Thursday, October 11, 2012

What a comeback! It's all about acting-shacting!

Choose a contemporary subject, weave an interesting story around it, set it in Uncle Sam’s land, sketch a few credible characters; add a few good actors, some foot-tapping music, a typical Bollywood style wedding; and cast a yesteryear star…KHAABOOM!! You get English Vinglish and a Superb Comeback Queen!

Wah Sridevi Wah! To be honest I have never been a Sridevi fan. Her gimmicks and slapstick humour bordering on overacting always irritated me. So when I went to watch EV with hubby and daughter, I wasn’t really expecting a lot. But Gauri Shinde, the director, has successfully helped the 40+ year old actress do full justice to her acting skills.

Perhaps Shashi of EV is one of Sridevi’s best characters in her entire film career. Sridevi uses perfect subtlety and moderation in playing the role of Shashi, a Hindi housewife and mother who knows little English and consequently suffers ridicule, especially at the hands of her husband and teenage daughter. Although everyone loves her yummy ladoos, no one really recognises her culinary skills and her success in running a small catering business. Thus the movie is about Shashi’s journey towards ‘confidence and self-respect by learning English.’

The journey begins with her lonely flight to New York to help arrange her niece’s wedding. Amitabh Bachan, who has done a cameo role as Shashi’s friendly and helpful co-passenger, rightly advises her to live life, ‘Be shakh, be fikar, bindaas! (without doubt, without worry and in style) She starts succeeding in this as she improves her proficiency in English through a four-week English Leaning Course in New York.

What’s the fun package in Gauri Shinde’s bag? The English Class with a bunch of men and women trying to overcome their common weakness of English: A quiet gay Black, a Chinese girl working in a beauty parlour, a Rotund Mexican nanny who knows only Spanish, A Pakistani cab driver, who wants to become eligible for the marriage market by being able to speak good English, a talkative Tamil who misses his idlis and mom in that order (whose passionate description of Rajnikanth as god capable of even removing Superman’s underpants gives way to a roar of laughter!) and my favourite of all – Laurent, the pleasant, handsome, and love-sick French man with an attractive stubble, who silently moons over Shashi and tries to spend more time with her. (my hubby vehemently denies that Laurent is handsome. So I leave that to you to decide!) Professor David is also impressive in his performance.

The problems faced by people who know very little English is precisely reflected in the funny conversations of the class that becomes a close-knit family at the end of four weeks.

The other funny element is of course Shashi’s awkward encounters with people in India who refuse to speak in Hindi and nervous situations in the US when even buying a sandwich becomes painful and embarrassing. But in fact, more than being funny, these bring out the hurt and pain felt by the leading character and highlight the insensitivity that has become so prevalent in our society.

Sridevi has shown a lot of maturity in all the emotion-packed scenes and does manage to bring a lump in our throat, especially in the final toast scene. Now who said powerful speeches in Indian movies can be delivered only by big heroes like a Shah Rukh, an Amitabh, a Rajnikanth or a Mammooty?

Sridevi delivers a toast at the wedding - a calm, composed and confident speech. No shattering background music for effect, no grand body language or no anger. Hats off to whoever scripted the speech! No wonder Amitabh cried watching the scene. The entire message in the movie resonates in it with quiet impact, leaving us a little teary-eyed. And oh yes, the husband and daughter, who never knew that Shashi was taking English classes, are shocked and full of regret. Their tears stand testimony to the humiliation that Shashi endured all along and their shock is a witness to her confident transformation.

I loved the music by Amit Trivedi. The lyrics of the songs are fresh and suits the theme of the movie. The director has done a great job of not going overboard but restricting Sridevi’s dance numbers to a few trademark moves and a nice catchy wedding dance in the end. The French classmate’s budding romantic love for Shashi is also handled with maturity. And Shinde makes sure that New York does not overwhelm the story, but dazzles a bit in the song sequences.

What I didn't like: Shashi need not have draped the sari pallu over her shoulders, the daughter's insensitivity to her mom seems a little too exaggerated, Sridevi's voice sort of grates with too much sweetness( I hate her voice!)

Directors such as Gauri Shinde and Sujoy Ghosh (of Kahaani fame) prove that ‘good, box-office-friendly scripts can be written exclusively for heroines, even 40+ ones, without props like a star hero or saucy item numbers'.

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