Monday, 17 September 2012


The news has spread like wild-fire. Times of India, Indian Express, The Hindu, Hindustan's everywhere. Sridevi and English Vinglish got a 10 minute long STANDING OVATION at the end of the Gala World Premiere of English Vinglish at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend.

It was not only at the prestigious Roy Thomson Hall where the full-house 2000 strong audience erupted into such overwhelming euphoria for Gauri's film and superstar Sridevi's performance. Minutes after the premiere, the applause flooded Twitter and one saw the kind of impact English Vinglish had made on such a large global audience. Sample these:

BollyStar @BollyStar_Game
An absolutely brilliant movie! Welcome back #sridevi ji! you were stunning as always! 

Dilani Rabindran @dilani_r
Kya film vilm!!! A fitting story & movie for the comeback of our queen Sridevi! 

Ritu Joshi @RituJoshii
I dont think there will ever be another film as great as @EnglishVinglish!

Kamal Khera @k_k89
What a comeback @SrideviBKapoor It was an honor watching you on screen once again!  

Kamal Khera @k_k89
What an outstanding piece of art created by @gauris .. Watching #EnglishVinglish was a privilege

Chanjayaa Kovinthan @chanjayaa
#EnglishVinglish is a beautiful marriage of Eastern and Western film making traditions. Full of emotion and lively characters. 2 thumbs up

Sushmitha Rao @sushmitha
Congratulations @SrideviBKapoor you just reminded us why we've missed you so much on screen :) #EnglishVinglish

Dolce Namak @Dolce_and_Namak
#EnglishVinglish was a smile out loud kind of movie. Perfect for when you need a boost of happy. :) Loved it!

These and many more such tweets not only heralded the grand comeback of Sridevi but also announced the birth of a new director Gauri Shinde to reckon with. The English Vinglish team on its Facebook page recount the moment for us in these beautiful words:

''The applause continued unabated for 7, 8, 10, could have been 100 minutes even, till a stunned Sridevi and team acknowledged the honour by bowing back to them. It took a 360 degree turn to return the love to everyone after which it was nonstop waving to an excited crowd trying to make eye contact with the team. It took nearly an hour to leave the theatre because the fans weren't quite done yet. A horde waited patiently outside, ready to shower Team EV with more love and appreciation. According to Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of TIFF, this was an unprecedented response, the likes of which are rarely seen at TIFF.'' 

A 'stunned Sridevi'!!! Even Gauri's tweet post this historic success at Toronto reads, ''Overwhelmed, touched and a bit stunned.'' While the team may be stunned, for movie-buffs like us it was a forgone conclusion. The moment news trickled in two months back in July that English Vinglish had been selected for a World Premiere at the coveted Galas Section of Toronto Festival, we knew that Sridevi's comeback vehicle was a superlative product. That we in India were not the only ones thinking so was proved when the film created a record at the festival by becoming the only movie at TIFF2012, whose both shows got SOLD OUT within 15 minutes of Advance Booking. Reports from Toronto told us that it was the 'only film this year to create such an impact'. The standing ovation to the film at the premiere now proved that the film did not disappoint those thousands of fans who bought the ticket.

So why did the film generate such mass hysteria and has ended up becoming such a phenomenon at Toronto? The first reason is undoubtedly Sridevi and the official page of English Vinglish at the Toronto Website described her in these words:

''English Vinglish marks the return to the big screen — after a fifteen-year hiatus — of beloved Indian mega-star Sridevi, whose orb-like eyes, expressive face and magnetic charisma have lost none of their radiant lustre.'' 

The fact that India's first and biggest female superstar was coming back on the big screen after 15 years was celebration enough for the diva's million fans all over the world. Sridevi was always a global star even when she undisputed Queen Bee of Bollywood. Her classics like 'Chandni', 'Lamhe' and 'Khuda Gawah' are some of the biggest overseas blockbusters. Her mega-show with Big B in UK titled 'Jumma Chumma in London' remains one of the most successful international shows. Even Spielberg could not resist her charm and had offered her a role in 'Jurassic Park' though it never materialised. The epic craze for the diva on the English Vinglish premiere night at Toronto afirmed that despite a gap of 15 years, her international star-power and aura remained intact and had probably increased ten times more. Sridevi had received a resounding welcome at the IIFA Awards in Toronto last year where her comeback had been officially announced. It came full circle on the premiere night when fans thronged the hall screaming her name and clamouring for her autographs. Those who had seen her films had come to relish more of that magic. Those who had never seen her had come to see what was the fuss all about. Two hours and nine minutes later they were all standing together and clapping for the goddess who had just made them laugh and cry. Even Dalton McGuinty, Premier Minister of Ontario, organised a special high tea in honour of Sridevi. They are all her fans but this fan's tweet was extra special:

Dilani Rabindran @dilani_r
Today I gave my mom's life meaning - I got her in the vicinity of our idol Sridevi & no restraining order was filed!

