In Pune, India, Shashi (Sri Devi) is a middle-class ‘good’ Hindu housewife. She lives for her husband and two kids, who take her for granted, making fun of her traditional ways, especially her broken English. When Shashi’s New York-based sister invites the family over for a wedding, Shashi travels ahead to be the wedding planner and secretly (why?) enrols in a four-week crash course in English, which improves not only her language skills but also her confidence.
Her fellow students include hunky French chef Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou), who’s smitten with Shashi. When her family arrive for the wedding, she must decide whether to go back to humdrum life in India or start a new life with her French beau. If only! Since this is a mainstream Bollywood film, the conservative script never gives our female protagonist much of a choice. Shashi is less ‘Shirley Valentine’, more Laura from ‘Brief Encounter’.
First-time female director Gauri Shinde disappointingly adopts a sugary approach. But while the film’s sexual politics may be dubious it nevertheless addresses the real language issue facing modern ‘shining’ India, where most people of a certain class do communicate in English. The film’s gay sensibilities are also spot-on.
As is to be expected in a star vehicle, Devi features in almost every scene. But hers is a subdued, one-note performance, largely devoid of the trademark starry, wide-eyed antics of her Bollywood peak in the 1980 and ’90s. A capable supporting cast and a fun cameo from a male megastar add to the appeal of this slight, enjoyable but ultimately predictable journey.