Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) is a homemaker who makes and sells laddoos as a home-run business. Her husband Satish (Adil Hussain) and daughter Sapna (Navika Kotia) take her for granted, mock her poor English skills and generally treat her with disrespect, making Shashi feel negative and insecure. However, her young son, Sagar (Shivansh Kotia) loves her as she is, and her mother-in-law (Sulabha Deshpande) offers her words of sympathy.
Shashi's older sister Manu (Sujatha Kumar), who lives in New York, invites Shashi's family to her daughter Meera's (Neeju Sodhi) wedding to Kevin (Ross Nathan). It is decided that Shashi will go to New York alone to help Manu organize the wedding, and her husband and children will join her as the wedding approaches. During her flight to New York, Shashi is given inspirational advice by a fellow passenger (Amitabh Bachchan in Hindi/Ajith Kumar in Tamil). While Shashi is in New York, she has a traumatic experience at a coffee shop due to her inability to communicate in English, but is comforted by the shop's French chef Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou). Using the money she made from selling laddoos, she secretly enrolls in a conversational English class that offers to teach the language in four weeks, showing her resourcefulness at navigating an unfamiliar city alone. The class comprises: David Fischer, the instructor (Cory Hibbs); Eva, a Mexican nanny (Ruth Aguilar); Salman Khan, a Pakistani cab driver (Sumeet Vyas); Yu Son, a Chinese hairstylist (Maria Romano); Ramamurthy, a Tamil software engineer (Rajeev Ravindranathan); Udumbke, a young African-Caribbean man (Damian Thompson); and Laurent. Shashi quickly becomes a promising and committed student, earns everyone's respect with her charming behavior and her cuisine, and gains self-confidence. Laurent becomes attracted to Shashi. When he tries to kiss her at the rooftop of a building, Shashi rejects him and runs off, but fails to explain that she is married.
Meanwhile, Shashi's niece Radha (Priya Anand) who is Meera's younger sister finds out about her secret English classes and is supportive of her pursuit. Shashi starts watching English films at night and does her homework assiduously. To complete the English-speaking course and get a certificate, each student must write and deliver a 5-minute speech. Shashi's family joins her in New York earlier than planned, to surprise Shashi. Shashi tries to continue attending class, but decides to quit because of scheduling conflicts, and asks Radha to inform Fischer. The test date coincides with that of the wedding, and Shashi is forced to miss the test.
Radha invites Fischer and the entire class to the wedding, where Satish is taken aback at being introduced to a diverse group of people by his wife. Shashi gives a touching and enlightening toast to the married couple in English, surprising everyone who knew her as a typical, conservative, Indian homemaker. In her speech, Shashi extols the virtues being married and having a family, describing the family as a safe space of love and respect where weaknesses are not mocked. Satish and Sapna regret treating her with disrespect. Fischer declares that she has passed the course with distinction and issues her the certificate. Shashi thanks Laurent for "making her feel better about herself". Shashi's family return to India; during their flight home, Shashi asks the flight attendant in fluent English whether she has any Hindi newspapers.Sridevi as Shashi Godbole
Adil Hussain as Satish Godbole, Shashi's husband
Mehdi Nebbou as Laurent, Shashi's classmate
Navika Kotia as Sapna, Shashi's daughter
Shivansh Kotia as Sagar, Shashi's son
Priya Anand as Radha, Shashi's niece
Sujata Kumar as Manu, Shashi's sister
Cory Hibbs as David Fischer
Ruth Aguilar as Eva
Sumeet Vyas as Salman Khan
Rajeev Ravindranathan as Ramamurthy
Damian Thompson as Udumbke
Maria Romano as Yu Son
Neelu Sodhi as Meera
Ross Nathan as Kevin
Maria Pendolino as Jennifer
Sulabha Deshpande as Mrs. Godbole
Ashvin Mathew as Father Vincent
Amitabh Bachchan (Hindi) as a passenger in flight
Ajith Kumar (Tamil)
The story was inspired by Shinde's mother, a Marathi-speaking woman who ran a pickle business at her house in Pune. Her mother was not fluent in English, which embarrassed Shinde as a child. In an interview, Shinde said, "I made this film to say sorry to my mother." The film started development in 2011 or earlier, and several plot points and cameo appearances were decided early on. The film garnered much media coverage because of Sridevi's comeback after nearly fifteen years away from film production. The film rights were sold to Eros International for ₹200 million (US$3.1 million).
