Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

October 5, 2012

Sri’s got her groove back!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:41 pm

October 05, 2012

Cast: Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nebbou, Sujatha Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan

Director: Gauri Shinde

Returning to the screen after a hiatus of 15 years in first-time director Gauri Shinde’s charming comedy English Vinglish, Sridevi hits all the right notes.

Five minutes into the film, and she’s already found her way into your heart as Shashi, the uncomplaining Maharashtrian housewife who quietly puts up with the playful but insensitive jibes her husband and kids take at her, for her inability to speak proper English. It’s such a terrific performance in fact, that it makes you overlook the rather trite notion that a caring wife and mother, who runs a small but successful catering business from home, must speak fluent English in order to regain her sense of self-worth.

Shinde, who has revealed that the film’s premise is inspired by a slice of her own mother’s life, constructs some moving scenes that are not hard to relate to. Shashi’s school-going daughter cringes in embarrassment at a PTA meeting when her mother asks a teacher if he could speak to her in Hindi because her English is weak. When another parent engages her mother in a conversation, she nervously steers her mum away.

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.

Things come to a head when Shashi reluctantly travels alone to New York to help with preparations for her niece’s wedding. Humiliated while struggling to order a coffee and sandwich at a Manhattan café, she impulsively enrolls for a four-week English speaking course at a language school. From this point on, the film resembles an episode of the popular BBC sitcom Mind Your Language, whose laughs are derived from a motley bunch of foreigners wrestling with English. Typically, the class comprises a Mexican nanny, a Pakistani cab driver, a Chinese hairstylist, a South Indian software engineer, an angry black kid, and a dishy French chef named Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou) who’s instantly attracted to Shashi.

In these classroom scenes, Shinde uses her characters to deliver a message about Indo-Pak camaraderie, and even against homophobia. Yet these seem like mere tokenisms against the more natural, tender scenes between Shashi and Laurent. Like those moments when the two are conversing in their respective languages, and yet manage to convey what they’re feeling to each other – it’s these interludes that make English Vinglish so watchable.

This is the story of how Shashi gets her groove back, and Shinde nails it by casting Sridevi in the central role. The actress is effortlessly charming as the neglected protagonist who discovers herself when she’s allowed to fly. She infuses the part with the right portions of vulnerability, restraint, and quiet strength, delivering a performance that is nothing short of perfect.

Even if it treads a safe path, English Vinglish achieves believability through its supporting cast of mostly unfamiliar faces, including Mehdi Nebbou as Shashi’s sensitive French admirer, and Adil Hussain as her inattentive husband. Sujatha Kumar as Shashi’s older sister oozes warmth, and both kids playing Shashi’s children are spot-on. There’s also a delightful cameo by Amitabh Bachchan, who steals the scene he’s in with his impeccable comic timing.

Making an assured debut with a light, frothy film that still has something important to say, Gauri Shinde delivers one the year’s most pleasing films, and Amit Trivedi lends some of his best compositions to the soundtrack. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for English Vinglish. It’s warm and fuzzy, and leaves you with a big smile on your face.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. a must watch movie …

    Comment by pratik shah — October 5, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

  2. 3 and half from Rajeev means no less full house !! I will watch it for Sridevi ji and ofcourse for Rajeev”s 3+ *s 🙂

    Comment by Kishore — October 5, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  3. Rajeev Never wastes my time and money……… 🙂

    Comment by Sachina — October 5, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

  4. ohhh waaoo its nice 🙂

    Comment by khush — October 5, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

  5. I would personally go with 4 stars because I believe we need Honest, Clean Cinema like this more than anything else. It’s too sweet to be missed and whether you are a Sri Devi fan or not, it still connects with all the audience.

    Comment by Harpreet — October 6, 2012 @ 12:04 am

  6. Rajeev ! I was just waiting for your review.. I had big smile on my face looking at 31/2 stars first of all.. As usual, you have reviewed it brilliantly without spoiling any plot or anything about the story.

