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Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Film Review: Shamitabh

“Iska face, mera bass," says Amitabh Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan), who becomes the voice of mute actor Danish (Dhanush). Together, they become Shamitabh. This is a fascinating premise for a movie set within the film industry, which offers a rich tableau for film-maker R. Balki.

Raised on a diet of cinema, nurturing childhood dreams of becoming a hero one day, Danish arrives in Mumbai and begins his “struggle". With just the shirt on his back—made from a curtain decorated with images of movie stars, which he found at a local village DVD store—Danish lives as a stowaway in a vanity van. His luck changes when Akshara (Akshara Haasan), a compassionate assistant director, befriends him and sees his raw talent. “Turn bhi 48 frames mein karta hai (he even turns at 48 frames)," she marvels.

She comes up with a plan to find Danish a voice and make him a star. That’s when they stumble upon a drunk Amitabh, who spends most of his days wasting away in a graveyard. Making Bachchan’s character a drunk is a useful device—under the ruse of a whisky-drinking wastrel, he can get away with any degree of histrionics and bad wigs. Bachchan fans will revel in the numerous monologues accorded to his character, especially as the other hero has no voice of his own.

Dhanush must use his eyes and miming skills to convey his thoughts and emotions, something he pulls off with great assurance, though the script gives him short shrift. Haasan is cast cleverly.

The story is also replete with conveniences and omissions—a voice-box technology which allows someone else’s voice from a few feet away to be lip-synced by another; no one questions why Shamitabh never speaks otherwise; no background story on this struggler; and an all-too trusting Akshara.

It’s humour pre-interval, and the satire in a film set within the industry is refreshing; it doesn’t overdo the inside jokes and genuflection. There is a tongue-in-cheek scene with Rekha presenting an award to Shamitabh, but like the premise of the film, it’s masticated to mush. The genuflecting creeps in later, as Bachchan indulges in grandiose soliloquies and the director’s reverence becomes all too obvious.

Consequently, clever conundrums and satire are replaced by sophomoric writing, such as the scene where Akshara is desperately trying to get the feuding Danish and Amitabh—torn apart by ego, rivalry, jealousy and insecurity—to reunite by teaching them the A-Z of life in a nursery school classroom!

Shamitabh released in theatres on Friday.

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