The film also marked the Bollywood debut of South Indian actress Priya Anand, who previously worked in the Tamil and Telugu film industries. It is also the directorial debut of Gauri Shinde, who previously worked as an advertisement filmmaker. It was shot mostly in New York. The principal photography concluded in October 2011 and the film was released in Hindi and Tamil. It was later dubbed into Telugu.
Ajith Kumar, being a big fan of Sri Devi, performed the cameo appearance without receiving any payment. He even flew in for the shooting at his own cost.
The first preview of English Vinglish was launched on 14 June 2012. The official distributor Eros International posted the preview video and poster on YouTube and Twitter. A two-minute teaser showing Sridevi reading out the Censor Certificate of the film in deliberately broken English was also released. The preview received positive response and was lauded for its unique and fresh concept. The full theatrical trailer was unveiled at a special media event on 13 August 2012 coinciding with Sridevi's birthday. The trailer also received a positive response and went viral on YouTube, exceeding one million views within a week of its release. Sridevi's performance in the trailer was highly acclaimed by her fans and the media; the Hindustan Times said, "Sridevi casts a spell in English Vinglish." The Tamil and Telugu theatrical trailers were subsequently released in Chennai and Hyderabad respectively. Sridevi also appeared on Kaun Banega Crorepati with Gauri Shinde and on the dance show Jhalak Dikhla Ja.
The film's musical and background score were composed by Amit Trivedi and the lyrics were written by Swanand Kirkire. The album was released on 21 September 2012; it comprises six songs including two versions of "English Vinglish", which were performed by different singers.
All lyrics written by Swanand Kirkire; all music composed by Amit Trivedi.
All lyrics written by Pa. Vijay; all music composed by Amit Trivedi.
All lyrics written by Krishna Chaitanya; all music composed by Amit Trivedi.
In July 2012, English Vinglish was selected by the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and scheduled for a world premiere at the coveted Galas section of the festival. Sridevi's comeback made it a highly anticipated film and all shows at TIFF sold out during advance booking. The world premiere took place at the Roy Thomson Auditorium on 14 September and was attended by Sridevi, Mehdi Nebbou, R. Balki, Gauri Shinde and other members of the cast and crew. At the end of the premiere, the full-house audience gave the film a 10-minute standing ovation.
After the Toronto premiere, some international media outlets hailed Sridevi as the "Meryl Streep of India". Two weeks later, America's entertainment weekly Variety wrote in its review of English Vinglish that it found Sridevi "[d]isarmingly charming in a manner that recalls Audrey Hepburn ... ". English Vinglish was selected to be showcased in December 2012 at the Marrakech International Film Festival; it was screened to an audience of around 15,000 viewers and was attended by Sridevi, Shinde, Balki and Nebbou.
In February 2013, English Vinglish was screened at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival as part of Indo-German Film Week. Shinde conducted a screenwriting workshop and spoke about the film and women's rights in India.
The film had its US premiere at the 36th Portland International Film Festival. Writer and critic David D. Levine praised the film, saying "[t]hough it's not a musical, strictly speaking, there's quite a bit of music and dance, and the film is laugh-out-loud funny and heart-rending by turns ... My favorite film of this PIFF. Five stars out of five." In April 2013, English Vinglish was selected to play at the third Beijing International Film Festival and the International Film Festival of Panama. In May the same year, the film won the 'Best Visiting Artist' award at the San Diego Film Festival. Andrew Friedenberg, director of the Cinema Society of San Diego announced that English Vinglish "dominated the voting".
The Indian premiere of English Vinglish was held on 4 October and was one of the biggest film premieres of 2012. It was organised as a red carpet event to celebrate Sridevi's return to filmmaking, and some of the biggest names in Bollywood attended the event. Directors Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy, Rajkumar Hirani and Ashutosh Gowariker and actors Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Tabu, Shilpa Shetty, Konkona Sen Sharma, Madhuri Dixit, Ayesha Takia, Kangana Ranaut and Javed Akhtar attended.
The film was given a "U" certificate by the Indian Censor Board. After Eros International's efforts to release the film on 21 September 2012, English Vinglish had its worldwide theatrical release on 5 October 2012. The Hindi version was released across 739 screens, while the Tamil and Telugu versions were released on 110 and 47 screens respectively. It was also released in over 250 screens overseas.
