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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 2, 2013
I guess, one day, Sridevi Kapoor - but just "Sridevi" will do, thank you - surveyed her demesne and decided to heck with her fifteen year hiatus from cinema. I think I'm on firm footing when I say that I'd put Sridevi's scintillating performance in English Vinglish against whichever other best you can come up with for 2012.

It's a crap title, but that's the only negative thing I can think of about the movie. In an ocean of redundancy, English Vinglish surges against the tides. Does it add flavoring to learn that writer/director Gauri Shinde made the film in part as an apology to her mother, on whom she based the central character? Like the character's daughter, Gauri as a child was embarrassed of her mom's poor grasp of English. And here we were some years back, hailing Esperanto as the universal language.

In India, Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) is a dedicated housewife and devoted mother, never mind that she's marginalized by her husband (a smug Adil Hussain) and ridiculed by her daughter (Navika Kotia) for her provincial ways and for her inability to speak proper English. Shashi is a gifted cook who runs a modest business making and selling sweets to the neighborhood, an enterprise her husband looks down on. Y'know, here's a fella that's begging for an earnest asskicking.

The plot really kicks off when Shashi's older sister calls from New York asking for help in preparing for her daughter's impending nuptials. Picture Shashi in panic mode now, especially since she must fly for the first time and fly alone because the rest of her family aren't urgently needed and will meet her in New York in several weeks.

English Vinglish is mostly shot on location in New York, and it's there that Shashi embarks on her transformative journey. Okay, that's not right. It actually starts on that plane when Shashi ends up seated next to an obliging elderly gent (Amitabh Bachchan) who guides her thru the strange workings of an arduous international flight. For the duration of his brief cameo, Amitabh's helpful passenger does his darndest to enable Shashi.

It's not a film that sweeps you with the highest of stakes, and yet the scenes that play out are no less devastating. It's absorbing stuff, eyeballing this simple woman as she tries to cope in a scary, unfamiliar environment. I wonder, will you cringe in heartbreak like I did at the coffee shop scene as a thoroughly intimidated Shashi is braced by an aggressive counter clerk? Sridevi is so damn good. She reinforces that bit of wisdom that simple does not equate to stupid. Moments after this crushing scene, a gutted Shashi Godbole glimpses a bus ad claiming to teach paying students how to speak English in four weeks.

We track each of the hesitant choices Shashi makes, the small steps she takes to change herself, and we celebrate her incremental moments of triumph, until finally we arrive at that scene in which she navigates the bustling New York avenues with confident strides, handbag breezily flung over one shoulder. That scene makes me beam.

Gauri Shinde, who'd previously made short films and advertising spots, makes her feature film directorial debut, and it's a self-assured one. I guess we're waiting to see if she's a one-hit wonder. For now she's being lauded universally, and it's well-deserved. English Vinglish was such a pleasure to watch, a Bollywood feature that sharply separates itself from the homogenized efforts that sprinkle the breadth of Indian cinema. Shinde has crafted an unerring picture, inhabited by gentle humor and keen insight and emotional beats that run the gamut of gut-wrenching to uplifting. It's Gauri and Sridevi's potent shoutout to the hope and the dream of the Indian woman as a figure that retains dignity and is respected and cherished and treated as a peer. And who can make a kickass plate of ladoo.

What I have is the 2-disc set. Disc 1 has the feature presentation (English sub-titles available). Disc 2 has the following bonus material (totaling 00:24:19 minutes):

