Shamitabh Reviews Thread

shamitabh Rating: 2.5

Bollywood is one place which is always open to any kind of permutations and combinations. Be it the casting in the films or even the selection of the film’s titles, Bollywood has seen it all happen! This week’s release goes by the name of SHAMITABH, which when decoded, is the combination of Dhanu’sh’ and ‘Amitabh’, who also happen to be the lead stars in the film, which is directed by R. Balki. Does the film live up to the hype? Let’s analyze.

The film starts off with the star studded premiere of LIFEBUOY, the debut film of ‘superstar’ Daanish (Dhanush). And at the time of Q & A with the media persons, when a certain journalist asks him a certain question, this makes Daanish recall his journey from being a cinema-obsessed small town kid who was born dumb to what he is today, the superstar ‘Shamitabh’. The journey also shows his desperate attempts to become a star, despite his handicap. As any other cinema fanatic, Daanish too seizes an opportunity to come to Mumbai to realize his dreams of being a ‘star’… only to be shooed away from every studio he visits (read ‘gatecrashes’). Seizing a perfect chance, he starts ‘living’ in an actor’s vanity van! And when he gets caught by the security guards, he tries to explain his aspirations of being an actor, which makes all the security guards laugh at him. Amidst all this, the film’s Assistant Director Akshara (Akshara Haasan) sees the burning passion in his eyes to become an actor, which impresses her to no extent. That’s when she decides to help him realize his dreams and thus puts him through her doctor uncle, who in turn, suggests a certain technological breakthrough in medical science through which a dumb person can actually speak! But the only condition is that the voice won’t be of his own but of another person. Thus starts the search for a ‘perfect voice’ for Daanish begins. After many a vocal auditions, it’s finally the drunkard Amitabh Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan), whose voice Akshara and Daanish choose. The deal is signed with Amitabh which states that he will have to remain silent about all this and not utter a word to anyone, against which he will be paid handsomely for being Daanish’s voice. Daanish, who then, rechristens himself as Shamitabh goes on to become an overnight sensation with a voice to match. Thus starts his journey into the skies. It is during this journey, when success actually goes into his head that he starts dictating terms to Amitabh, who also starts suffering from the same ego issues as Daanish. Amidst these clashes, there arrives a journalist who gets his hand on the much guarded secret about Shamitabh’s truth.

Does the journalist become successful in exposing the truth behind the real ‘Shamitabh’, who amongst the two (Daanish and Amitabh) agree to compromise with the other, where does the duo’s ego clashes leave Akshara who is working really hard on her directorial debut with Shamitabh as the lead, does the world ever get to know the decoding of Shamitabh… is what forms the rest of the film.

R. Balki, who had earlier directed the legendary Amitabh Bachchan in two of the path breaking films viz., CHEENI KUM and PAA, has really tried his best to continue this ‘tradition’ with SHAMITABH as well. Even though Balki has tried his level best to define every moment of the film, the viewers may find something amiss (esp. in the second half). The characters in the film are very relatable and very real, however, the film’s weak storyline falters the film. While he establishes all the characters reasonably well in the first half, the dragging second half seems to take the steam off. The ego battle between the characters shall appeal to niche audiences, if not the masses.

As far as the performances are concerned, there are absolutely no points in guessing as to who is the captain of this ship… it’s the actor par excellence Amitabh Bachchan, who delivers yet another performance of his lifetime with SHAMITABH. With his baritone voice and a towering persona to match, he takes his character to dizzying heights. His camaraderie with Dhanush’s character in the film is really something that needs to be seen to be believed. Although he has done the drunkard acts in many films before, in SHAMITABH, he plays an old frustrated alcoholic with so much conviction. As far as Dhanush, the ‘other’ hero of the film, is concerned, he manages to stand his own ground despite the towering presence of Bachchan. Akshara Haasan makes an impressive debut with a stunning performance. Full credit goes to R. Balki for extracting a superlative performance out of this newcomer. Full marks to her stylist for making her look so effortlessly elegant (esp. her in a pixie cut a la international celebs like Kiera Knightley, Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathway). Even though there are many known names (Mahesh Bhatt, Karan Johar, Anurag Basu, Raj Kumar Hirani, Rohit Shetty, Ekta Kapoor, Javed Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Boney Kapoor, Gauri Shinde and even Abhishek Bachchan) who do a cameo in the film, it is Rekha’s cameo that will get huge applause in the cinema halls. It is to be seen to believe.