Besides Sridevi, it was the film itself that drew in the applause. It was Gauri's vision and Balki's mind that together created a piece of art that superseded some of the best of World Cinema at Toronto. At the opening press conference of Toronto Film Festival, Co-Director Cameron Bailey described it as 'an international film with empowering messages.' That was perhaps the biggest reason why the film touched everyone who came near it. While the obvious message is the need to transcend language barriers and communicate with one another, the larger thought of the film seems to make us all inclusive of one another. The need to break walls and fences that divide the world and hold each others strengths and weaknesses. And the inspiration to overcome our complexes. Leave the margins and demand our rightful spot under the sun. It is these universal messages of love and brotherhood that obviously tugged at the hearts of its audience and the result was exactly what the film wanted. In the end the 2000 odd souls in the hall were all standing together and clapping. They had all become ONE. One joyous group smiling at each other. One empowered and evolved group touched by English Vinglish. Objective achieved!!!

The film's trailer also payed it's part in making it a winner. The one million who saw in on YouTube knew it was not the typical Bollywood fare but an international product with real characters that raised real questions and battled real issues. The presence of French superstar Mehdi Nebbou and Amit Trivedi's fabulous world music were other dishes that made it the perfect menu.

While the world media is giving it rave reviews everywhere, our Indian media is also busy celebrating the film's glory at Toronto as they headline this achievement all over the Net and publications. International media is now hailing our superstar Sridevi as ''India's Meryl Streep.'' Sri has always been a diehard Meryl fan and I wonder how she must be feeling now. Am sure Meryl will absolutely love that...! Now if only we could see a film with both these powerhouse performers together.  

Thank you Gauri and Balki for doing Indian cinema proud. And thank you Sridevi. For coming back into our lives. Now we are truly HAPPY-VAPPY!!!

Friday, 7 September 2012


2012 has seen some spectacular movies in the past eight months and is gearing up for a flood of new releases in the coming four. Kahaani celebrated the female hero once more while Agneepath screamed loud and clear that remake is not always a bad word. Now Barfi looks like RK's ode to Chaplin and Benigni while Heroine promises to slice open the festering underbelly of the Mumbai filmdom. Not to mention the epic clash of the Khan triumvirate in November and December. So why do I choose to spill ink over English Vinglish? Because English Vinglish matters!!!

First and foremost, EV brings back an artiste who's hailed by millions as the greatest and most versatile actress of Indian Cinema. I say Indian because Sridevi remains the only star till date who was the undisputed Numero Uno in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu film industries at once for more than a decade. The only actress who is still worshipped in the three industries for a roll-call of classics she immortalised with pitch-perfect performances. She could do a tearful Moondaram Pirai and a riotous Kshanam Kshanam with equal ease. Hailed as the First Female Superstar of Bollywood, she also remains the longest running No.1 in Hindi Cinema and one of the highest paid actresses ever. Sridevi saw national fame and international glory that her successors could only dream about and such was her star power that despite flops in the nineties, she still remained the official No.1. When she took a break in 97, the media was quick to brand her the Last Empress and now when she is back, the producer of her film R. Balki welcomes her as the 'Biggest Female Superstar' and the 'Only true pan Indian superstar.' Guess with some names, the hysteria never ceases.

EV also matters because it promises to be another game-changer just like Sridevi was in the 80s. After Rekha, the Hindi film heroine was again in danger of becoming the hero's sidekick. New actresses of this era lacked the talent and charisma to carry films on their fragile shoulders. And then came La Devi!!! She not only elevated the Indian heroine but took it to such dizzying heights that overnight she was nicknamed the Female Bachchan. At one point in late 80s, she even became more powerful than Bachchan himself. Such was her clout that she could refuse films with him unless she had equal footing or a double-role as in Khuda Gawah. Sridevi was called the 'hero' of her films and Boney Kapoors and Yash Chopras lined her doorstep with scripts where she was the pivot and the heroes mere accessories. Nagina, Chandni, Chaalbaz, Lamhe, Gumrah, Laadla, became famous in Bollywood that when Sridevi was in the film, no one asked who the hero was!!! No wonder Mr.India was jokingly called Miss India and even Steven Spielberg could not resist her charm and sent her feelers for Jurassic Park. Now after 15 years her latest director Gauri Shinde also says 'Sridevi is the hero in my film'. Karisma and Tabu in the past and now Kareena and of course Vidya have brought back heroine-centric roles but with the original Queen Bee at its helm, EV looks all set to consolidate female oriented movies.

