Friday, December 07, 2012

Self Worth & English Vinglish

I was one of them. One of those ungrateful teenage kids who took their parents for granted. One of those kids who felt that they were entitled to the service and finances provided - with unqualified love - by their parents. While not necessarily disrespectful, I actually was a lot more demanding of their time and energy (maybe not their finances) than some of the other kids around me. Watching the Sridevi's movie English Vinglish took me back to a time when my mother suddenly announced that she had enrolled in a spoken English class. This was in early to mid-nineties. I didn't particularly have a problem with it or think much about it then. Many years later - when I had time to think about these things - I wondered what prompted her to do such a thing. She could read and write English very well. She wasn't planning on entering employment and she didn't really need spoken English to survive in Madras. 

The class was in Ashok Pillar and she completed the class in a few weeks/months. I later was told that she did very well in that class and was the best in that class. This 'achievement' does not translate to any capitalistic world's accolades or monetary benefits. What I didn't know then but realized later was that the whole exercise could have given her a much needed validation or boost to the self-esteem. From a child's point of view, I thought she had a family and a source of income. There was really no need for an English class. But strange are the ways of human emotions. That practical need is totally divorced from an an emotional need.

English Vinglish narrows down on this very concept of a housewife's sense of self worth and makes a story and movie out of it.  This is not the first movie to be made using this concept and I frankly thought it had become a very cliched concept in movies. Maybe its been a while since I saw a movie with this story or maybe because I personally connected with the story, I sort of liked parts of it. Sridevi is both good and bad for this movie. Her star power makes her too hi-fi to be a naive housewife but her performance is very credible. The bothersome aspect is this movie puts a Bollywood spin on this story - stuffs it with stereotypes, gay concepts, an inter-race marriage, remixes 'mind your language' comedy and delivers a packaged formula. If I closed my eyes and just heard the dialog, I could have as well been watching 'Bend it like Beckham'. The packaging used for this movie and the story telling of this movie has been often used in many 'hatke' movies. Especially when it comes to telling stories around a wedding.

p.s: When adapting movies to thamizh it makes sense to customize it to local culture. Just the way Hindi people use the 'v' syllable to twist regular words (English 'vi'nglish, happy, 'va'ppy, party 'va'rty etc) - thamizh people use 'k' (English 'k'inglish, party 'k'eerti, etc). This was a simple thing that could be controlled in the dubbing stage. Not doing that was very irritating.