The music (Ilayaraja, it’s also his 1000th film as a composer) of the film oscillates between being average and above average. Lyricist Swanand Kirkire’s simple and situational lyrics more or less complement Ilaiyaraja’s music and the film’s script. The film just would not have been what it is, had it not been for cinematography by P.C. Sreeram. The editing (Hemanti Sarkar) is average.

On the whole, SHAMITABH has an out-of-the-box and unusual plot that will appeal only to a niche audience. Go for it only if you are a hardcore Bachchan fan.


  1. aryan 9 years ago

    Shamitabh Movie Review by Raja Sen

    This just in: Amitabh Bachchan, an actor some of you might have heard of, has a pretty good voice.

    What? Not exactly breaking news? Yet director R Balki seems newly aware of that revelation, and, it appears, believes that mere worship of the Big B-aritone is enough to make for a fine film. An ode to that voice might have made sense in the 70s, before the Bachchan voice was absolutely everywhere, mimicked by anyone, used to sell us anything. The radio stations who rejected Amitabh Bachchan have become as legendary in their infamy as the record producers who first passed on The Beatles; that voice has literally launched careers; and, even today, over 40 years since we first heard it, it overwhelms — in fact, as evidenced by the televised reaction of unsuspecting citizens across the country when they receive a gameshow phone-call that starts with that silken-yet-growled Hello, it strikes like lightning.

    To dedicate a whole film to applauding that voice, then, seems like a stretch… but then Balki, despite ingenuity and quirks, always ends up tugging at initially inventive ideas out till they feel like week-old bubblegum. Shamitabh, a film where a mute actor is voiced by an older actor, sets up the premise so completely and obviously with the opening scene that it’s hard not to wonder where the film will go over the remaining 150 minutes. The answer: it meanders on and on, like an old man lost in a car park. Bachchan is excellent, Dhanush does well, but both are straitjacketed by a flimsy, uneven story that is eventually just exhausting.

    It starts off with promise. Dhanush plays Danish, a village boy fathered by the movies, a mute boy who believes he can act better than the biggest superstar, who turns his head at 48-frames-per-second, and is passionate enough to believe his voicelessness won’t get in the way of his impending stardom. Starting off as a bus conductor (just like another superstar you may have heard of) he makes his way to big bad Bombay, impresses an assistant director, and is then whisked off to Finland.

    It is at this point that I decided Balki was giving us not a film aiming at truth but a preposterous fable, because his Finland is a ventriloquist-worshipping country dedicated to making state-of-the-art human puppets, fitting voice-boxes inside human throats and letting the mute person lip-sync someone else’s time-delayed conversation. It’s awful writing, immediately removing the “How?” struggle from the equation; in Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending, when a blind director tries to direct a film without anyone knowing he’s blind, the results are hilarious because he’s trying to find on-set help, memorising floor-plans, and so on. Here we see Dhanush speaking in the Bachchan baritone and when we wonder how it’s come about, we’re told simply that the filmmaker wanted to make it happen.

