Director: R. Balki
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara
Director R. Balki’s special bonding with Amitabh Bachchan has given us two endearing modern classics Cheeni Kum and Paa in the past. Naturally there was a lot of curiosity about this duo’s latest offering Shamitabh, which the director had termed as ‘a tribute to the greatest baritone in Indian cinema’. The title and the promos did not really offer much clue, except perhaps a feeling that the film seemed a bit off-beat!
So how is Shamitabh?
What’s the plot?
A mute by birth young man (Dhanush) from interiors of Maharashtra comes to Mumbai with a dream of becoming a Bollywood star. Hiding in a vanity van at night and watching film shoots in the day, he waits desperately for an opportunity to act. An assistant director (Akshara) sees his talent. Sensing his passion for acting, she decides to help. With the help of her doctor father, she takes him abroad and arranges for a special type of treatment technology whereby he could have a natural sounding voiceover from another man. Coming back to Mumbai, they find the suitable voiceover man (Amitabh Bachchan)- an old drunkard, a hard-boiled cynic and a failed actor, who works as a grave-digger at a cemetery. Signing him on with a confidentiality contract, they hatch a secretive plan of presenting the mute actor with a ‘hired’ voice as the new action star. The experiment clicks. The first film becomes a hit and the fans and the film-industry start running after the new star, never suspecting that there is another man voicing his dialogues! But how long will this secret stay secret? Will not this success bring in jealousy, distrust and ego between the ‘face’ and the ‘voice’?
· Like his previous films, Balki manages to bring an interesting new premise into the plot. His theme tries to explore different aspects of the inner working of the film industry. It examines the importance of the voice in acting and is an obvious ode to the impact of Big B’s booming baritone on Bollywood!
· Amitabh Bachchan delivers an engaging performance as usual but it is marred by a déjà vu feeling. He has essayed far too many cranky old cynics in the recent past! His highly unkempt look doesn’t help either!
· Dhanush is obviously hampered by the lack of voice for his character but still manages to give an endearing personality to his part.
· The song Piddly Si Baatein is quite catchy.
· Lots of celebrity cameos, the most interesting one is of Rekha’s!
· The plot has too many loopholes and loose ends. The basic premise itself is too fanciful to be entirely convincing. The story begins well but later fails to develop into a coherent interesting narrative. The melodramatic finale doesn’t make much impact.
· Ilaiyaraja’s music doesn’t fulfill high expectations.
· Akshara, who happens to be Kamala Hassan and Sarika’s daughter, does not impress much. Her face and voice, both need better expressive skills!
Despite its super-talented team, Shamitabh doesn’t pass the muster as an exceptional or a must-watch film. It is not funny enough; not moving enough; not incisive enough! It is an interesting concept which remains half-baked in its development. Of course, it is mainly Amitabh’s presence, which still makes it watchable while it lasts.
2 and a half stars.