    Thanks.. Really looking forward to catch English Vinglish in the theater this weekend 🙂

    Comment by Vignesh — October 6, 2012 @ 12:35 am

  7. i think you r a big fan of sri thats why you gave 3 and half to yhis film and only give 2 stars to OMG!!!

    Comment by Pratik Desai — October 6, 2012 @ 12:40 am

  8. good rewiew,thanks

    Comment by rupesh — October 6, 2012 @ 12:54 am

  9. 3 and a half?..you are being too miser, Rajeev!..I saw the movie today, it deserved atleast 4 stars…I am gonna watch it again tomorrow…

    Comment by Gaurav — October 6, 2012 @ 1:23 am

  10. Sri devi has always been a class apart. In terms of her beauty..especially during her younger days and acting abilities dont think any of our current stars can match her as a complete package. There are very few heroines who were able to draw crowds into theaters just by their presence in the movie… sri and madhuri were one of em.
    … hope to see current generation stars who can match up.

    Comment by SUHU — October 6, 2012 @ 8:19 am

  11. I fought with you on the review for chaar din ki chandni – but iam going to start following your reviews once again after what you wrote for ENgLISH vINGLISH-Truely bang on !! and ya there is only one true Chandni in Bollywood.I’m going with a five star for this review!!

    Comment by Gautam — October 6, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  12. Why are there so many spoilers in your reviews.. ? It totally spoils the fun for me. Good to read otherwise.

    Comment by Rahul — October 6, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  13. So long a yearning comes satisfied.
    Finally u reviewed a Bolly movie the way it should be.
    This tym I fully give a thums up rating for a review.
    Sridevi, the Queen is back and debutante Gauri Shinde simply hats off.

    Comment by Umang — October 6, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  14. Now that’s the strong Recommendation 🙂

    Comment by Nirav — October 6, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  15. Rajeev is not only well admired in India even in UK too! Folks wait for his appearance in BBC Asian Network for all the bollywood news and movie reviews. Thanks Rejeev for being candid and the ‘insider’ news. Coming to English Vinglish I am a great fan of Sridevi irrespective of stars I am going to watch but Rajeev’s 3.5 stars means 5 stars to me!!

    Comment by Pradeep — October 6, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  16. You got to be kidding me!!! An ordinary movie with a plot stolen from a south indian film again. We have again fallen mercy to the Stars of India.

    Comment by Ramsey — October 6, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  17. EV:if u’re confusd bout ur belief after watching (brave+bold+b’ful)OMG…
    Here is ur chance to worship THE DEVI once again.

    Comment by Jignesh — October 6, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  18. Thanks Rajeev for all your reviews..Ur reviews really help me in deciding on which movie to spend my hard earned money and where to avoid inspite of so much publicity.

    Comment by Biswajit — October 6, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  19. Good review, but you are too miserly ! This film definitely deserves 4. But then I suppose a film critic can never be too generous 🙂

    Comment by abusha — October 6, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  20. Hi Rajeev…
    The movie like you say was very predictable and even by looking at the promos and also the title of the movie is such that anyone could guess what it is all about and eventually where it would lead to.
    But nevertheless it was a good one time watch.
    I liked Adil as her husband who may have not showed her how much he loved her yet it was commendable that he was confident that Sri could fly to US alone inspite of her limited English knowledge.
    Mehdi Nebbou was amazing as Sri’s admire. I wish they had shared more screen space together but then the story would lose its essence…..
    Overall a good one time watch

    Comment by Nandini — October 6, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  21. I believe in Rajeev Masand and so will have to make some time to watch this movie.

    Comment by Syed Haseeb Ahmed — October 6, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

  22. i agree with u…!