    Add to that a drunken mentor — Bachchan, as an old drunkard hired to voice Danish — and the first half of Shamitabh is basically Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal with a lot less heart and a lot more indulgence. It’s tiresome, poorly shot, suffering from an atrociously patchy sound-design and inconsistent dubbing, and — despite an an energetic Dhanush, and Bachchan revelling in his self-aggrandizing role, painfully armed with ‘look-how-great-my-voice-is’ lines designed to elicit taalis — the film never quite gets going. And that’s the good bit. Following intermission, it careens off the rails so catastrophically it feels an uncredited Bhandarkar/Bhansali lent the writing team a hand.

    shamitabh1Dhanush is a highly effective actor (and when miming actors, his shorthand from Hrithik to Ranbir is particularly brilliant), but Balki, keen to keep the focus on The Baritone, doesn’t show us any of Danish’s skills; his audition is ordinary, his histrionics mediocre, with the point underscored by Bachchan repeatedly telling him that he doesn’t look good, and (in a particularly distasteful line) that The Baritone is enough to make even a dog shine on screen. Danish’s part is a thankless one, that of an ambitious, opportunistic jerk who never cares for those around him, while Bachchan is given everything from the idiosyncratic life to longwinded Scotch-and-water soliloquys to a horrible face-off with a Robert De Niro poster. All that and, like Captain Haddock, he can curse in every letter of the alphabet. It’s a depressingly one-sided match. (Somewhere in the middle is a frustrated, interesting yet occasionally too-loud Akshara Haasan, perhaps thinking wistfully about the time her dad Kamal did a silent film…)

    What Balki subverts truly cleverly, though, as an ad-man, are his advertisers: there’s a whole lot of product placement here — Lifebuoy, Amazon, Seven Hills — but each brand is mocked: the soap’s tagline is ridiculed, the online-retailer doesn’t have the books they need, and the hospital only holds bad news. In a way, also, this film can be considered a commentary on the unfair, unbelievable omnipotence of the superstar in Hindi cinema: he chooses the project, the story, the director, the co-star, and even decides how to shoot the song.

    Or maybe Balki’s okay with all that. Just like he’s okay with taking a clever Rekha cameo that should have been a sly moment and stretching it into a long, wordy, needlessly dramatic scene. That, in essence, is the problem with Shamitabh: it spends all its time explaining its own jokes. And that never sounds right, no matter the voice.

    Rating: 1.5 stars

  2. Author
    sputnik 9 years ago

    Why Shamitabh Is A Travesty (In Two Reviews)

    Below, in italics, is the review of Shamitabh for the film that R Balki thinks he has made:

    Shamitabh is a wickedly funny tribute to the greatest baritone in, arguably, the history of cinema. Amitabh Bachchan’s voice and persona take centre-stage in this quirky dramedy that tells the story of a young struggler, Danish (played by Dhanush), who rises to become a huge Bollywood star with the enigmatic name ‘Shamitabh’. The twist? Danish has been mute since birth.

    How does Shamitabh pull this off, you might ask? Through some clever writing, is the answer. Danish grows up in the small town of Igatpuri, only 120 kms away from Mumbai, the home of Bollywood. What he lacks in vocal cords, he more than makes up for in curiosity, especially when it comes to the movies.

    His obsessions runs so deep that his poor mother, a snack vendor, frequently fakes illnesses so that her only son won’t run away to Mumbai to realise his dreams of being a star. Lovers of world cinema will doubtless recognise Danish as a fitting homage to young Salvatore Di Vita from Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore’s much-loved Italian classic.

    Inevitably, the day arrives when Danish must arrive in the city of dreams to pursue his destiny. Through a series of coincidences, after many disappointments, he runs into Akshara (Akshara Haasan, making a fine debut), an assistant director who appreciates his acting chops and resolves to help him realise his dream. Her father, a doctor, finds out about a revolutionary technology developed in Finland that allows people with damaged vocal cords to “speak” with another person’s voice. Thrilled with this development, Danish is flown to Finland and the procedure is successful. Now the only thing standing between him and stardom is a great voice, especially one that compensates for his less-than-conventional looks. As luck would have it, he runs into an old drunk with a voice that sounds like box-office gold. His name? Amitabh Sinha.