English Vinglish saw one of the biggest world television premieres on Zee Cinema on 29 December 2012. Owing to the film's box-office success and critical acclaim, the premiere was conducted as a mega event; Zee TV arranged a special press conference attended by Sridevi and Gauri Shinde, and to publicise the premiere, the channel launched a free English-speaking module telephone service using IVRS, which was an overwhelming success with over 25,000 calls across India in less than a week. English Vinglish-styled signs, including 'Exit-Vexit', 'Coffee Voffee' and 'Switch off Mobile-Vobile', were posted at 900 touch-points in cafes, malls, multiplexes and airports. Zee Cinema formed partnerships with Cafe Coffee Day, Inox, Fame, Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Globus and Westside to aggressively market the premiere. Mohan Gopinath, Business Head of Zee Cinema said, "More than two generations of India have worshiped Sridevi. Add to that an extremely simple yet heart-warming narrative, some spot-on direction by Gauri Shinde, Balki's unmistakable touch and you have a winner on your hands."
The worldwide gross for English Vinglish stood at ₹750 million (US$12 million) at the end of its third week, and reached ₹850 million (US$13 million) by the end of fourth week. The film opened to high critical acclaim and performed well in large cities, earning ₹25 million (US$390,000) on its first day of release. The gross went to 125% and the total figures for two days were ₹70 million (US$1.1 million) The Sunday figures were even higher; collections increased by 200% and English Vinglish ended its first weekend with ₹130 million (US$2.0 million) net. The film ended its first week earning ₹210 million (US$3.3 million) net.
Despite new releases Aiyyaa, Bhoot Returns and Student of the Year, the film's box office revenues remained steady. The trade declared English Vinglish a box office hit at the end of its second week when its revenues exceeded ₹300 million (US$4.7 million). Lifetime earnings for the film in India stand at over ₹400 million (US$6.2 million) net. English Vinglish was declared a blockbuster in its fourth week and its box office run lasted 50 days.
According to Box Office India, English Vinglish's final overseas gross figures was over US$4 million, making it one of the Top 10 highest overseas grossing Bollywood films of 2012. The film opened to a revenue of US$3.8 million overseas, bringing its worldwide total to ₹600 million (US$9.4 million) net. English Vinglish overseas collections was US$1.65 million in first weekend. The film has collected around US$3.5 million in 17 days. The movie collected a total of ₹170 million (US$2.7 million)in 10 days. The film enteterd the UK box office top 10, as of 13 October 2012. On the twelfth day of its box office run, Box Office India declared English Vinglish a hit overseas. The film performed exceptionally well overseas, collecting record figures unheard of for a heroine-oriented film.
English Vinglish created box office history in Hong Kong in May 2013, becoming the second biggest Bollywood hit ever in the territory after 3 Idiots. It also earned the distinction of being screened at Hong Kong's Director's Club; a privilege usually reserved for the best and most celebrated films in the world. English Vinglish also created waves in Japan when it was first premiered. The film outperformed most other films and became the second highest-grossing film in Japan and earned around $1.4 million. The film is second only to Aamir Khan's '3 Idiots' which had collected US $1.6 million. The film got an overwhelming response and Sridevi was hailed as the 'Female Rajinikanth of Japan.'
The film and Sridevi's performance received universal appreciation from critics and audiences alike. The Times of India gave the film 4/5, calling it "[e]asily one of the best films of 2012 ... [Sridevi's] performance is a masterclass for actors ... Request you to make a little place next to you, Rajkumar Hirani; Gauri Shinde has taken a bow in mainstream Bollywood." Aniruddha Guha of Daily News and Analysis also gave the film 4/5, and said it is "among the most refreshingly novel films made in recent times ... If you're a Sridevi fan, you can't miss it. If you aren't, you still can't miss it."
Another 4/5 came from Raja Sen of Rediff, who called the film "a winner all the way", and wrote, "Sridevi excels in fleshing out her character." Taran Adarsh also scored it 4/5 and called it "a remarkable motion picture ... A must-watch for every parent, every child. Strongly recommended!" Critic Subhash K Jha gave a 4.5 rating, and wrote that Sridevi "makes the contemporary actresses, even the coolest ones, look like jokes ... If you watch only two films every year make sure you see English Vinglish twice!" Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave it 3.5 stars, and said that Sridevi delivers "a performance that is nothing short of perfect ... It's warm and fuzzy, and leaves you with a big smile on your face." IMDB gave the film a high score of 8/10.