    Comment by shubham bhat — October 6, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

  23. I loved this movie. A beautiful 150 minutes movie that will make you feel serene. SriDevi on her great comeback, gave a lovely performance; in short worth a watch with family or anyone! 🙂

    Comment by Ganaraj Khandige — October 7, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  24. She is back…yes SRI is back!! That too with a bang on performance, muttering certain English-Vinglish!! Moreover, as the film progresses, you stop searching for the Sri Hawa Hawai Devi in the Shashi Godbole she plays so naturally!! So remarkably she portrays and lives the vulnerability of a woman, that you are compelled to see beyond the star she has been.
    Again not delving too much into each and every detail of the movie I will share my picks:
    1. Barring the strange plastic nose, even today, Sri can give many contemporary actresses run for their money. It was the role which demanded her to be draped in the 9 mtr cloth throughout, otherwise the figure she maintains can still create enough oomph!! Those big oceanic eyes can still drown many!
    2. Most importantly, as against the title, the movie is not about learning a certain firangi language. Rather, it is about the journey of a woman from a dark gloomy world of low self-esteem to a confident and self-loving persona. Practically speaking, it is not a story of only some fictional Shashi, but of many Indian housewives who encounter googlies of Anglicised world around them daily. Shashi can definitely inspire some of them to break their mental shackles and discover the woman inside them who is comfortable being herself and who has the ability to walk with the world herself.
    3. Yes, many characters esp. in her English class seem too type-casted and borrowed from comedies like ‘Zabaan sambhaal ke’ (based on ‘Mind your Language’). They are still able to tickle your funny bone.
    4. The director has also handled the French love angle quite sensitively. Sri makes it very clear why she is not reciprocating; respect is what she wants, not love. Best part is, there is no unnecessary melodrama on this topic.
    5. Cinematography is more about skyscrapers of Manhattan with a full song dedicated to the US city. Music is peppy, not catchy though.
    6. Rest of the characters are good in their own places. Sujata Kumar with her endearing smile mesmerizes. Nice to see veteran Sulabha Deshpande after long. However, there could have been some more Marathi actors to give more desi and authentic flavour to the Marathi family flick. Not to forget Big B in a small cameo. He definitely adds some more cheer to the scenes

    In all, EV is as sweet as Shashi’s ladoos (yummy they look on screen!!), as suave as Shashi’s looks and as focussed as Shashi’s will power. Those looking for G (glamour) quotient should give it a miss. Recommended for rest. Another addition to the league of nice small budget movies we are getting this year! 🙂

    Comment by Swapnil — October 7, 2012 @ 1:18 am

  25. wonderful movie.. 2 good movies in a week time. OMG and E V.. Both of same quality.. haven’t seen for a long time the viewers clap when a movie finish..

    Comment by Ajber — October 7, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  26. sridevi acting is good, bit predictable, lack of humors , you can see once…

    Comment by subs — October 7, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  27. Rajeev..this movie deserves at-least 4 out 5…. MUST MUST MUST watch 🙂

    Comment by Milind Poundrik — October 7, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  28. Love reading your reviews Rajeev ji, but there’s a correction – I think Mind Your Language was produced for either Channel 4 or ITV, but definitely not the BBC.

    Comment by Gayatri — October 7, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  29. My Review:: http://rrachna.com/2012/10/07/movie-reviewenglish-vinglish-winner-shinner-all-the-way/

    Comment by Ashwath — October 7, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

  30. well WOW ….. this is the perfect word to describe the RETURN of sri devi ….. i watched her movie after 15 years 😀 and really felt as if something was missing from bollywood …… SIMPLICITY at its best …. NO EYE LINERS or something like that stilll very beautiful ….. now talking about the movie IT was really a NICE WATCH …… every actor in the movie acted supervly ….. be it HER son who was very fun to watch , her husband who ignoring-ly made her feel low or MEHDI who’s french charms really looked good . the move though i feel was a little STRECHY in second half . few scenes are really very nice though i felt the BACKGROUND SCORE which comes when MEHDI tries to kiss her was not at all good i mean only bad thing in that movie was this bringing a love equation between them ….. though sridevi at end justifeid it by saying thanks to him by making her fall in love with herself . after barfi ENGLISH vinglish comes to tell everyone that bollywood is about to have some positive changes !! 🙂

    Comment by ashim — October 8, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  31. Completely agree with you sir 🙂 Here’s my take on the movie, English Vinglish:


    Comment by prakash gowda — October 8, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  32. I think, It deserves 3 out of 5 (not 3.5). It is good movie, but I like Barfi film better then this.

