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Shamitabh: Salty Tribute to a Mysterious World of Fame

Posted on the 08 February 2015 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan

Shamitabh is Balki's salty tribute to the world of cinema, a world apart from Farah Khan's ideas. It's a world of lies and creative convenience, he convinces us. For some variety amidst this, he sticks to the real names of his characters, Akshara, Danish (almost Dhanush) and Amitabh. This world opens up to an expected conflict between fame, insecurity and identity. This unholy web surrounds the lives behind a voice, an actor and a director. It's a cocktail of many universal human elements competing for space, the potent ones, which however only manage to come off as interesting individual reels. It's neither an opportunity wasted nor even something that's completely fulfilling. It's an over-nourished poem with too many literary devices with the essence taking a backseat.

R Balki's premises are edgy, juicy and equally grounded to begin with. There's raw humour, not the laugh out loud ones, but that brings wide unnoticed heartfelt smiles, and all bound by some not-so-heavy innovation and underplayed emotion. Shamitabh, for a fact is one among his heavier films, in the tone of Paa. That's being a little unfair to the director's signature touches. There's colour, there's darkness and enough life in the frames to get the intermittent symbolism right. Here, still there's too much of everything.

The visuals aren't opulent. Shamitabh is in fact stuffed with an intriguing mix of black and white tonal shifts. Akshara says she prefers black attires to anything else. Amitabh doesn't mention his specific interest, but dons white shades. Dhanush is a good mix of both. These in a way indicate their unidirectional attitudes. The use of mirrors being a reflection of oneself, the 48 frame turn, the grave, the unkempt beard and even to an extent, the beer bottle is attached with some value. Here's where, the craft goes overboard, like garnishing something that's already emotion-heavy. The maker just doesn't want to part with his trademarks and still wants to embrace newer arenas. The sensibilities aren't befitting for a collage and could've even ended up a worthier experiment in a darker film.

The casting of Akshara Hassan raises curiosity. She's undeniably raw and pales in front of the two powerhouse performers. Probably, this is the reason that the focus on Dhanush and Amitabh is even amplified. The former enjoys his time as a self-centered actor, but the typecasting gets obvious as the film scales ahead. Amitabh wins a lot of empathy for a part as a failed actor and a voracious drinker. The negative shades are put out with care. The detailing of the film industry, the opportunism, its stereotypes, and the technological advancements isn't what Balki specializes at. He is after poetry here, which the two characters by themselves showcase indirectly. Dhanush, after the closure of the pirated DVD shop where he used to watch his films in childhood tears a cloth from the store, wears it as his shirt. The film also ends with the actor wearing that very shirt.

Shamitabh's ultimate result might end up making us feel otherwise about the attempt. The bittersweet equation between the men is its strength, while the women sketches only seem makeshift ideas. Could have been more, but Shamitabh, even for its faults is an interesting portrait. Rekha is at her ravishing best in a special appearance, throwing hints of Amitabh's backstory, when she remarks Dhanush to preserve his voice. But the hope ends there.

Three and a half stars Review by Srivathsan N

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