Judgmental is the word that sticks in mind after watching Sridevi’s flawless performance as Shashi, dressed in gorgeous Sabyasachi sarees, struggling with snide remarks and judgments of others, on her lack of knowledge of English language.
Shashi, a devoted mother, wife, and daughter-in-law is also an expert cook and earns her own money, selling her sumptuous ladoos to her loyal customers. Shashi feels frequently “judged” and demeaned by her teenage daughter who is embarrassed by her mother’s lack of knowledge of English language and her husband who sees her role as that of a housewife who would be unable to understand the world outside the home. Sometimes, society also treats her as being dumb. For instance, when she tries to place an order in a deli, while visiting her sister in New York, she fumbles on account of the newness of the language, culture, and the menu, and the irate woman behind the counter yells and repeats her words, instead of explaining them to her. (Having traveled in many places, I can relate to how dumb you could be made to feel, even when you know the language). Circumstances afford Shashi an opportunity to learn the language and master her insecurities and develop her own friends and identity. Her character comes to life as she wins the hearts of her friends and gives her the confidence to address inappropriate behaviors from her family members and convey the message, albeit simply and light-heartedly, regarding the importance of equality and non-judgmental love and support from one’s family members. Director Gauri Shinde has done a fabulous job of treating the delicate subject with just the right mix of humor and sentimentality, without exaggerating, becoming preachy, or going overboard. The child actor, Shivansh Kotia stole my heart, though I was disappointed to see so little of him. I will look for him in other movies and other roles.
English Vinglish is a beautiful, amusing, and heartwarming movie with several great messages conveyed without being preachy. I loved the movie and highly recommend it and on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 as excellent), I rate it a 4 – simply because it was a little slow during the first half.