Movies

English Vinglish: A competent first attempt

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MUMBAI: English Vinglish raises expectations on a couple of counts. First, the film marks the comeback of Sridevi, the sizzling superstar of 1980s and ‘90s. It is not only her return to Hindi cinema after 14 years, but it also marks her return to Tamil movies as the film has also been made in Tamil. Secondly, it is the directorial debut of Gauri Shinde, an ad film maker and the wife of R Balki, the director of acclaimed films, Cheeni Kum and Paa.

Sridevi, away from the glamorous self of her heydays, is a middle class Marathi housewife in Pune and a mother of two. Hers is a happy, compact family of husband, Adil Hussain, two kids, Navika Kotia and Shivansh Kotia, and a supportive mother-in-law, Sulbha Deshpande. Sridevi herself runs a small business of preparing and supplying homemade snacks to her regular clients. Bundi laddoos are her speciality. However, she still finds herself incomplete as her lack of knowledge of English makes her feel excluded from a lot of her family activities such as attending a PTA meeting for her daughter or discussions with kids. To add to her misery, she is often reminded of her handicap and chided as being ‘born only to make laddoos‘.

Then Sridevi is faced with a real challenge. She has to travel to the US for her niece‘s wedding; to help prepare. She is needed to travel alone, before her husband and kids can join her. With no experience or exposure of international travel and limited by language, Sridevi manages to clear the formalities and boards the flight. On board, she is lucky enough to have a helpful gentleman next to her to get her acquainted with international travel; he trains her on how to call a hostess in case of need as well as the use of in-flight entertainment and even convinces her to try a glass of wine. The gentleman is Amitabh Bachchan but not featured as the star Bachchan but as just a co-traveller.

So far so good but Sridevi‘s lack of English communication is to be tested soon. Rather than cool her feet at home alone, her niece suggests she accompany her and have a look at the great city, hanging around while she went and finished her thing. Feeling hungry, she steps into a deli where she does not know how to go about ordering food. The big black woman manning the counter has no patience for her, adding to her nervousness and making her stumble and causing a customer‘s tray to spill all over. Humiliated and distressed, Sridevi runs out to cry but there she finds a sympathiser, Mehdi Nebbou, a French chef. Nebbou has taken great fancy to this sari clad Indian beauty instantly when he saw her in the Deli.

All is not lost and Sridevi spies an advertisement: Learn English in Four Weeks. Just what the doctor ordered to get her life on level with a world that was leaving her out because she could not communicate in English. Nothing can stop her now and, on the sly, without informing anybody, she enrols. And so does Nebbou, as he says, look at Sridevi everyday! That is a silent romantic angle in the film, albeit one-sided! The class of learners consists of a variety of immigrants: one from Pakistan, one from South India and one from China and another from Spain. This part is mildly funny and on the lines of popular British TV series of 1970s, Mind Your Language. While she learns English, Sridevi also learns that as a domestic snack maker, she is an entrepreneur, which is how she is described in the English language. This gives her confidence a great boost.

Happy endings cannot be all that happy if some hurdles were not faced and anxieties not caused in the plot. A few days to go before Sridevi ends her four week course with a test and earn a certificate, her husband and kids surprise her by landing up earlier than she was told. Also, the date of her niece‘s wedding coincides with day of the test. These are the parts which lead to a pleasantly satisfactory ending to the story.

This is one of those films where, though the film revolves heavily around one character, the casting and performances of other characters have to be convincing and that has been achieved by the first time director, Shinde. She has done a competent job as the writer as well as the director of English Vinglish. Songs are situational and have been used very well with one Marathi wedding song included for good measure because the farther one goes away from native land, the more the urge to retain what one grew up with.

An absence of 14 years from films has not rusted Sridevi‘s acting abilities and she carries the film on her shoulders with no glamour, song and dance or romance coming to her aid. However, she has an able supporting cast in Hussain Mehdi Nebbou, Sujata Kumar, Priya Anand as well as Shivansh and Kotia besides a nice cameo by Bachchan.

English Vinglish, as was expected, has not opened to encouraging houses and may only end up with acclaim sans rewards. Making it in a vernacular would have made better business sense.

KLPD Kismet Love Paisa Dilli: Crass and un-watchable

The title of the film, KLPD Kismet Love Paisa Dilli, aptly serves as a forewarning about the merits of the film as well as what is in store for the viewer. The maker of KLPD, Sanjay Khanduri, who earlier made Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, claims that the film‘s title has been inspired by Manoj Kumar‘s 1974 film Roti Kapada Aur Makaan which is an insult to the great filmmaker Manoj Kumar to say the least. Even Mohan Choti‘s production, Dhoti Lota Chowpaty, can be termed a classic compared to KLPD.

The basic plot in KLPD remains the same as the director‘s earlier film, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local in that Vivek Oberoi, a Delhi lad, boards the last Metro and tries to project himself as a true blue Delhi boy by trying to flirt with the women in his compartment. What follows after that is a banal chain of events lacking imagination about anything but vulgarity. The film is replete with double meaning dialogue in which finding the clean meaning would be difficult; the idea is to be unabashedly filthy.

The writer knows no subtlety or, may be, they did not plan to be subtle as everything in the film revolves around sex of all kind till it becomes repulsive.

No self-respecting artistes would have done this film nor could the best available talent have saved it and, hence, no miracle expected from Vivek Oberoi.

There is nothing to say about the box office potential of KLPD since the film does not have any.

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