English Vinglish Reviews
One part of the film that was not so pleasing to me was the ending. I understand why Shashi decided to prioritize her family over her English classes, but it was still a bit disappointing to see her relinquish her independence. A traditional Bollywood mother will do anything for her family. Rosie Thomas asserts that in Bollywood films, a mother "is able to love and give unconditionally" as well as "keep the family and home together" (Thomas, "Melodrama and the Negotiation of Morality"). It would be incredibly unconventional to have Shashi simply abandon her family at the end of the film. I never expected that to happen. However, I did anticipate that her husband would come to realize that he had been taking her for granted. It was frustrating that she never had any sort of confrontation with her husband about his lack of respect for her. It seemed as if Shashi had not made any significant modifications to her old life, which undermined her growth throughout the film.
In many ways this film strays from the characteristics of a typical Bollywood movie. Unlike most Bollywood films, this movie provided no extradiegetic scenes and existed in a realistic world. Without the typical song sequences characteristic of many Bollywood films, such as DDLJ, Amar Akbaar Anthony, and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham), English Vinglish has an overall more modern and realistic take on Bollywood cinema. According to Rachel Dwyer, ´┐ 1/2In recent years some of the multiplex films have been made with more dialogue in English´┐ 1/2 not to market films overseas (there has been no interest in these films at all from overseas distributors) but because it gives an element of realism to the film´┐ 1/2┬? (Dwyer, ´┐ 1/2Zara Hatke´┐ 1/2┬?). Much of this film is spoken in English as Shashi attempts to learn the language and gain respect from her family. This film would be enjoyed by many non-native speakers as they can relate to the struggles that Shashi faces and celebrate as she overcomes these obstacles. Despite the differences from most Bollywood films, the main characters in English Vinglish strongly value their familial relations, a value shared amongst most Bollywood films. The choice between family and love is a common theme throughout Bollywood as expressed in both DDLJ and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. English Vinglish continues to explore the never-ending conversation between the values of love and family.
English Vinglish is a woman-centered film, directed by a woman, which frames Shashi by her roles as a mother and wife, but doesn't center on them. The main plot is driven by her quest to learn English, independent from her family. Director Gauri Shinde focuses on Shashi's personal journey, but frames it within Bollywood's family values. While Shashi is not always respected, she is portrayed as a good mother and wife. Ultimately her decisions are based on what is best for her family, not herself. Like the mother, Radha, in Mother India, Shashi cares deeply about her family. However, her strength is portrayed in a very different way. Radha is consistently strong despite overwhelming odds; strong in an impossible, superhuman way. Shashi is a much more realistic character who experiences normal displeasures and develops strength during the course of the movie.
I really enjoyed the progressive narrative, which follows a woman who is building her self-esteem. It also reveals the struggles women face. For example, Shashi notes an inequality saying "When a man cooks, it's art... when a women cooks, it's her duty." In addition, the music is catchy and Shinde does a wonderful job making the movie fast-pasted and very entertaining. I found the ending surprising and slightly disappointing, however, it is based on Bollywood morality. As Rosie Thomas writes, good, moral characters think about their family and community before thinking of themselves (The Moral Universe: Mothers and Villains). Shashi certainly fulfills this role. Overall, I believe this is a well-done, engaging film, which provides a compelling storyline unlike those of other Bollywood movies.