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22 June 2024

Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush leave 'Shamitabh' half baked

By Sneha May Francis

Once upon a time his obsession for Bollywood’s “biggest superstar” gave us the endearing ‘Cheeni Kum’, and later a hugely manipulative ‘Paa’, but none of his earlier movies quite prepares you for ‘Shamitabh’. A movie that rides purely on director R Balki’s excessive love for Amitabh Bachchan.

Only, now, the focus has shifted to his deep baritone voice. So, while his face doesn’t appear in every other frame, his voice does.

We hear Amitabh whisper and scream, grunt and hiss, forcing us to clap in awe. We do, in fact, the first few times, but then it turns monotonous, taking the fun out of it.

If that wasn’t enough, Balki even ropes in his “ex-flame” Rekha to mouth, “You are truly blessed with god’s own voice” to sum it all up.

While it’s a clever spin on his hero (Amitabh), Balki’s unable to pull it through mostly because he’s so enamoured by the actor, that he believes his voice is enough to captivate and thrill 165 minutes of screen time. 

Had Balki invested more on his writing, and ordered Hemanti Sarkar to be ruthless on the editing desk, ‘Shamitabh’ would’ve ended into something quite fun.

Instead, it remains an indulgent, glossy fanboy movie, shot exquisitely by P C Sreeram.

While music maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s tracks are hummable, and cool, it slows down the narrative, and lets childish conflicts creep in. “Kids in the nursery behave better than you,” screeches the lady in black, ironically echoing our sentiment.

‘Shamitabh’ is about two men - Danish and Amitabh, who both want to make it in Bollywood. One’s lanky and lacks the typical Bollywood hero look, while the other is grey-haired, unkempt and obnoxious. Yet, they boast of talents that could collectively turn them into a superstar.

Film assistant Akshara unites them into ‘Shamitabh’, and lands them fame and riches. Only, their dream run is cut short after their egos clash.

The conflicts, although predictable, explores the issues that dubbing artists face in the film industry. Despite lending their voice, their faces are forgotten. While the concept might be alien to Bollywood, where actors lend their own voice to their screen images, down south its an ugly reality. It’s a group, often sidelined, and one that Balki rightly puts on the spotlight.

It’s his “unique technology”, regardless of the disclaimer in the beginning, that we think is a bit too exaggerated and illogical.

Even the unimaginative product placements shake the texture and intent of the film further. ‘Lifebuoy’ turns into a movie about “killing germs and making people healthy”, and ‘Knorr’ helps to nurse a sick friend.

“Is this scene or a soap?” the movie’s Amitabh rightly points out.

Among the performers, Dhanush and Amitabh are each allowed to flaunt their acting chops, and they hold their own. Although it’s no surprise that senior Bachchan will walk away with the top honour. Surely, Balki wouldn’t have it any other way.

Amitabh’s fairly unknown, chubby sidekick is equally earnest and delightful to watch. It’s his fun take on his ‘landlord’ that evoked some genuine laughter. Akshara Haasan, in spite of boasting great acting genes, needs to finetune her act.

Balki's a good storyteller, but this one is blatantly calculating.