    The rest of the story is too tantalising to give away. To writer-director R Balki’s credit, the writing is fresh and witty, and the film is never boring. Bachchan plays Amitabh Sinha like his life depends on it and Dhanush is palpably brilliant. Ultimately, Shamitabh ends up exposing the hypocrisy and mediocrity of Bollywood while subtly recalling a simpler era when movie magic actually meant something; when acting was more about passion and less about biceps.

    It is also a fitting tribute to one of the greatest superstars alive — he of the single-malt baritone. Mr Bachchan, take a bow. You are the whiskey, the water, and everything else.

    Now, here’s the review for the film that R Balki actually ended up making:

    All films must be judged by the difference between what they intended to deliver and what they actually delivered. The smaller the difference between the two, the better the film, and vice versa. It’s only February, but I’m willing to wager my vocal cords that we probably won’t see a worse film than Shamitabh in 2015. By which I mean that of course we will see worse films in general, but none that have been so blinded by the supposed originality of their concept that they end up making a farce of a movie that disrespects its own internal logic, its audience’s intelligence, and most importantly, Amitabh Bachchan.

    Where does one even begin? The early scene in which a young Danish daydreams in class that ends bizarrely, with him mutely acting out a revenge scene and beating up his teacher (who happens to be roughly thrice his size) in front of his cheering classmates? Or the fact that a lowly AD decides to help out a mute, average-looking, skinny struggler, so much so that she helps him get treated in Finland, for no discernible reason? Or the fact that the fictitious speech technology shown in the film is of less practical value than sign language, since the user is completely dependent on someone else nearby who needs to speak for him? For heaven’s sake, did the makers not realise that even Stephen Hawking’s text-to-speech transmitter is more practical than this ridiculous invention of theirs?

    Shamitabh makes Bachchan play an amplified version of himself wherein he and the film are constantly making meta references to his own legend to the point of embarrassment. A case in point is an astonishingly indulgent sequence set outside a pub in London, which involves an inebriated Amitabh doddering around and chewing scenery in the worst manner possible – which is basically his entire performance. If Anthony Gonsalves were to watch this scene, he would have only one response: “Pakka idiot dikhta hai, idiot!”

    What is hard to imagine is that grown men and women with undeniable talent worked hard to make and promote a movie this infantile and badly-thought-through. That dichotomy sticks out even in the technical department. PC Sreeram’s cinematography is horrendous (I lost count of the number of frames that featured out-of-focus objects blocking up to a third of the screen), while the great Illaiayraja’s overly lush background score is manipulative and obtrusive, often drowning out dialogue to comical effect (much like enthusiastic acceptance speeches are cut off at awards ceremonies).

    The only saving graces of Shamitabh are the competent and sincere performances from Dhanush and debutant Hassan, saddled as they are with the most ridiculous script this one-line idea could’ve spawned. That aside, the supporting cast is uniformly bad, with special mention for the actor who plays Anay Verma, a film director with the (re)acting skills of a third-rate TV actor.

    R Balki aims high and yet, somehow, ends up shooting himself in the foot. If this movie’s speech technology worked across space and time, I’d use it to manipulate Mr Bachchan into refusing this film.

    Note: All opinions expressed above in italics were in jest and meant to be sarcastic. All that followed afterwards were true. You’d think I wouldn’t have to state that explicitly, but certain recent events have led me to believe that many of us are confused about what is said in jest and what isn’t.


  3. Author
    sputnik 9 years ago

    Review of Shamitabh by Anupama Chopra

  4. Author
    sputnik 9 years ago

    Shamitabh Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 2.5

    February 06, 2015

    Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan

    Director: R Balki

    Like his previous films Cheeni Kum and Paa, director R Balki’s Shamitabh is constructed around a terrific, refreshingly original premise. A superstar is born when a talented but mute struggling actor (Dhanush) ‘borrows’ the booming baritone of an ageing alcoholic drifter (Amitabh Bachchan). Balki skillfully blends wildly disparate ideas to give us a film that is in equal parts a drama about partnership and ego, and a cheeky insider look at Bollywood. However, like his earlier films, this one too is high on concept, short on story, and plain indulgent in its second half.

