Reviewing the Reviews: English Vinglish

08 Oct,2012

English Vinglish

Key Cast: Sridevi

Written & Directed By: Gauri Shinde

Produced By: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, RK Damani, Sunil Lulla, R Balki

 

Even after 15 years, Sridevi’s star power shone bright and dazzled most critics.  Gauri Shinde’s debut feature, English Vinglish, got a universal thumbs up with 3 to 4 stars.

 

Everyone agreed that it was simple – cliched even – story well told, with loads of charm and great performances. It steered clear of melodrama, created a lovely heroine in Shashi Godbole and, everyone flipped for French star Mehdi Nebbou, even if the film’s leading lady did not.

 

Anupama Chopra of The Hindustan Times wrote, “English Vinglish is that rare thing – a Hindi film that creates a heroine out of a homemaker… But even when the film feels shaky and stretched, Sridevi doesn’t miss a beat. Her performance is a triumph. She’s vulnerable and sad, yet selfless and strong, in the way we all know our mothers to be. She imbues Shashi’s quest for respect with genuine emotion. It’s hard to imagine that this is an actor who hasn’t worked in fifteen years.”

 

Rajeev Masand of IBNLive commented, “There’s little that’s blazingly original here; much of it feels formulaic and predictable, in fact. Yet Shinde knows there’s comfort to be found in the familiar, and she mines feel-good moments in been-there-seen-that territory.”

 

Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express was zapped too, “English Vinglish, Gauri Shinde’s first feature, is a likeable film, which gives us a silky-smooth first half, a slowed-down second, broad-brushstroke-y characters, and an actress who makes it all work. Despite the saucer-large eyes and too-squeaky delivery, Sridevi makes Shashi a living, breathing woman, who channels pain and joy and the subtle shades in-between with a look and smile and a tear.”

 

Raja Sen of rediff.com was bowled over and it’s not all that easy to get him to gush thus. “Go watch English Vinglish, and take your mothers along. As shown by one great scene which has Shashi speaking furiously in Hindi to her chef friend Laurent, who replies back in thoughtful-sounding French, it isn’t about language. It’s about one of the biggest stars of her era transformed into the plainest Jane, a delightful heroine who saves all her grace for hoisting her son onto her pillow. It’s about how vital the smallest-seeming dreams can prove to be. Ah, spell it English Win-glish, I say.”

 

Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV seemed slightly underwhelmed. “This film hinges on an idea that only reinforces the phony notion that a woman, no matter how gifted, must speak fluent English in order to truly assert herself.  Tame superficiality is indeed the biggest bane of English Vinglish, which, for the most part, is otherwise reasonably watchable, especially owing to a charming performance by Sridevi, back on the big screen after a 15-year hiatus. A star is reborn and one wants to fall in love with her all over again. But despite the temptation, it is eventually too docile an affair to send the heart pounding and the pulse racing.  English Vinglish, for all its surface gloss and clean family entertainer aspirations, doesn’t possess that little something needed to turn a one-dimensional account of the makeover of an unassuming homemaker into a convincing, universal drama about a woman’s empowerment.”

 

Meena Iyer of The Times of India raved, “Easily one of the best films of 2012; is a tale of women empowerment (actually it is bound to empower every viewer) because it strikes a chord, right from the start to the end titles. Debutant Gauri Shinde, who made advertising films before she ventured into the feature area; proves she’s an ace cinema writer-director. The result is a sweet, sensitive and superlative film that makes you laugh, cry and smile. Every emotion is identifiable, every nuance is balanced. The characters are real, the performances effortless.”

 

Aniruddha Guha of DNA commented, “English Vinglish, the directorial debut of Gauri Shinde – Balki’s collaborator and wife – does something similar. It tells a story that revels in its simplicity, with aid from some witty writing and honest moments that elicit a smile here, a laugh there, and which leave you touched. Here too, at the centre of it all, is an actor who earned the tag of superstar years ago, but who appears to have reinvented herself to fit into Shinde’s world with remarkable ease. In Sridevi, Shinde finds her Bachchan.”

 

The inernational press, exposed to the film at the Toronto film festival, was impressed too.

 

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote, “It’s very amiable, feel-good entertainment, featuring some broad comedy and stereotypes, yet with a notably bold repudiation of homophobia. An undemanding picture that goes down as well as the heroine’s tasty ladoos.”

 

Kate Taylor of the Globe And Mail commented, “It’s hard to believe that anyone would take for granted the glittering presence of Sridevi, the Indian movie star now making a professional comeback after a 14-year-absence during which she raised her two daughters. At 49, she can still convincingly play fresh sweetness on screen; off-screen she emits a don’t-mess-with-me maturity. But in Bollywood, as in Hollywood, your downtrodden heroine can’t look too downtrodden.”

 

Joe Leydon of Variety wrote, “Far more often, though, English Vinglish is traditional Bollywood escapism, a lightly enjoyable trifle featuring exuberant musical interludes, an extremely chaste approach to conjugal relations and extramarital temptation, and a crowd-pleasing wrap-up that allows the lead character to be all she can be while still respecting family values.”

 

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