Something more on English Vinglish

As a director, Gauri Shinde is head and shoulders above the better ones in India. Her script is tight and also comprehensive. It doesn’t miss out any important observation. There are moments in the film where you entirely believe that Sridevi, playing Shashi, is really a simple housewife. In a clever move Gauri shows right at the beginning that Shashi is ridiculed even by her children. This sets up the stage for the rest of the story.

Gauri again takes a very bold decision to have dialogues where Shashi speaks in Hindi while Laurent, the Frenchman, speaks in French. The audience understands that they don’t even understand a word of each other’s language. In fact, even the audience doesn’t understand what Laurent is saying. This situation and the way the man and the woman succeed in understanding each other underline the fact that in order to understand a person’s feelings we do not need language. It makes it all the more poignant that her husband who understands every word that Shashi speaks cannot understand what goes on in her mind.

The casting is masterful. Adil Hussain is just the right man for the role of the husband. His looks are not his strong point and the home he offers his wife is not particularly extraordinary. The viewer, at some point or the other, surely thinks “What is this unknown man doing next to the great Sridevi?” That is the whole point. Most men don’t deserve the women they have. And that is what makes this whole story so touching.

Gauri has taken another bold step in showing the teenage daughter as she really is. No number of candyfloss Bollywood films can convince us that children are always sweet and kind to their parents, particularly to their mothers. This is Indian urban teenage life. A lesser director would have not gone that far and shown how the daughter thoughtlessly reminds her mother that she can’t read English. But it is because she has gone to that extreme that the end is all the more successful when the daughter hangs her head in shame.

In my eyes this point is really the one that matters. Everyone knows about insensitive males, but no one talks about insensitive children. That is what must hurt Shashi even more.

Gauri is herself a woman so she has taken another bold step which would have been seen in a different way had it been done by a man. I am speaking of the scene on the terrace of the building where Laurent takes Shashi to show her the view. Finally he gets a chance to show his affection for her. Many women viewers felt that this scene was cut short too soon. They felt it could have been given a couple of minutes more. I heard someone on TV say, “Shashi could have been a little more kind to him.” Sridevi looked all startled and said that she personally thought it would have been morally wrong. But Gauri laughed. We understand she thought otherwise. After all, we all need someone who appreciates us.

It is interesting to note that Sridevi the actress thought that if Shashi had shown a little affection to Laurent then it would have been morally wrong for a married woman to behave like that. One doesn’t know how to take this because after all Sridevi did marry a married man in real life. So, is infidelity pardonable when it is committed by a man? Is infidelity unacceptable only when it happens in the life of a married woman?

This film is not to be missed. There are quite a few layers to this story. And even if one watches it a couple of times it can still show a few layers one had missed earlier.

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