English Vinglish is all about the grammar of filmmaking

The noun (Any of a class of words naming or denoting a person, thing, place, action, quality, etc.)

The title, ‘English Vinglish’ reflects the relationship a copywriter shares with Angrezi. (Copywriter is a salesman in writing, as David Ogilvy would like to put it). It’s a language that’s more than just bread & butter for any copywriter – sometimes a boon and sometimes a bane, sometimes a muse and sometimes an abuse. So it’s indeed no wonder that Gauri Shinde, a copywriter at Lowe Lintas (Can we keep the ‘wife of Balki’ tag aside, please?), chose a subject revolving the Queen’s language for her debut film.

The preposition (A relation or function word that connects a lexical word to another element of the sentence, as to a verb)

English Vinglish revolves around the life of a housewife with weak English and strong determination. Sridevi makes a grand comeback with this heartwarming film and brings back the sheen of acting through a nuanced performance. Hadn’t it been for Sridevi, the role would have surely landed on the lap of Vidya Balan, simply because there’s a serious dearth of female actors in a crowd of ‘Darrrlings’, ‘Chamelis’, and ‘Halkats’.

The adjective (Any of a class of words used to modify a noun or other substantive)

Sridevi breathes life into the character of Shashi Godbole and takes it to the level where almost every female present in the auditorium could relate to her. Be it the nagging daughter of Shashi or the gibes by her husband (Excellently essayed by Aadil Hussain), each scene elicits a déjà vu kind of response from the audience. She is excellence personified (I know this sounds like a clichéd headline by a copywriter but that’s the best adjective one can come up with, occupational hazard you know).

The adverb: (Any of a class of words used generally to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a phrase, or a clause, by expressing time, place, manner, degree, cause, etc.)

Director Gauri Shinde approaches the story with unmatched restraint and adroitly written scenes. For instance, the scene where Shashi notices a couple kissing at a fast food joint is a blink-and-miss moment, yet gets registered on the viewer’s mind purely because of Sridevi’s expression with culture shock writ large, the scene where she struggles to get a coffee and sandwich in Manhattan, and most importantly, the characterization of teenage girls in the two families. Shashi’s daughter, who is brought up in India is embarrassed of her mother’s weak linguistic skills (or rather Englistic skills), while Shashi’s niece in USA, correction – The USA understands her much better than the ones close to her.

The pronoun: (Any of a small class of relationship or signal words that assume the functions of nouns within clauses or phrases while referring to other locutions within the sentence or in other sentences)

An interesting mélange of actors portraying roles of common people from different corners of the world lends English Vinglish a different perspective of each nation and its ethnicity. The Pakistani cab driver trying to woo a Chinese girl working at a hair saloon, the silent African guy who enrolled for the course in English so that he could listen to people talking and learn from them (He plays a gay character but thankfully he isn’t a Madhur Bhandarkar kind of limp-wristed guy), the ever-asleep Spanish nanny (Was her character a tribute to the wonderful film, ‘The Help’?), the South Indian software engineer who yearns for Idlis, the French cook (Mehdi Nebbou makes you google his name after watching the film) who falls for Shashi and makes no bones about admitting it in front of everyone, and the gay character who leads the pack as their English teacher. Now that’s what one calls ‘The best of both worlds’ (Again a copywriter’s cliché – like I said, it’s an occupational hazard).

The metaphor: (A figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another)

The Bible, in its Genesis chapter (11:1-9) describes Babel – a city in Shinar in which Noah‘s descendants tried to build a high tower to reach heaven and were prevented by God from doing so by a confusion of tongues.

Well, after watching English Vinglish, the very concept of Babel seems a mythya, as there’s no confusion of tongues despite people speaking different languages.

The interaction between Shashi and her French batchmate at English Speaking Institute reiterates the fact that one doesn’t need to know the other person’s language to understand him/her. Whenever upset, Sridevi mumbles in Hindi, while his French batchmate listens in rapt attention, silently sipping each potion that her heart brews. Similarly, Shashi discovers her self-worth when he expresses his love to her in French over a telephone conversation.

The conjunction: (An uninflected word used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences; connective: conjunctions may be coordinating or correlative)

The music by Amit Trivedi weaves each nugget of English Vinglish together in a seamless fashion. Be it the breezy ‘Badla nazaara’, peppy ‘Manhattan’, unapologetically Bengali-sounding ‘Dhak dhuk’, introspective ‘Gustakh dil’, and foot-tapping ‘Navrai majhi’. Laxman Utekar uses the chalk of camera to make the blackboard of silver screen look like a visual treat, Hemanti Sarkar edits the film with a ‘no-nonsense’ and ‘no melodrama’ approach.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the costume designer deserves a special mention and must be thanked for bringing the cotton sarees back (Reminds of those good ol’ classics by Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee). The special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan makes you wish for such companion on flight. In fact, he’s the film’s perfect takeoff, prodding Sridevi (and the audience) to enjoy her jaunt at ‘The USA’.

The irony: (A method of humorous or subtly sarcastic expression in which the intended meaning of the words is the direct opposite of their usual sense)

Despite being a Maharashtrian, Shashi surprisingly sounds like a South Indian. Nope, we don’t expect her to sound like a Pandu Hawaldar or something, but a little tweaking in the accent might have added a layer to the character of Shashi Godbole. Well, to sum it all, Gauri Shinde gifts a gem of a movie called English Vinglish to the Indian cinema during its 100th anniversary and doffs its hat at Amitabh Bachchan who’s about to turn 70.

It’s an irony that despite English Vinglish being a clean family entertainer, the auditorium was half-full, while most of the crowd flocked to watch brainless flicks that never bother to mind their language.


10 thoughts on “English Vinglish is all about the grammar of filmmaking

  1. Superb Prakash, I liked it…English Vinglish is really a Great Movie. Interesting Review and Congrats for winning that Best Review Prize!!


  2. I haven’t watched the movie yet but i have heard good things about it and after reading your review i am gonna go n grab a dvd copy if available tomorrow.i just love sridevi and i am dying to see her in her comeback movie but especially the romance for her by the french classmate.that is just soooo cute who wouldn’t fall in love with sridevi!!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. I just saw the movie and feel head over heels in love with it. I wish I never saw it just so I can watch it again for the first time.
    Stumbled upon this article with the help of google and just wanted to say, brilliant writing!


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