India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

English Vinglish: Mum’s the word


“English is a very funny language,” said Amitabh Bachchan many years ago, and many Indians agreed. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s comedy “Chupke Chupke”, a character makes fun of the English language, ridiculing its pronunciations and syntax; and when Kamal Hassan sang “come fast, come fast, don’t be slow”, no one blinked an eyelid at the bad grammar in the song.

In the India of 2012, English is no longer a language to be made fun of – fluency in English is an indicator of upward mobility, of having a chance at “making it” in this country. As of 2010, English was the second-most spoken language in India, behind Hindi, and the number of Indian English speakers was double the UK’s population.

Indeed, in today’s India, if you don’t know the language, you might find yourself to be the object of ridicule and it is this very insecurity that director Gauri Shinde picks on and explores in her debut feature “English Vinglish”.

Her protagonist is Shashi Godbole (Sridevi), a meek Maharashtrian housewife whose broken English is the source of much embarrassment for her pre-teen daughter and mirth for her executive husband (Adil Hussain).