    Comment by Deepak — October 8, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

  33. wonderful movie!

    Comment by Rahul Sengupta — October 11, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  34. Rajeevji your review i was waiting for. Sridevi is most versatile actress in India and one of the greatest. Her role was very difficult and she carries it spontaneously.

    Comment by Bobby Bose — October 14, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  35. Rajeev,u r one of best critic in the world,your opinions r so unbiased and true…..i admired u so much……

    Comment by Rony — October 19, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  36. One should create a new category of award called THE BEST COMEBACK MOVIE AWARD for ENGLISH VINGLISH and Sridevi should be awarded as the BEST COMEBACK ACTRESS. I will not be surprised if both the film and the Sridevi’s performance turn out to be the best of the year. According to bollywood standards, after a hiatus of 15 years, actresses turn into mothers and mother-in-laws on the silver screen because they are not young enough to “lead” a story. But Sridevi breaks those shackles by choosing possibly the most respectable comeback role for an actress of her stature. It only takes a few minutes of the film to realise that the sheer and charming innocence of Sridevi has not faded with time. Loyal fans can go nostalgic by her lively screen presence itself.
    English Vinglish is easily the most pleasing films of the year. Though predictable, you will still find yourself synchronising all your emotions with the leading character. English Vinglish is the story of an un-attended and uncomplaining house wife Shashi, whom her husband titles as “Born-For-Making Laddus “. She is constantly subjected to insensitive mocking by her daughter and husband for her poor English. Her daughter is embarrassed to the core, for her mother let her down in a PTA meeting because of the same problem. Speaking fluent English has become a matter of self esteem for Shashi.
    The real problem starts when Shashi has to go alone to New York to attend her niece’s wedding. After her humiliation in a struggle for ordering a coffee at a Manhattan Cafe, she joins a 4-week English learning program to regain her much yearned self-worth. While instilling a mix of feelings from Lump-In-Throat to joy, the whole story unfolds like a beautiful flower gradually blossoming in spring time. The director has beautifully weaven all the scenarios around Shashi, hence conveying her quiet resilience and vulnerability in the most possible touching way.
    From the other characters to the surprisingly humorous guest appearance, nothing in this movie has been exploited beyond necessity. The casting of the class room characters was pitch-perfect, giving a taste of a typical cosmopolitan class room to Indian audience. The classroom scenes filled the movie with some healthy humour, nicely centered on the characters’ weaknesses in English imbibed in them due to their respective cultures. The best part of the movie lies in those natural scenes of shashi and Laurent, where language becomes no barrier to convey what they feel. While the French man Laurent showers his avid admiration for Sashi in his already romanticized language (French is a romantic language indeed), Shashi is bound to strike a chord here by conveying something many-a-women can relate themselves to. It’s the scenes like these that fill you with a feeling of warmth and at the same time, makes you retrospect on the way you have treated your women in the past. Concealed within Every situation Shashi has faced, lies a message to be conveyed reminding us how the things have shaped up around us exactly the way they were not supposed to.
    But it’s the performance of the Sridevi, which nails everything in this movie rightly down to its place. From a neglected housewife yearning for self esteem to a woman rediscovering her much vulnerable self-worth, Sridevi delivers a charming performance despite the huge gap. She pins all the emotions immaculately, especially when her character finds itself flying with confidence and enjoying the fresh air of its solace independence in the Big Apple.

    ENGLISH-VINGLISH will not only make you laugh, cry, think and inspire, but also leaves a chilling reminder that, even in this information age of 21st century, there are women in our society who are still treated as mere “ BORN-FOR-LADDU-MAKING” types.

    Comment by MOHAMMED NAJEEB — October 22, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

  37. Awesome Movie This one!!!

    Comment by Pixellicious Photos — October 23, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  38. enjoyed the movie. ur ratings always right.
    all marks to the director.

    Comment by vani — November 14, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

  39. i totally agree with u .this is a must watch movie

    Comment by Rohan — April 29, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

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