Free Press Journal

Movie Review – Shamitabh: Stress Is on performance, not story!


Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshara Haasan, Dhanush

Director: R Balki

Rating: * * *

Balki has proved beyond doubt after three films (CheeniKum , Paa and now this one) that his love and admiration for Bollywood’s ageing superstar #AmitabhBachchan is not going to wane anytime soon. Shamitabh , his latest, is a labor of love that permits the superstar to indulge in his craft to the detriment of story and content. The unwieldy narrative with frequent monologues by the baritone voiced star deviates attention from the basic threadbare but conceptual storyline of a speech-impaired cinema crazy youngster, Dhanish (Dhanush), utlilizing the services of a drunk and defeated, ageing  wannabe actor Amitabh(for his deep impressive baritone voice) following an operation in Finland that permits him that accessibility.

This of course is precluded by schlock sequences from Dhanish’s childhood meant to establish his powerful craft. Following his mother’s death, Dhanish migrates from a sleepy interior township in Maharashtra, to the Mecca of Bollywood, before which he goes as far as to follow in his real life pa-in-law(Rajnikanth)’s one-time profession-that of a bus conductor. So personal asides are par for the course here. And it works on both sides. There are quite a few references from Amitabh’s struggling period to his dialogues as leading man and even one corny aside that involves Rekha-the Diva who was rumored to passionately refer to Him as a God like presence in her life. That sequence is in fact the most fascinating moment in this tiresomely elongated treatise to an ageing actor and his showy craft. Shamitabh is basically about two men who together form a formidable team and reap dividends.

Dhanish gets the lead of a voiceless boy next door whose only talent is to convince through his emotive abilities. Looks wise he is projected as less than ordinary- in fact his champion benefactress, an AD in a film unit, Akshara, is the one who takes pity on him and does everything possible with the help of her Doctor father, to get him to where he is now poised to take-off. But ego comes in the way. Dhanish, following the surprise hit of the year titled ‘Lifebuoy’ and a creditable best actor award, grows too big for his shoes, thinks he is the one scoring with the masses while Amitabh, insists Dhanish is inconsequential  minus the deep baritone that Amitabh himself has lent him. Hidden behind that façade are age-old grievances against the industry that chose to cast him(the latter) away because of his lanky frame and overpowering voice. References are made to that effect but they just are not convincing enough. Needless to say, that clash of egos and ode to star rivalry doesn’t stick. And the return to oneness is also quite lamely executed. It does seem like R.Balki , the writer-director preferred to work harder at creating scenes to showcase Bachchan’s talents rather than working towards achieving a more cohesive and dramatic form for his script. If only Hemanti Sarkar had the freedom to chip off chunks of film.. this would have been a far more memorable experience. Illayaraja’s music while well in keeping with the demands of the script, is at least entertaining , if not memorable.  All three key players/actors overplay their parts, as intended by the director. This attempt is without doubt a showboat to their individual talents and less of an enjoyable well-integrated cinematic experience. So the overall take home is Piddly, piddly(sung by Bachchan and enacted by Dhanush with toilets as props and a heroine in flowing chiffon cavorting in freezing cold), as one of the songs in the film , quite obviously parodies!