** This is a repost of my review on Bollyspice.com **
Dhanush + Amitabh = SHAMITABH. Now its fine to think the obsession with Amitabh Bachchan’s voice has hit a new level with R. Balki making a movie revolving around it. The trailer tantalizes you with this obvious fact. But just like Dhanush’s ( i.e. Balki’s) reason behind the choice of name, there is something deeper behind the simplicity. Foundation set, now add the curiosity that is the debut of Akshara Haasan and the return of Dhanush Karthikraja after the success of Raanjhanaa. And may be some cameos of so many celebrities for good measure. Expectations high you say? Well, unfazed by all the hype, R.Balki takes us on a stroll, keeping his eyes set on his target. A film you can kick back and enjoy.
The story is this. Daanish (Dhanush) is small time boy that dreams of it big in Bollywood. He can blow your mind if you give him a chance. His ultimate problem? Not his height, his weight or his unconventional looks. It’s simply that… well you will find out when you see the movie. Enter Akshara (Haasan) who finds him on one of the sets she ADs for. Realising his talent, she aides Daanish with his dream and finding a voice. With the help of some Finnish technology, and a few trials later, they stumble upon Amitabh Sinha, a washed up grumpy drunkard who tried his hand at the big screen and failed. Now he lives in the graveyard. Together, they form Shamitabh and the stardom is instant but so is the rivalry. What continues is a contest to outwit, outsmart and outperform the other. Until…
Balki has always been about simple things but in a different way. We’ve all seen Big B perform and have possibly thought how majestic his voice is for just over 40 years. But this film is possibly one of the few if not the only, that utilises that fascination for the baritone voice on a story level. While the beginning is a bit choppy and does take time to drive its point, you don’t leave empty handed. Once you reach the point of story twisting, the sheer delight of watching two amazing actors battle it out, is bliss. Keeping it basic in emotion, Balki shows the good, the bad and the ugly of the pair. Now yes, he literally goes back to ABCDs of life to bring them together yet does not get preachy about it. He even has a satirical stab at mediocrity lasting longer than meaningful cinema. But that’s not the point being established. You see the ideology of water needing whisky but whisky doesn’t need water is naive. Especially when you realise whisky is only 47% alcohol. The full circle concept is essentially the base for the film.
Supporting the director in every way is the crew. Ilaiyaraja has fun reviving old Tamil classics, as the background score rose and fell at varying stages. P.C. Sriram does wonders and brings beauty to every frame. However, Hemanti Sarkar could have snipped a little more but indulgence is inevitable with Amitabh Bachchan on screen and Balki behind the megaphone. The love is very much obvious and has its perks.
Which now brings us to the cast. Amitabh Bachchan has played a drunk many times, a grumpy old man many times but as he stands opposite Dhanush, the sparks do fly. He is who he is, and the screen just loves him. Dhanush lives the role of a small town boy dreaming it big and the arrogance that takes over. Having to literally redefine the face of a voice known to many is hard enough but as he oozes the suave coolness of a superstar, not once do you see Amitabh’s famous ishtyle. Then there is Akshara, the one that keeps the egos at bay but is no ditsy sacrificial lamb. She is as funky and fiesty as her haircut. Totally natural to the point of somewhat raw but fits the role and stands her ground against the male leads.
This may not be Balki’s ultimate work but the man has to be commended for his approach and the depth behind it all. So the final word on Shamitabh is simply this. Watch it for the performers.