English Vinglish

Directed by: Gauri Shinde

Knowing nothing about Sridevi and totally expecting the film to be jam-packed with trite, pandering BS I was throwing some serious attitude as I waited for English Vinglish to start. Fortunately for my mood and my Twitter feed the film managed to warm my heart and bring a smile to my face.

There are many things to be impressed with in English Vinglish but the lasting effect of the film is how well everything is handled. It’s just so…direct and well managed. It’s the most streamlined, effective Indian Film that has been put out in recent memory; everything comes together so wonderfully that you can’t help but be impressed and touched.

As this is my first-ever Sridevi film I can offer no commentary on whether this is a successful comeback for her. I can say this: homegurl can wipe the floor with any of the actresses in the industry today. She’s an absolute vision to watch—full to bursting with talent and such a breath of fresh air after the dismal past few years filled with whiney, airheaded tits fluffing around in a short lengha. My weakness for a good Chikni Chameli aside, it was nice to see someone on screen worthy of being there: someone with talent, soul and depth.

Sridevi took a woman that could have been very, very two dimensional (based on Bollywood standards for characters…women characters) and turned her into someone the whole audience roots for, can relate to and believes in. Even when verbally bitch slapping her entire family at the end (and, thank goodness for that too) Sridevi manages to be humble, vulnerable and strong. She does a miraculous job of growing as the film progresses.

Dealing with a handful of delicate issues—parenting, cultural blending, education, and love outside of marriage, isolation, self worth— English Vinglish manages to present them in a way that prompts discussion.  The film presents these topics in such a way that they are easy to discuss and relate to, showcasing them in a normal, very realistic manner. While the issues may be nothing new or, indeed, their solutions groundbreaking, it’s scandal in a digestible form.

Outside of a mildly-disturbing song hawking New York City as only a vain shopping haven this New Yorker was pleased to see the city presented in a way that was not a fairy playground. We talk fast, move fast and if you can’t order in the coffee shop line we’re going to throw you some crap. Conversely, New York also boasts very, very nice people who will, in your most desperate moments, reach out their hands and pick you up from the ground. While they may not always take the form of a hunky Frenchman…we all can dream.

From beginning to end the production quality of English Vinglish is superb, at the height of smooth. While a few shots that were out of synch with the rest of the film snagged here and there it was obvious that there was a clear vision for the film and that everyone was on board. For a first-time director I’m impressed and cannot wait to see what else she might have up her sleeve. Music complimented the on-screen action well and aside from one “oh crap, we’re in an Indian Film let’s dance” (and that stupid Manhattan song) was generally effortless in moving everything forward and projecting the correct feeling for the scenes.

English Vinglish is a total winner. Clean, to-the-point and totally charming it should be seen. I’m hesitant to say that it has re-viewing power since you “get” it in one sitting but in that one sitting you get a bang for your buck. Pray your theatre is full of viewers and you will get a truly community experience while you watch.

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