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Shamitabh: An Incoherent Ode

Posted on the 11 February 2015 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan

It is not as charming as Cheeni Kum and doesn't ride on emotions like Paa, but like in his earlier films, Director Balki dabbles with a never-heard-before concept (pun intended!) in Shamitabh and nearly pulls it off. The story revolves around the movie-obsessed, mute Danish (Dhanush) who comes to Mumbai in search of stardom. His talent finds a fan in assistant director Akshara (Akshara Hassan) but, due to his disability, he is unable to gain an opportunity. Technology comes to his help and he is flown to Finland for a surgery where an electronic device is implanted in his throat that allows others to speak for him. The duo then goes in search of a perfect voice for Danish and it leads them to Amitabh Sinha (Amitabh), an alcoholic, failed actor who finds home in a cemetery. How the three of them pull off this stunt makes for rest of the film. And that's where the film also starts to stumble.

The idea of this reflexive voice technology may be farfetched but we allow Balki the creative leeway in hope of something magical. Only if he had chosen to focus more on the storyline than on the baritone, we would have had a class of a film in hand. The movie starts well and there is promise of something different, exciting to come... and then nothing really happens. It is a case where a unique concept goes haywire, simply because the director did not know what to do with it or how to take it to its logical conclusion. The climax, especially, proves it. The end result is an incoherent film.

The film also gives us glimpses into the real Amitabh in the scene where he talks of his past failures and mentions how the All India Radio rejected him because of his baritone. Surely, showing Dhanush as the movie-loving Marathi manush with a humble beginning as a bus conductor, who then goes on to become a matinee idol, is no coincidence either, given his famous father-in-law, Rajnikanth.

Some of the best moments in the film are the face-off scenes between the lead actors and their camaraderie. If it takes two to tango, then it takes these two powerhouse performers to make the film work. The script relies heavily on their acting prowess and both (Amitabh and Dhanush) give you superlative performances. Dhanush, who has mastered the art of playing the small town guy, will see an award or two coming his way. The role seems cut out for him and gives him ample scope to give his best. Words fail to describe the class act of Amitabh Bachchan, who rules the screen even as he lies in dirt and babbles in an inebriated state. The man deserves an ode but, certainly, not this one.

Debutant Akshara shines in her role and you have to give her full marks for making her space amid two solid male leads. Only if she had styled her hair to ensure it doesn't fall on her face during dialogue delivery, the audience would have gotten a better glimpse of her expressions too.

Much like actor Dhanush in the film, Balki loves the movieland too, but art for the sake of art does not always work. After a point, the props, the colours and the situations start to look staged and repetitive. It is unwarranted of Balki to find solace in clichés - be it mocking the current crop of lead actors, reducing the producer's son to a mere caricature or taking pot shots at quintessential Chopra chiffon-draped heroine through the song 'Piddly Si Baatein'. It is indeed pretty piddly.

Ilayaraja's music is unconventional and fits the need of the film. PC Sreeram's cinematography heightens the momentum and makes some of scenes frame worthy.

To end it, Shamitabh is an un-kept promise and an exaggerated ode to a famous baritone from a star struck director.

Three and a half stars Review by Mangala Ramamoorthy

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Tagged as Akshara Haasan, Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Hindi, Ode to Big B's Baritone, R. Balki, review, Shamitabh, Shamitabh Review

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