- 3 Deleted Scenes (no English sub-titles)
- Behind the Scenes Look (partly in English)
- Gauri Shinde's no dialogue first short film, "Oh Man!" (2001), in which a man isn't happy with his woman's provocative wardrobe
- Censor Certificate Trailer (really cute!)
- Theatrical Trailer
99 comments| 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
I loved this movie. This is not a Bollywood musical. It is about an East Indian woman who comes to New York with her son and can't speak English. You really empathize with this character as she feels cut off from everyone because of the language barrier. She wanders around New York and finds an English class for people where English is a second language. As she learns English and meets people in class who are in the same boat so to speak, she starts to grow, make friends and find her place in American society. It is uplifting and character driven. The script is well-written and the acting is excellent.
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on April 26, 2013
This film, with some sub-titles, is worth your attention. The acting is excellent and the star, who came out of a ten year retirement (thank goodness) is as fresh and convincing as she is beautiful. It is about a woman who has been sheltered all her life and is talented only in one area, cooking Indian desserts. Her family looks down on her and does not give her the respect she needs.She does not speak English well and her daughter is embarrased by this and her husband just discards her, mostly. But, at first, she does not seem to want to progress any further than she has in life. But things change when she is invited to her niece's wedding in the US. where she will need to speak English. She is terrified and realizes how much inferior she feels. She then decides to join a class to learn how to speak the language. From then on it is a joy. All the characters are real and the situation is very close to all of us.Everyone she comes in contact with just absolutely loves her and so will you. The ending is wonderful. I highly recommend this little sleeper of a movie.
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on April 7, 2013
The plight of the immegrant or plain traveler here to the U.S. is one I empathize with. I was born in raised in rual Texas, U.S.A and couldn't even begin to tell you how rude some people can be to foriegners who speak little English or have a heavy accent. This movie had tears streaming down my cheeks as Shaashi was trying to order at the deli. I wanted to hug her and slap the woman behind the counter. I LOVED that she was able to stand up for herself, become better educated to lift her own self esteem and that she was able to rise above the ignorance around her, even within her own family. I recommend this to anyone with a heart!
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on July 24, 2015
Definitely recommended. The only reason for 4 stars instead of 5 is because I personally think 5 stars should be an extraordinarily good film. This is certainly a good movie with lots of heart, a winning heroine and good character development, with insight into the frustrations of someone who is a non-native English speaker that I think would be useful for any other Americans out there like myself who speak only English. It just doesn't hae quite enough 'oomph' to push it into the 5 start category for me.

SPOILERS:
Cute movie about an Indian mother who was being mocked and treated cruelly by her family simply because she wasn't fluent in English. An extended trip to Manhattan allows her what is potentially her first real taste of freedom, and with that, an opportunity to improve her English, a source of shame and frustration in her life at this point, thru a "Learn English in ----" cram course. The rest of the film follows her struggles both to learn the language, but mostly her interactions with her classmates and family, and her personal decision if she wishes to continue the life she's always known or branch out into becoming an independent woman. And of course the conflict the return of her family bring to this internal debate.
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on September 30, 2013
That basically sums up this entire movie. It's a nearly perfect inspirational movie. The script is fantastic, the performances superb in every way, and the film itself is lovingly and thoughtfully crafted with every shot. Srideviji was a revelation! Who knew that under the chiffon saris of Yash Chopra a subtle, elegant, and compelling actress could turn in such a realistic and incredible performance! She truly became the character in every way. I didn't see even one moment of "acting" in the entire movie. She was literally perfect! I really hope she makes another film soon. The supporting cast was equally good, from the family, to the classmates, to the strangers we run into (major kudos for Mr. Bachchan's cameo) and all blend into a harmonious mixture to make a fantastic film. Please, don't deny yourself the experience.

I do have one minor quibble (SPOILER), and that is that although the film did an admirable job in creating what a Manhatten class demographic looks like in 2012 having the gay teacher, go through a breakup and then discovering one of the students is also gay was just totally unnecessary. Not to mention way too obvious and convenient. I understand the tolerance message but I personally felt it could have been done in a less obvious way.
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on April 22, 2013
Our family is learning Hindi here in the US and we found this movie very encouraging. The movie has quite a bit of English in it, and could very well have been an English movie with Hindi subtitles. So this "Bollywood Film" doesn't have the typical Bollywood singing and dancing. Certainly, it is a step forward for Hindi cinema. I was moved by the film, and I think I would have been, even if I weren't learning Hindi or learning about the Indian culture.
Because Indian Cinema isn't rated for the U.S., I always like to mention a few things about family content in our movie reviews. So, without 'spoiling" the film:
No sex, no drugs, no violence, no foul language. Reference to homosexuality. Reference to adultery.
I'm glad we bought this. I cried.
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on February 4, 2013
I enjoyed the film, even with the problems that leapt from the screen at every turn I was still glad I picked it up.

A charming story matched up with a great cast saved this from being a total laugh, it was filmed in several languages at once and the strain of pulling all of that together shows. Several times the actors forget what language they are supposed to be using, and amazingly Shashi seems to pick up French somewhere along the way.

My 19 year old son happened to be in the house when the movie was on and even he commented that it was a decent flick, but I think he was more amazed that the actress playing Shashi was 49.

