the film along and reminds the audience what true Bollywood cinema is really about.
The rest of the cast are believable throughout the film and do a good job in helping the story develop. A special mention has to go to little Shivansh Kotia who plays Shashi۪s son, Sagar, and his fantastic portrayal ofvery adorable cheeky kid who understands his mum’s struggle and supports her despite his lack of understanding. Also, as his all important 70th birthday approaches, it was quite fitting to have legendary actor, Amitabh Bachchan,feature in the filmin a cameo which only added tothe poignancy of the story.
In an age where item numbers are the new big thing, English Vinglish۪ has no big dance numbersand the soundtrackseamlessly flows into the narrative. The title track Gustak Dil is a memorable number but, again, is as simple as the film and that makes it a lovely song to remember the film by in the future.
Why watch this film? Well, it is a lovely story which -thanks to Sridevi -serves as a reminderofwhat used to make Bollywood films truly great; the simplicity of the story telling. Although this film won۪t send shockwaves through the Bollywood industry, it will prove that all you need to have a good film is a good script and a director sensitive to its emotions. Who needs a big opening when a film can touch it’s audiences’ hearts?
BizAsia Showbiz Star Rating: 4/5