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Home»Features»10 years of English Vinglish: Sridevi-Gauri Shinde’s film paints a realistic picture of a middle-class Indian woman»

10 years of English Vinglish: Sridevi-Gauri Shinde’s film paints a realistic picture of a middle-class Indian woman

Sridevi starrer English Vinglish completes ten years of its making today.

10 years of English Vinglish: Sridevi-Gauri Shinde’s film paints a realistic picture of a middle-class Indian woman

Gauri Shinde directed English Vinglish features Sridevi in the lead role

  • Priyamm Dangi

Last Updated: 04.01 PM, Oct 06, 2022

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People often talk and write about the late actor Sridevi’s work as a young Bollywood heroine, but for someone who was just twelve years old and had no idea how big of a celebrity she was, English Vinglish and her character, Shashi, came as a breath of fresh air amidst all the rom-coms and action thrillers of that time. While being a fictional story, it feels so close to reality; a tale of a middle-class Indian woman who is uneducated and is constantly belittled by her English-educated children and husband.

Though the film has a basic premise, it comes with its own share of Bollywood masala where Shashi goes on a trip to the US only to realise her true potential. She chances upon friendship, love, and self-confidence in the process. Her inspirational journey provides the belief that no matter how limited the opportunities might be, there is always a window open for self-improvement and learning. This Bollywood entertainer completes ten years but it feels like yesterday when we were introduced to this lady-Michael Jackson, Shashi, who can’t speak English but can dance her way out on the streets of New York.

The movie starts with an introduction to Shashi’s world; her family, involving her husband, two kids and her mother-in-law. It is the most realistic portrayal of a middle-class Indian family where the husband goes to work, the children go to school, and the wife stays at home and takes care of household chores. Another thing that is very realistic is the belittling and ridicule that she suffers at the hands of her children, particularly her teenage daughter. They feel ashamed when Shashi can’t speak fluently in English, and they make her feel small about herself.

A twist comes to this simple premise when Shashi gets an opportunity to visit New York to attend her niece's wedding. She is frightened and scared to travel all the way alone and feels vulnerable and ashamed when she lands in the city and can’t keep up with the hard-paced English-speaking life. Her meltdown makes her stand up for herself and enroll in an English-speaking class while keeping it a secret from her family.

The second half of the film feels more fresh and happy when Shashi is shown progressing in her class and feels a boost in her confidence, but the traumas of her family and constant bickering make her go back to her dark hole. She forms new friendships and also meets a man named Laurent, a French chef, who has a major crush on her. Even though we secretly wish for her to get away from her monotonous life and run away with Laurent, she turns down his proposal and goes back to her family.

Sridevi gives great advice for a sustainable marriage in the climax scene
Sridevi gives great advice for a sustainable marriage in the climax scene

The final scene of the movie is worth the wait, where Shashi surprises everyone with a speech in English while providing life lessons to her niece on how to keep a marriage intact. Sridevi looked ravishing in her red saree, and the wise words are still afresh in the audience’s memory.

The Gauri Shinde-directed movie is about a woman telling a woman’s story - about a scared, naive woman on a journey to become the best version of herself. It is also a social commentary on the circumstances that push women to realise their true potential. Sridevi, as usual, aced her character by bringing all the right emotions on screen, from vulnerability to self-confidence. Gauri Shinde did a splendid job of writing such a phenomenal character, so true to reality. It is not a typical Bollywood masala movie where the hero breaks free from societal norms, but paints a realistic picture of the struggles that women go through. It only provides a fictional opportunity for the character to highlight that familial support and opportunities can do wonders for a woman’s personality.

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