Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quick Take

English Vinglish

I did not see Spanglish, so I have no idea if these stories are similar.

A trip to New York brings changes to a family with a clash between traditional and modern cultures.

This is a visually delightful movie with delicate musical touches. It is the story of a Hindu housewife, Shashi, who loves to cook and has started a small catering business at home making ladoos for friends and neighbors for their parties. Shashi’s world is her family.

Yet, her husband has begun to feel he has outgrown her as his business puts him in contact with international clients where he has learned English and other modern cultural aspects. Their children learn English in school and also belittle their mother for her lack of knowledge and limited English.

A niece in New York is getting married. The family decides that Shashi will go ahead to help with the preparations and they will join her later. Shashi struggles with her self-confidence. When she arrives in New York, she decides to take an English class.

The body of the movie is about Shashi taking English classes. The teacher, David, is a unique character. Her classmates are charming. Yet, one classmate challenges Shashi’s self-image.

Here’s the rub for me. Shashi hides the fact she is taking classes from her American relatives even after one of her nieces finds out and helps her hide her activities. Why?

When her family arrives, they treat her as poorly as they did at home. Shashi also hides the fact she understands English.

The climax occurs during her niece’s wedding when Shashi gives a speech to the bride and groom. She tells the couple, in English, about how relationships change over time and how each partner must seek to improve themself in order to maintain balance in the relationship.

She also claims that it is in the family where you get love and respect. Based on the story, I found her sentiments hollow. While Shashi never stopped loving her family, you wondered if they had stopped loving her.

I did not feel the climax had the emotional impact that would have wrought a change in the hearts of her husband and children. In fact, in many Bollywood movies, the emotional struggles would have been more drawn out.

The climax was too subtle. From my perspective, Shashi’s husband and children should have grown to admire and respect her more for her obvious qualities showcased against the New York City backdrop. Yet, I appreciate the attempt to capture the underlying universal tensions between a husband and wife, and a mother and her children.

As Shashi, Sridevi is beautiful and sophisticated almost Tabu-like. I love Sridevi as an actress. This movie role is a far cry from many of Sridevi’s earlier movie roles where she is zany and comedic like in Mr. India.

Cast: Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand, Cory Hibbs, Rajeev Ravindranathan, Maria Romano, Sumeet Vyas, Ruth Aguilar, Ross Nathan, Damian Thompson and more.

Director/Screenwriter: Gauri Shinde; Producers: Anita Anand, R. Balki, Ilana Rossein; Cinematographer: Laxman Utekar.