    The film opens nicely with a charming flashback that introduces us to our protagonist Daanish, a poor boy in Igatpuri, who is mad about the movies. Unfazed by the fact that he cannot speak, he dreams of becoming an actor someday, until then happily putting on impromptu performances for anyone who’ll watch. In a clever scene early on in the film, the little tyke has to be literally torn off a mean-spirited teacher who he attacks while pretending to be deep in character.

    The first half hour of Shamitabh works as an affectionate postcard to the movies as Balki communicates our hero’s unending fascination for films through striking sequences. We watch as a now grown up Daanish trades his mother’s piping hot bhajiyaas for entry into a local video parlor; as he stuffs his mouth with cotton to imitate Marlon Brando’s mumbled delivery after watching The Godfather, and paints his face white to ape Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight.

    It’s this very passion – and his unmistakable potential – that catches the eye of assistant director Akshara (debutant Akshara Haasan; one note) when he’s staking out film studios in Mumbai and hiding in vanity vans hoping to catch a break. Conveniently she hooks him up with a breakthrough technology that will allow our protagonist to speak. All you need to invest is a willing suspension of disbelief. All Daanish and Akshara need now is a willing voice.

    Which brings us to Bachchan’s character, Amitabh Sinha, a cranky all-round failure and compulsive drunk who hangs around and lives in a cemetery. The old man reluctantly agrees to become Daanish’s personal valet so he can ‘give’ him his voice without anyone suspecting. This conceit lends itself to some entertaining scenarios where the pair struggles to make their ‘arrangement’ work. His talent, propped up by that formidable voice, makes the young man – now rechristened Shamitabh – an overnight star after his very first film. More offers follow, as do magazine covers, and coveted awards – including one that’s presented by a female legend making a tiny but memorable cameo. (Her reaction alone on hearing that voice is priceless.)

    Balki brings conflict into this seemingly perfect set-up through the ever-reliable device of ego. As Shamitabh’s star rises rapidly, the actor and the ‘voice’ clash repeatedly, each insistent that he is the true talent. Bachchan’s character shrewdly makes his point by humiliating the actor in smartly scripted scenes, like one in which he refuses to say yes to a script that Shamitabh likes but he doesn’t. “Kalakaar main bhi hoon,” he tells the actor, now insisting that he must have script approval too.

    Ironically, Balki’s own script runs out of steam post-intermission, quickly repeating the same ideas over and over again, and throwing new ones that don’t always work. A song titled Piddly, involving the recurring appearance of a toilet seat, is a clever concept but stretched too far till it begins to feel indulgent. The same can be said for Bachchan’s multiple drunk scenes that get tiring after a point. It’s true also of the whisky-and-water analogy that is overused in the film. A bedroom scene with suggestive dialogue about the difference in the two men’s age and virility feels tacked on purely for shock value. Another scene in which Bachchan’s character gets into trouble with the London police for vandalizing a bus comes off as contrived. Bachchan, however, completely nails it in a following sequence where he verbally attacks Dhanush’s character in an airport restroom after taking an intense beating.

    The writing by now has become increasingly simplistic, especially evident in a clunky track intended to illustrate that both the actor and the voice can’t succeed independently. The innumerable instances of product placement stick out awkwardly, and basic logic fast goes out of the window. I found myself tired and not particularly moved at the end of 2 hours and 30 minutes when Balki whipped out the same manipulative tool that he employed in Cheeni Kum and Paa too.

    I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Shamitabh. Brimming with smart ideas and powered by the performances of its two principals, it’s a shame this promising film comes undone by the Curse of the Second Half. Watch it though, for it bravely treads new ground.


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