Gauri is another gigantic reason why EV really matters. Film direction in India has inexplicably remained a Men Only territory. Probably the stigma stapled to the film industry kept women away from behind the camera in the past until choreography and costumes opened the first few doors. Looking back the only name that comes to mind is the genius of Sai Paranjpye who gave us classics like Chashme Baddoor, Katha and Sparsh. But these films are largely considered children of the so-called Parallel Cinema of the 80s and rightly so to some extent. Even names like Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair have chosen to create their own brand of films. Cast a glance at hardcore mainstream Indian cinema and you find only men until a gutsy Farah Khan wielded the megaphone in 2004 with Main Hoon Na and now Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. Gauri is a highly exciting addition to this club and she is surely going to inspire many more ladies to take the plunge and break the clutter.

EV also matters because it's unconventional like Balki's films. Gauri confessed at a TV show that she was never a fan of 80s cinema and that's evident from the promos of EV. This is not your masala potboiler or lovesick romantic saga or a family feud melodrama. One word that has been overused for the promos is 'refreshing' and one cannot agree more. What Gauri is giving us is a film that avoids cliches, tackles international issues and asks real questions. Even the music is not a typical shor-sharaba affair but a zingy melody that flows just right with the film's soul. And Sridevi is not the Superstar who owns the film but Sashi who respects the film. The feat that EV got a 10 MINUTE STANDING OVATION at Toronto Film Festival 2012 is simply because it's today's film with today's outlook. Most importantly the genius of EV is that while it's proud of being different, it's not snobbish. It does not tell you that it's a film solely for connoisseurs at festivals. It's a film that seems to tackle its central problem with such adorable gaiety and endearing fun that you are at once drawn towards its energy. While Gauri with her NY film-making sensibilities has created an uber-chic international product, she has given it just the right dose of Bollywood to keep it mainstream. It might alienate her from hinterland viewers who thrive on Dabanggs and Rowdy Rathores but she has gained an international audience who are viewing Hindi cinema with new found respect.

The role taken up by Sridevi in EV also tells you why the film matters. It's a known fact that after reaching the top, stars grow paranoid about their image and bigger the star, larger the consuming need to be god. Recent examples are of course the Khans who are invincible in almost every film. Today when I see a SRK or a Salman, I don't see the actor anymore. I only see the star. The superstar. Even when SRK does a My Name is Khan, I see SRK not Rizwan. Sridevi being the Superstar herself could have easily chosen a comeback vehicle where she zooms into the screen as the perfect glamour goddess and blinds everyone with a larger than life character. Instead her first look is a timid, awkward and gawky lady struggling to read English while the audience smirks. She could have had a banner that announces 'SRIDEVI IS BACK' with a flourish but she keeps her back to her viewers in self-effacing way as if she's embarrassed to be here again. When I first heard that EV was to be shot in New York, I had prepared myself to see her wrapped in Prada and Chanel. Instead I see a housewife in sarees with a ponytail. EV matters because Sridevi has the courage and humility to poke fun at herself. Because she quietly reminds others that you may be a Superstar but you are an actor first who must respect his craft. An actor who does not only play ultra-perfect characters that alienate audiences but an actor who can play characters that are far from perfect and can still inspire. EV will hopefully give more megastars courage to take up simpler roles where a viewer says, 'That's so like me.'

Finally EV matters because it addresses a universal problem faced by Indians and many others across the world. The embarrassment of not being fluent in English. As the film's synopsis says that money, fame and English are celebrated in today's society and nothing can be more true. Non-English speakers are constantly looked down upon as 'Hindi Medium' and life for them is series of battles at every stage. EV matters the most because it tells you that a language is simply that. A language. Nothing more and nothing less. The posters of EV show Sridevi with her arms outstretched as letters and words float around her in pieces. She stands liberated having ripped her cage to pieces. EV teaches you to get up and mend your complexes. On the way you might discover that it was never a weakness to begin with. And that's why EV is different from the show Mind Your Language. That show was about the need to master English but EV looks more like a film that perhaps teaches you to transcend language. Stop fighting over it. Teaches you to realize that you don't need language to communicate. Only emotions.

That's why English Vinglish matters. That's why the trailer has crossed 1 million views on YouTube. That's why it's songs are rocking the charts. But for my mom, EV matters because of that one look Sridevi gives when her husband says, 'My wife was born to make laddoos.' Touche!!!