There’s a scene in Shamitabh where Amitabh Sinha A.K.A Robert (Amitabh Bacchan) sits through the end credits of a film just to find his name at the very end. Even though he is happy to see his name, he is also terribly sad because his name is the last one there. When Shamitabh – the movie ends you see the names of the valets and the voice artist before R. Balki’s name shows up. That’s the midas touch for which I knew Mr. Balki.
A film that pays tribute to cinema and the love for cinema is not a strong film in itself. R. Balki’s Shamitabh is a half-written, half-hearted and drunk film that doesn’t have a sense where its going. Even though R. Balki tries his level best the film loses its charm somewhere between the rise and fall of its central star. The film works on some levels -┬á As a satire on Bollywood where talent is often left stranded and unwanted while less-talented star kids are given a chance to shine. A place where award function are only right once-in-a-while. A industry where Indian Cinema has gone through the window and Bollywood has taken over. A place where idiotic and senseless promotional songs have more power than the script itself.
In spite of all the good things that the film points out one can’t look over the fact that a film with so much talent in it is incredibly mediocre. I loved Balki’s Cheeni Kum, and while ‘Paa’ went overboard a couple of times it was also a very good film. But with Shamitabh Mr. Balki promises us a strong and intelligent film but the end product is just shabby and stupid.
Shamitabh is the story of a young school going boy living in┬á Igatpuri. He can’t speak but his love for cinema transcends everything else. In a interesting scene he is asked who was the wife of Mahatma Gandhi. He goes up to the blackboard and writes – Rohini Hattangadi (who played Kasturba Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi). The boys dreams make him come to Bombay where he conventionally meats an assistant-director who gets him things he wanted. I said ‘things he wanted’ because the way the film pans out makes it look so incredibly easy that one has to suspend his sense of disbelieve to a very high level.
R. Balki is know for his subtle humor and mesmerizing screenplay but Shamitabh lacks both of them. Boasted up with tons of melodrama and overstretched plot points. This film about ego clashes and cinema love becomes a showcase of Balki’s fanboyish love towards Mr. Amitabh Bacchan. More than being a story of a struggling man, the movie becomes a story that pays tribute to the voice that has ruled Bollywood for generations. I don’t have a problem with a film-maker going all fan-boy over someone, but Mr. Balki’s film takes up grand sweeping conventions that begged to draw a line somewhere, but never did. The film also has a bland and bloated ending.
I liked how films are named ‘Thappad’ and ‘Lifebouy’. Being a sharp satire at what Bollywood has come down to. Where anything and everything can be sold if done intelligently, or should I say stupidly? I loved how the film, in a very subtle way shows that if an actor is a sensation he is forced into doing things which at some point in his mind are not worth it -┬á singing for instance.
R. Balki, an unabashed fan of Amitabh, has grown up seeing Bacchan. Balki’s films though may be┬áriding a little too much on┬áAmitabh’s┬á┬ácharisma and energy. Dhanush is commendable when he is a mute, but not so much when he has to lip-synch with Bacchan’s voice. I mean who can? I was not mighty pleased with Akshara Hassan. I thought she tried too hard and that showed with every passing second.
Final Verdict: In Shamitabh, Amitabh Sinha is too picky with the films he does. After watching Shamitabh I can just say, what an irony this is. Watch it at your own risk.