Debutante director Gauri Shinde brings to surface what millions of housewives, who are not conversant with English, silently suffer every day. It can be diminishing respect from kids. It may be husband’s love getting reduced to demand for good food and sex. And if a homemaker pursues a hobby to earn, it can be construed as time pass…a mere layer of butter for the bread that the man provides.
We have grown up observing all this around us. How an innocuous parent-teacher meeting becomes a test for the mother if the school is convent and the mother speaks in vernacular.
Many surrender to a life bereft of self-worth but Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) decides to change it for better. On a visit to the US she enrols herself in an English language course and the tongue starts rolling just like the laddoos she specialises in.
On the face of it, it seems there is not enough material to create a substantial screenplay but Shinde manages to generate a buoyant mood from the word go and manages to imbue the screenplay with moments of rare honesty. Be it the kids (Shivansh Kotia is outstanding as the precocious son) or the mother-in-law (the ever reliable Sulbha Deshpande), she has managed to construct a family you and I can relate to. It is neither too sweet nor too caustic.
When Shashi’s officious husband Satish (Adil Hussain) says his wife is born to make laddoos, he is not necessarily commenting on Shashi’s worth, he is betraying his understanding of women around him. His mother served him delicious food and now his wife is doing the same. Period.
From pushing her to attend PTA to encouraging her to go to the US to attend the wedding of her sister’s daughter, Satish is a balanced character with his share of weaknesses.
He hangs up on her, doesn’t engage with her in conversations but in crises he also offers help in making laddoos. He doesn’t even compare her with the colleagues he harmlessly hugs in office. The point is Shinde doesn’t make us question whether English could be the reason for a man to lose interest in his wife. After all most of us live two lives in a day.
Some of the situations she creates are rather simplistic like the obstacle Shashi faces at the coffee shop and the school that Shashi attends is full of lazy stereotypes – a Spanish nanny, a French chef, a Pakistani cab driver, a Chinese hair stylists, a homosexual teacher but she manages to get away with it because the performances are top notch and the dialogues have just the right punch. Add to it Priya Anand supporting act as the well meaning niece of Sashi and Amit Trivedi’s score and you have a film that charms and warms in equal measure. The relationship between Shashi and the French chef Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou), who gently helps her gather her self esteem, is particularly tricky and could have easily gone sappy but it turns out to be the highlight of the film. The best part is when language ceases to matter. Shashi complains in Hindi and Laurent gets the import. Laurent laments in French and Shashi responds.
Sridevi hasn’t lost much in terms of acting and appearance in the last 15 years. And Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s saris add to the grace. At the peak of her game she was adept at making you cry and smile at will. Here again she offers us the good old mixture and it works. Yes, her voice is still squeaky, her expressions are still a bit exaggerated and they become all the more noticeable in the presence of an actor like Adil who makes even a cardboard sketch lifelike but it works because the traits go with what we expect Shashi to be.
Watch it with a woman you love, and respect.
Cast:Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Priya Anand, Mehdi Nebbou
Plot:What happens when a mother of two is judged by her lack of proficiency in English…
Bottomline:Sridevi is back and so is feel good feminism!