English Vinglish

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If there is one movie where one could bond with her mother, it would be this. Shashi Godbole (Sridevi), mother of two, is an upper middle class working-from-home woman. Her husband works in a high profile company and keeps his wife away from his professional life. He is very clear on why he married her – she looks good, cooks well and of course for procreation. Her teenage daughter is ashamed of her mother as she can’t speak English well enough for a conversation. Her younger son dotes on her, something her daughter must have done even if she rebels now. Shashi looks after her mother-in-law, the daily household chores, runs her small scale catering business from home and is the go-to-woman for anything that happens in the house.

You instantly recognize this woman. She is your mother. Even if your mother can speak in English, you still recognize the poignant silence of Shashi. Director-writer Gauri Shinde reflects on the often silently abused person of the house with sensitivity. For surely, not acknowledging a person’s worth is also an abuse.

A telling scene is when Shashi is in the US, helping with her niece’s wedding preparations, and her daughter calls up angry, to ask about the whereabouts of her scrap book and Shashi tells her where to find and assures her that she has not read anything in it as its personal. Her daughter responds snarkily by saying how can you read anything, it’s in English. It is here where she speaks her mind; it is here where you want to hold your mother’s hand and it here when you recognize the mother and the women.

It’s happenstance that Shashi arrives alone in the US,  to help her sister out for her neice’s wedding. Here, Shashi to regain her confidence and her  self-esteem decides to  take an English-speaking class.  And it is here that she is recognized for who she is and she begins to fall in love with herself.

One of her classmates, a French man falls for her but she is not interested. It’s when her niece says that it is okay to like a man outside her marriage does the Indian woman step in.  She says she wasn’t looking for love she was looking for respect. But isn’t love and respect somewhat the same thing?

The writer-director flutters over the possibility of another relation without disturbing the hornet’s nest.  In the end she drives home the point that it is trust and respect that matters and the family realize their mistakes. In the end scene when given the choice to read Hindi or English newspaper she picks up Hindi paper to read. English after all was just a tool to prove that she is indeed the super woman.

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