Vidya Balan Show All The Way
What Is the Film About?
Shakuntala Devi is the biopic of the titular lady in question. How her extraordinary talent (she is a math calculation genius) leads to personal laurels, but a conflicting relation with the daughter Anu (Sanya Malhotra) is the crux of the story.
The constant burden of comparison with mathematical genius as Mom and the lack of mother’s love hurt Anu. What happened in the end to the mother and daughter duo is what the film is all about?
How Is Vidya Balan’s Performance?
Vidya Balan is tailor-made for the role of Shakuntala Devi. If anyone has seen the real-life videos, they can easily imagine Vidya doing the part. It is a natural casting choice, and she makes the best use of it.
The whimsical, playful attitude that is full of self-confidence could easily veer into a pompous, self-praising loudmouth, and off-putting trait. In that case, the entire narrative would crumble as one doesn’t connect with the lead protagonist. Vidya casts her charm here and makes the character stand out even when we know; she is maybe not right. All the drama and fun related to the role are brought out in a neatly.
Shakuntala Devi, is, therefore, another memorable part for Vidya Balan. A lot of the drama is right in her zone and offers nothing new, but she makes it sparkle with her timing and presence.
Anu Menon directs Shakuntala Devi. It is a simple and straightforward story. The tone which she picks up (dramatic and full of life) is where the challenge lies. If it misses the mark, there would be no engagement with the narrative.
The problem with the movie is visible immediately. The entire opening stretch feels so disjointed. The combination of individual scenes doesn’t come together. They are alright as a standalone sequence but don’t make the right impact as part of the narrative.
All the sequences involving the ‘mathematical genius’ shows or the fun parts (including a guy from Spain) in London leaves one scratching the head in disappointment. The various ‘feministic’ quips pushed throughout add to the agony as they don’t gel well into the proceedings. They always give a feeling of popping out. If that is her (Shakuntala Devi’s) character trait, then it should have been appropriately integrated.
Luckily, Anu Menon is on track, even if it comes a little late. It happens with the introduction of the husband and wife angle (both the mother and daughter). The drama we see is regular and nothing new, but they have been done with a lot of charm and ease. We are drawn into the proceedings knowing very well what is in the store.
Again, to negate the extreme predictability, the director takes a back and forth screenplay. It gets better, eventually, but starts on the wrong foot, initially. It adds to lacklustre-ness.
The drama and chemistry between the different pairs are what holds the interest. It is predictable, but it works. The flow reaches a crescendo when Shakuntala Devi visits her childhood home and recollects the past.
The way the various emotions come full circle related to the mother and daughter across three-generation is the highlight of the movie. It gives an emotional fulfilment, and that is what matters.
Overall, Shakuntala Devi starts on a wrong foot but gets on track soon before its too late. The drama gets better and peaks at the right time giving us a satisfying feel-good fare. It is despite the predictability on offer.
Sanya Malhotra gets the other big part. She nails her role along with Vidya Balan. The love-hate chemistry with childlike and adult emotions they share is the mainstay of the enterprise.
Amit Sadh and Jisshu Sengupta are the key men in the narrative that is all about the women. They hold there ends strongly whenever the moments arise. They also share great chemistry with the respective ladies. The rest of the actors like Prakash Belawadi and others have very little to do.
Music and Other Departments?
The songs by Sachin Jiger are in tune with the narrative. A couple of them do sound hummable, but they add to the length. The background score by Karan Kulkarni is decent. It could have been much powerful. The cinematography Keiko Nakahara is colourful to the extent of being gaudy at times. The editing by Antara Lahiri should have been better. The writing is elegant, overall.
Feel Good Feeling
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes, in parts
Will You Recommend It?
Shakuntala Devi Review by Siddartha Toleti