While I had no problem paying full price for the Blu-ray, I imagine that most would want to wait for the price to drop, or the film becomes available for rent. I've watched many Bollywood movies over the years, and I'm happy to say that this is the best I have ever seen.
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on January 6, 2013
This is a very quiet movie that makes a huge impact on those who watch it. I love Bollywood movies and love that this was actually a heroine focused movie which isn't as common in Bollywood movies as it is in Hollywood movies.

From the beginning we meet Shashi, who is a wife and mother of two children (girl and boy), she also makes ladoos and sells them to those around her neighborhood. I've never had ladoos, but I'm dying to try one now! Her husband is very dismissive of her and we see that when she mispronounces an English word, we also see this dismissiveness when she calls him to tell him how many ladoos she sold that day and he says he is busy and can't talk to her. From the title of the movie we can tell that Shashi has a problem with English. She must go to her daughter's PTA meeting and bumbs into a mother of her daughter's friend, who begins to talk to her in English. Shashi just nods her head and her daughter jumps into the conversation. This gives us a glimpse that she is not fluent in English and that her daughter is embarrassed by this fact. After the PTA meeting we see Shashi's daughter being rude to her for not knowing English and talking to her teacher in Hindi. It is heartbreaking to she Shashi start to cry a little on the ride back to the house. We can see how lonely she is and how her family pays her little respect. It seems her only joy comes from making her sweets which is her solace from her family.

Then the call comes from Shashi's sister who lives in New York, to tell that her eldest daughter is getting married to an American. Her husband decides that Shashi will go a few weeks ahead of the family to help her sister with the preparations. Shashi is very upset with this decision since she does not know English or how to get around, but her husband doesn't seem too concerned that he is sending his wife to an entirley different country than her own. I admire that she does get on the plane to go to America, that takes a lot of courage to go to a country where you do not know the langugae. The scene on the plane, where Amitabh Bachchan is her seat mate, is extremely funny, as he translates the English movie to Hindi for her. Laugh out loud fun! When she gets to New York disaster is soon to follow when Shashi's niece takes her to a park to wait for her to get done with her classes for the day. Shashi deciedes to go to a cafe for some food. The cashier is rude and frustrated that Shashi doesn't speak English and the end result is Shashi without lunch and in tears on a bench.

After this moment she decides to learn English and she enrolls in a four week course. She ends up having to get to the Language Center all by herself, and I admire that she was determined to do it. The scenes of her learning English with the other students is very sweet and funny, and I love the teacher who is very eccentric. There are some very sweet moments between Shashi and the other students as they all struggle to learn this complicated langugae. We can see Shashi becoming more and more confident as the classes go on, and she enjoys this new part of her life. But it is cut short when her family arrives early for the wedding and she is not able to go to the last couple of classes. After an important scene (I won't say what happens) she becomes very upset with herself for putting so much focus on her English lessons when that was not the reason for her being there. She feels that she has failed as a mother for forgetting her responsibilities. I won't give the rest of the movie away but it is beautiful.

What I find wonderful about this movie is how many lessons can be learned from it. I think this movie encourages us to look at how we are treating those who are close to us. We are hurt when Shashi is put down by her family, and it makes us take a look at our own life and see who we may be putting down unecessarily. I think this movie also encourages us to do things we are scared of doing. Shashi is terrified by New York, and by learning English, but she does it and it gives her confidence to stand up for herself. As a native-English speaker this movie helped me realize that English is not easy to learn, and it is very hard to foriegners who are new to America. We see Shashi try to figure out how the langugae works, and we watch her struggle to get around New York and around with people who she cannot communicate with. It helped me realize that being in a completely different country and culture is extremely hard if you are not used to it.

Sridevi had a spectacular performance for not having acted in 15 years. She is stunning as Shashi. The emotions she portrays break our hearts and make us smile as we watch her grow in this foriegn country. She is a brilliant actress who embodies her characters fully. This character was made for her.

This is a non-traditional Bollywood movie but it is no less than those movies with dancing and singing. It it a beautiful story of a woman truely figuring herself out in this new world. It is one of those movies that everyone should see, not just those who love Bollywood movies. Please watch this spectacular movie!
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on October 6, 2017
I purchased this film because I thought Amitabh Bachchan was in it--but his role was disappointingly brief, just in the beginning, and then he disappears for the rest of the movie. Not fair to Bachchan's fans at all. However, this is still a well-done and engrossing film. It's certainly worth your time.
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