English Vinglish, 2012

Sridevi will always be best remembered for her role of the bubbly, fun-loving girl-in-the-wedding called Chandni–in the film with that same name–from almost two decades ago.  And having virtually disappeared from Bollywood after that, her comeback in this movie was one that had built up quite the hype.

The hype, I am glad to report, seemed to live up to it, because Ms. Sridevi looks fabulous and hasn’t done too bad a job in portraying a wife and mother who comes to New York City and doesn’t let a small thing like a language barrier get in the way of getting to know herself a little better.

The story is a familiar one, and the script somewhat formulaic.  It is really Sridevi that we want to see, and in this, the movie doesn’t disappoint.  She is shown in all the glory of donning the graceful Indian sari, and with her big eyes and demure looks, we see all the classic looks of a very docile Indian woman whose mission in life is to serve her family devotedly, even when she is slighted day in and day out for her lack of speaking English.

Well, you guessed it:  she does learn the language and gives a lovely speech at the end of the movie, but the story isn’t so much about learning English as much as it is about learning to love yourself and to achieve self-actualization.

And so, there’s a mushy warm center to the plot in how all this comes together, but sue me for it if you will, but part of me wondered how it might have been had she taken the other options that were laid out before her.  It is after all, a story set in New York City, a place where anything can happen…  Life, after all, doesn’t always come wrapped up in a nice box, and stories don’t always end up with wedding scenes.

But for now, we’ll just give Sridevi her props, and hope that we might be able to see a more avant garde story the next time around.  Indian cinema has come a long way, and perhaps it wouldn’t be too radical to expect certain more bold topics to be explored, especially since this one was already impressive in its views of anti-homophobic overtures, in uplifting feminist views, and in crushing stereotypes.

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