I really don’t think I should be watching any mainstream movies, but watched English Vinglish to balance some intense paperwork. Chose it mainly because of its repeated mention by Indian friends on FB timeline.
In many ways, English Vinglish is the return of formulaic finished product that Bollywood specialised in the 90s, that is, before the transitional wave of early noughties and well before the manufactured, refurbished wave of the later noughties.
The story I guess is every Ekta Kapoors wet dream come true: a respectable middle class desi housewife has to bear the ridicule and insensitivity of her family as she is less educated  , perhaps even unsophisticated. However, a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere and She lands a chance to visit NY where she is subjected to more ridicule, in scenic detail – in a take away where she struggles to place her order. Had it happened in India, but wait, even according to the movie, it does, would have simply forgotten as – Kya Kare? Or if it was in Wasseypur…..oh! no! I shudder at the thought.
But in the rarefied of climes of US eastern coast, the housewife decides to fight instead and learn English in one of the language learning centres. During the course she is charmed by her own experiences – something very novel to her as a person ; experiences that actually pit her as an individual than a role -she strikes a few friendships and grows in confidence. She comes close to an experience of love with one of her French classmates! But she is a stymied desi, and can’t get over her natural inhibitions, so we are spared of the typical Pierre – Isabelle extramarital French affair. Instead we are to console ourselves watch them make laddoos for each other – the next acceptable alternative to an extramarital affair, for the Indian audiences. Finally the Family realise her growth and identity as an individual and are shown to be embarrassed for their past behaviour.
The star of the show is so obvious I feel embarrassed even writing of it. For a comeback actress Sridevi looks delectable and hasn’t lost any of her charm. She looks fit enough to don a black spandex and jump through a heist scene. But wait remember Roop ki Rani….that almost ended Boney Kapoors bank balance? But we digress, she is nuanced and plays the author backed role to the demands of tickling the Indian audience to perfection. Though I haven’t seen Aaja Nachle, guess it’s fair to say Sridevi was better than Madhuri.
The problem with the script is apart from Sridevi and in some scenes the French guy everyone else look like a labelled cardboards of characters . The husband and daughter are ‘mean’ and ‘insensitive’; the language class sridevi attends is a study on stereotypes minus the emotions. Though the theme is relevant to the widespread Indian diaspora – the characters in reality, are not always restricted and linear as shown. But then, we are talking of a Bollywood movie, the product is to feed an industry and the helplessness and lack of imagination of its audiences. In that context I’m grateful that they didn’t end up cutting a few songs in between.
Watchable for Sridevi. But the whole experience is an impression etched out of a boilerplate. You wouldn’t need it on your consciousness unless your view of the cinema world doesn’t extend beyond Bollywood.