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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

English Vinglish


Selecting which Bollywood films to watch has become a difficult task for me now that Aish is not doing films as honestly have not much criteria to select films I could like or enjoy; then you have to consider that there are too many films to chose from each year. Nevertheless sometimes I take risks and sometimes risks pay-off really well. This is one of those times.

Thanks to buzz from India viewers and reliable non-Indian critics reviews decided to watch this movie and to my surprise the choice was almost perfect as movie is exceptionally good considering Bollywood standards but also considering good western cinema. For starters this is the very first Bollywood movie that I see that is written and directed by a woman, Gauri Shinde, which I believe is not usual in that movie industry. My impression confirms what I know from western cinema, women filmmakers tell better women stories in movies. Most interesting is that this is her debut film, both as an screenwriter as a director, and in my opinion is a great debut that hopefully will give her a great career in the future.

Then film introduced me to Sridevi a very famous actress in India that took a long break from films to return with a truly impressive performance in this film. I am highly impress with Sridevi acting skills, especially because she is able to express with face and body expressions/movements whatever is happening in the scene; she is so good that if you mute sound you will know what is happening with character and story. But there are some scenes where she speaks Hindi to a character that speaks French back to her and even if we assume that they do not understand each other words, we clearly know that they do understand each other as her expressions and the way she speaks tells everything. Amazing! The French actor, Mehdi Nebbou, does the same; but see, that's something I expect from any French actor/actress. Yes is not something I have seen that good in Indian cinema, not even in Aish; but then, my Bollywood experience is very limited. Now I think will try to see her in older movies hoping to discover more excellent performances.

Even if film has what I consider a typical Bollywood film structure and is set in today's world, I found it entertaining, with a good story, and most important, a happy film that will make you feel good while and after watching. Story can be predictable as early in the movie we can foresee how will end, so movie becomes about the ride to reach the predictable end and gee, I was not prepared to what I saw.

First let me tell you what story is about. Tells about Shashi (Sridevi) being treated not good by husband and daughter as she cannot speak English and when she tries speaks with heavy accent. Indeed talks about how those that live with English around them see those that can't speak English as inferiors. Also, Shashi likes to cook sweets, which she sells and are highly praised by her shoppers but dismissed or taken for granted by her family. But due to a family wedding, Shashi unwillingly travels to New York City alone to help with the wedding, her family will come later.

Have to comment about what happens the first time ever Shashi boards a plane as besides the expected humor there is a cameo appearance by great Amitabh Bachchan, at least in the Hindi version as in the Tamil and other versions this role is played by different stars. Both in the screen are great but what blew my mind was what Bachchan tells the American migration officer when he's asked about the purpose of his visit to America. If only I could dare to answer so truthfully as Bachchan's character did ... then, maybe I'll do it next time or maybe not. Sigh.

Going back to the story, Shashi in New York has the expected bad moments every foreigner that does not speak English has in America with intolerant and rude people; but eventually she decides to learn English at a school and that's when things got complicated for my western mind and imagination. One of her fellow students, the French guy, falls for her and even declares his love in public, which is forbidden in Indian culture. But you see that Shashi likes what is happening, you know that the situation makes her feel good about herself, plus helps her self-esteem; as the "romance" escalates you start to wonder how the script is going to solve this issue as after all this is an Indian movie that had huge box office success in India, so nothing "forbbiden" could happen. The solution comes so simply that blew my mind as was solved with philosophical common-sense! In one stupendous sentence delivered by Shashi the to-my-western-mind complex situation is fully solved. Fantastic! Still, can't deny that wished story could go a different direction, but then film had to be a western production, which this is not at all.

As you can see, really enjoyed movie thanks to Sridevi performance and the unusual way story evolves into the predictable end. The rest of the cast has acceptable performances, tech specs are above average as in any Bollywood film, and you can see the director's good hand tying all the dots together quite efficiently. Often you will have songs, some dances and typical "exaggerated" acting scenes; but surprisingly songs and dances not often interrupt the narrative as usually is done in this cinema, consequently some songs or dances are fully integrated.

Of course I recommend movie, but have to remind you that first and foremost this is a Bollywood movie, so please do not expect a western style movie as if you do, surely will be disappointed by the lightness and/or irreverence of story and movie. But yes, in general, consider that this is a movie that western audiences can easily enjoy as an entertainment moment.

Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @MOC

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