Movie Pick of the Month
Written and directed by Gauri Shinde; Starring: Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand and Adil Hussain Released 2012; Hindi with English subtitles available on YouTube and Netflix
Genre: musical Bollywood comedy/drama
How often do we enter into relationships searching for love, appreciation and a sense of worthiness?
Yet how often do these same relationships leave us still feeling unloved, unappreciated and unworthy?
And then how often does that lead us to blame our significant other or other family members for our feelings of inadequacy, lack and unworthiness?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then English Vinglish is a movie you want to see!
In English Vinglish, veteran Bollywood actress Sri Devi returns to the screen after a hiatus of almost 15 years to portray the character of Shashi, a housewife living in a small town in India who feels neglected and unappreciated by her family.
The one area that Shashi does feel a sense of accomplishment and joy is in her cooking- especially in preparing laddoos, delicious ball-shaped Indian sweets that bring her much praise among the many customers she serves through her small home based catering business.
Yet even Shashi’s culinary talent is viewed by her family as a normal part of her duty and obligations as a wife and mother- not something to be appreciated or respected.
The one thing that completely cracks open all of Shashi’s sense of inadequacy is her inability to speak English. In much of urban India, not being able to speak English is often mocked and looked down upon.
The Course teaches that what we see outside is what we see and feel inside. When we have an internal sense of lack and unworthiness, we often find this reflected most prominently by those closest to us- usually our family members, especially our children and significant others. There is an especially poignant scene where Shashi is humiliated by her teenage daughter for being unable to hold a conversation in English with a schoolteacher at a parent-teacher conference. In this scene, as Shashi struggles to hide her tears, one can sense that just beneath the pain is a strong desire for love, acceptance and respect.
Many times when we are suffering or are in pain, we want desperately for something outside of us to change. In particular, we want others around us to change. Yet usually that is not what happens. As the Course teaches, love must first be felt within before we can find it outside us.
Often what we need is a way to move out of our negative preoccupation with ourselves. This is where a new project, or a move or some other external change can be the perfect backdrop for us to learn the lesson we need. And so it is perfect that during this challenging time, Shashi is given an opportunity to fly overseas alone to NYC to assist her widowed elder sister in the wedding preparation for her niece’s wedding. Usually we may resist such an opportunity as we do not recognize that it comes to us for our healing. Shashi does the same. She protests that she has never flow alone, how will the children manage and so on and so forth. Yet after much persuasion from her husband, she reluctantly yields.
Shashi arrives in NYC clad in her traditional sari, and soon finds herself in awe and amazement of the tall buildings, fashionista aura and frenetic pace of Manhattan. However, very quickly feelings of inadequacy resurface with a vengeance after a fiasco at a local café when she fails miserably at attempting to order a simple cup of coffee and a sandwich all on account of her limited English ability. It is at this key juncture that Shashi makes a decision to enroll herself in a local school that teaches courses in English to immigrant students.
What follows is a beautiful transformational journey of self-discovery as Shashi meets not only her English teacher but also joins with a group of mighty companions – all immigrants- who also face similar struggles with their ability to communicate in English. In this safe and nurturing space, away from the traditional roles of mother, daughter-in-law and wife, Shashi not only learns English, but also learns a new way of seeing herself- through love and respect. The very same love and respect she sought externally, she finds she can give to herself. From this vantage point, her whole experience of her family also begins to shift.
This movie is a great one for those who are new to Bollywood cinema as a good portion of the movie is shot in NYC and due to the nature of the movie, a great deal of the dialogue is in English. It is also a refreshing and light-hearted approach to watch the concepts of unworthiness and inadequacy of the mind yield and dissolve in the presence of authentic love.