Firstpost's Rubina Khan gave the film a full 5/5, saying "Sridevi brings acting back in English Vinglish". Komal Nahta said the film was "beyond stars" and said Sridevi "makes the best comeback in Bollywood history and delivers a landmark performance". Social Movie Rating site MOZVO gave it 4.1 out of 5 putting it in Must Watch category. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, gave it 3/5 and called it "[a]n undemanding picture that goes down as well as the heroine's tasty laddoos". Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail gave it 2/4 and wrote in her review, "One wonders how long the neglectful Satish will remember the message of equality and gratitude if it is delivered as gently as this movie does." Amer Shoib of The Cinema Journal gave it 4/5 and called the film, "a hilarious, touching, sensitive, and sweet film that marks the triumphant come back of India's biggest female star...Sridevi." Indian columnist Shobha De tweeted, "Paresh Rawal and Sridevi—Actors of the Year! The rest are just successful stars!" and wrote a column titled 'What is that something about Sridevi?' UTV Stars called it the "Mother India of our times"
The Hollywood Reporter also gave the film a glowing review, and said, "Indian screen legend Sridevi triumphs in a gentle, but affecting, story of a woman's awakening self-respect ... It's no surprise that by the end of the film, Shashi will conquer her fears, but the route Shinde takes to get her there is distinctively Shashi's. The image of the newly confident Shashi striding down a Manhattan street, a takeout coffee in hand and a trench coat belted over her sari, will make you smile days after you leave the theater ... Ultimately, what make English Vinglish memorable are the small, step-by-step choices Shashi makes to transforms herself. Yes, there's grit there, but it's tempered with compassion and dignity. The way the character has been crafted by Shinde, and interpreted by Sridevi, is gloriously feminine, and uniquely Indian."
With the global triumph of English Vinglish, Sridevi, made a successful comeback after a long hiatus. Box Office Capsule hailed the film and Sridevi's return as "Golden Comeback of the Queen." Sridevi was ranked No.1 on many year-end lists, including:Rediff's "Top 10 Bollywood Actresses of 2012" for giving a "performance younger actresses, including the ones on this list, should learn from."
CNN-IBN's list of "Top 10 Bollywood Actresses of 2012" for a performance that "overshadowed young actresses".
Yahoo's "Top Ten Actresses of 2012" for "winning the hearts of millions of middle-class housewives".
Box Office Capsule's "Top 10 Bollywood Actresses of 2012" for "conquering hearts as well as the box-office".
Bollyspice's "Top 10 Bollywood Actresses of 2012" for "making us fall under her spell all over again".
Buzzine's "Top 5 Bollywood Actors of 2012" list for returning with "grace and elegance".
Sridevi also won the "Vuclip Icons of 2012" mobile survey to be voted as the Most Admired Actress of Bollywood. Her performance created an enormous impact when Amitabh Bachchan said in his blog that Sridevi's heart-rending acting in English Vinglish moved him to tears leaving "collective lumps in the throat". A poll by BolywoodLIfe also declared Sridevi as the "Most Powerful Actress in B-Town", winning by a landslide 75% votes over all the current actresses.
The actress was featured as one of the Top Newsmakers of 2012 by both NDTV and Filmfare. Filmfare also listed Sridevi as the "Top Game Changer of 2012" for making "a hit comeback after getting married and mothering two kids". Reuters' list stated that "Sridevi, in her comeback movie, outshone any actress in any role this year and proved once again that you don't need a male star to make a good Bollywood film", while India Today said, "Sridevi was reinvented in a role of substance". MTV wrote, "when an actor of Sridevi's calibre breaks her 15-year hiatus, you can be sure she has a winner in tow".
Since its worldwide success, English Vinglish consistently appeared on media outlets' Best Films of the Year lists. The film was ranked first on the Times of India list of "Top 10 Films of 2012", which compared Gauri Shinde's directorial debut with veterans Manoj Kumar, Gulzar and Aparna Sen. It featured in "Best Bollywood Films of 2012" by Reuters, "Bollywood's Most Appreciated Films of 2012" by CNN-IBN, 'Top Bollywood Movies of 2012' by India Today, "Best Films of 2012" list by Rediff and Forbes' "Best of Bollywood 2012". The film ranked third on MTV's "Top 5 Movies of 2012". It ranked second on Raja Sen's "Ten Best Films of 2012" and fourth on Rajeev Masand's list of "Top 5 Hits of 2012". The café scene in the film ranked second on CNN-IBN's list of "Top 10 Bollywood's Best Scenes of 2012". English Vinglish, particularly Sridevi's character in the film, was noted for inspiring Dalit girls in Bihar to master the English language.
Director Gauri Shinde featured in the Financial Times 2012 list of "25 Indians To Watch". She also featured on Rediff's list of "Bollywood's 5 Best Directors of 2012".
In September 2013, English Vinglish was considered for shortlisting for the Indian submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.