A character in the movie says “Bollywood ke bina is desh ka kya hoga?” (What will happen to this country without Bollywood?). R Balakrishnan's latest 'Shamitabh' is the picture behind the big Bollywood dream – the dream without which our country may fail to keep up its everlasting spirit.
The movie is novel – it is in no way a masala blockbuster and yet it does not mock the mindless cinema of Bollywood churns out outright, despite the many chances that it has. A mute boy Daanish, from a small village in Maharashtra, lives on a diet of movies. He has big dreams of being a hero and lands in Mumbai after a brief stint as a bus conductor (perhaps as a tribute to his father-in-law's humble background). Here, after all the struggles of establishing himself he finds his voice in Amitabh Sinha ( played by Big B) and an empathiser in Akshara.
Balki explores the tussle between the voice and the man. The ego clash of two men playing the same part. It brings to screen a unique dimension of a persona – that of the face and its identity, played by two men who have indeed given the roles their best.
Amitabh shines in all Balki films, be it 'Cheeni Kum' or 'Paa', he has wowed the audience. In 'Shamitabh' too Bachchan shines through. A drunk nobody, living in a cemetery who can emote through his voice. This film deifies Amitabh's voice – but his facial expressions especially in the close ups are the thing to watch out for. This was one of those performances which prove that Amitabh is unparelled in comic timing and drama. His soliloquies take you to the depth of his ego maniacal character. The brilliance of good dialogues and subtle sharp humour make the otherwise slow pace worthwhile.
Dhanush too shines through. He mimes well, he can flip through expressions fast and despite him not fitting the bill of a hunk in B-Town his talent will take him places. Whether it was miming his favourite scenes from Hollywood flicks, his frustration when no one gives him a chance or his smug victory over his alter ego Dhanush plays it with panache.
Akshara Haasan, however disappoints. She is anyway overshadowed by the other two leads, added to her woes is the possibility that she was too occupied with removing her fringes from her face to actually act. The other supporting actors were well cast and have played their parts well.
Despite the premise the biggest drawback of the film is its pace. The tussle between the leads is too dragged out and one does not really know whether their one-upmanship has any end. It feels as if the script writers tried to overplay the bit for some unknown reason. Also the passionate actor that was seen in Daanish as a child failed to show in the blockbusters that he starred in, which was a disappointment. There are quite a few places where the film slows down and you wish that the editing table was a little more brutal in cutting out unnecessary bits. The film would have probably struck a chord with the audience if only it were at least 45 minutes shorter but Balki as usual takes too long to bring the film to a climax and there it loses its charm.
This movie needs to be watched for the fabulous performances of Amitabh and Dhanush, and for the unique story. One wonders what could have been if there was crispier editing.