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English Vinglish – hindi film review

October 9, 2013

Enjoyed the Sridevi starer one lazy afternoon in tv, ‘English Vinglish’ is a nice and sweet ‘chai time’ picture for a housewife like me (quite unlike Shashi with her initial timid ways), still can’t resist asking, why anyone should feel ashamed for not being able to speak English. After all English is a foreign language for us.  Indian kids winning the ‘Spelling bee’ contest in the USA is big media news for last few years.  What i cannot understand is our obsession with the language of our erstwhile ‘masters’ and this compelling urge to prove to the world how proficient we are in their language, taking them in their own game.  With Indians winning or getting nominated for Booker and Pullitzer prizes, the fascination with the language continues and is a never-ending love story for us.  More publicity for foreign awards than for desi literary awards.  More news on English writing than on desi writing.   And am i not blogging away here in English rather than in my native tamil?

There are a lot of answers to a lot of questions that crop up in this connection, with first and foremost and the natural one being the one on our colonial mind-set, out of which we have not weaned away ourselves even sixty five years after independence.   For decades its been ingrained in each and everyone of us that mastering English and garnering knowledge and excelling in academics are one and the same.    And somehow our textbooks drafted in English language help that notion survive.  English is the preferred medium of education, also for the reason that the local language text books are not upto the mark right from primary school and from then on there just is no good or enough publication(s).  Science and Math therefore are best learned in English medium.  And similarly Engineering and Medicine.

Secondly, language is a big barrier in India, and in the south, Hindi can never win over English which is the preferred common language for communication.  Land of a thousand tongues, the necessity for promoting one single national language is imperative here than anywhere else in the world, true.  But English is simple and uncomplicated, while Hindi is viewed with suspicion by most of us down south who regard it somewhat like looming north Indian ‘aryan’ supremacy over us, ‘dravidian’ natives of the south.  ‘English’ handed down to us on a golden platter by our erstwhile rulers fits all our moods and necessities, a communication link for all seasons.   English effectively eliminates ‘Hindi’ thus from our official and governmental offices as well as private organizations.  English’s reach into rural India is even more remarkable, the kind of advantage that Hindi can never manage to achieve.

‘Hindi’ thus loses out to English in non-hindi speaking belt in India including in the North East, more readily acceptable with its universal appeal and easy-learning ways.  Hindi, the national language, is relegated to a lower position in these non-hindi speaking states. Its no exaggeration that English language cuts across all the regional barriers in India and succeeds in uniting India like nothing can.  Stranger than fiction!  Perhaps the English language is the best gift the British ever left for us Indians.  Hindi still is the language of all-india permit lorries and transport operators, no doubt!

So no wonder even before our children learn to write in their mother tongue, they start writing English.

The Japanese, the Germans, the French, the Italians and the Chinese are all learning everything in their mother tongues so why not us Indians?  Failing to educate, innovate and found researches in regional languages is the reason to blame.

So anyway, mastering the language is of utmost importance to us Indians and the fluency in language is directly proportional to the social status you command and even your IQ level sometimes (for aforesaid reasons about academics).  Table manners, public etiquette everything that measures your social standing and quality of breeding is again directly correlated to the level of English you master.  After all, we Indians eat with our hands, don’t we?  And its the spoon and the fork that are marks of English civilization basically which again double up as parameters of how ‘civilized’ we Indians eventually can get, what a tragedy.  (for a matter of fact, i refuse to eat with spoon and fork howmuchever i can and wherever i can and stick (!) with my hands come what may, come what the world might make out of me!  Excuse me, I am desi at heart, and although I love the English language and credit it for the strides in academics our men and women are making in the world of academics right around the world, and for serving India the way one never would have dreamt possible two centuries earlier, i wouldn’t say all of English customs appear better or sophisticated to plain souls like me.  For me, we are two different people, that’s all.  I adore English language for its simplicity first and for its stupendous efficacy in ruling the world with a modest platoon of after all 26 alphabets including 5 vowels! )

So somehow after all this I found the picture ‘English Vinglish’ not strange but it did irritate me that someone has to get to the level of shining a torch on a great weakness of ours.

Loved the picture more for the crisp cotton saris of Sridevi.   She has the height, the charm and appears the right age, doesn’t she.

Male Indian mean mindedness comes to the fore in the shape of her husband who decides to speak in the wedding buffet on his wife’s behalf.  And subtly the desi wife disarms him but at the same resists from belittling him for a return favour (that i would have done, had i been in her position!).  She had the opportunity coming her way, but the man stood shamed anyway.  The way a parent could influence his/her child to his/her advantage and to ridicule his/her better half was evident from the way Sridevi was treated by her daughter who repents her attitude finally after the wedding speech.  This last part is the best scene in the entire picture.  A finish with a flourish.

On the lighter side, the English classes were nice and somewhat enjoyable.   The french chef was much better than Sri’s husband hahaha.

One line/scene that describes the entire picture:  Is the one in which Shashi/Sridevi’s husband declares to her sister’s family and the new bridegroom-to be that ‘she was born for making ladoos.’

In summation i would say, the picture is more about how cruel Indian husbands could be at mindlevel than over mastering of English language.  The language problem pales in significance in the glare of the more persisting and ugly ‘sarcasm’ and ‘negligence’ that are hallmark qualities in some Indian husbands when it comes to treating their wives, especially in front of third persons.  For all our supposed super-sensitivity and emotion about all other matters, some of us still remain stupid and ignorant enough and blind, missing to realize how much we humiliate our near and dear ones every single day of our lives, taking them for granted.

But this is more annoying: why must Shashi think that she could win over her family by demonstrating to them her fluency in English?  Is that the only way to make people sit up and take notice of you and respect and love you?  Something is seriously wrong with this kind of mentality.

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From → hindi/bollywood

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