‘Shamitabh’ movie review: Amitabh Bachchan’s voice powers the movie

'Shamitabh' has a few moments which sparkle, and we laugh in acknowledgement. But the rest of it is overpowered by unabashed reverence.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: February 9, 2015 1:47 pm
Shamitabh, Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush It is Amitabh Bachchan, whose voice powers the movie, who is not able to break free from the pedestal he is put upon.

A reedy, scrawny, voice-less wannabe actor rides piggyback on a hypnotic, heavy baritone to super success in Bollywood : the premise of ‘Shamitabh’ is fabulous on many levels. Because of the cross-connections it makes with real life and reel life. Because of what we already know about the actors, stored in our memory banks. Because of its sheer degree of meta-ness.

Danish (Dhanush) and Amitabh (Amitabh Bachchan) are like ‘whisky’ and ‘paani’ : the former is an unprepossessing runaway, like a million others, who fetches up in Mumbai in order to become a star; the latter is a wasted alcoholic with a voice that we have known and loved, on and off screen. The coming together of the two– the ‘mixture’– becomes ‘Shamitabh’, super-successful Bollywood hero, aided and abetted by a bright young thing Akshara, a small cog in the big movie business.

Much of what constitutes stardom, the way it is constructed in the world’s largest film industry, is part of the film. The connection between how a person looks and how he sounds, and how that contributes to the making of a star, fashions the two halves of `Shamitabh’. And the predictable face-off between the two provides some of the film’s most alive moments.

The trouble is that there are not enough of those moments in which the two riff off each other, the others around them being just admiring ciphers. Large passages are devoted to Amitabh Bachchan and his soliloquies. Why, when we already know what a magician he is with his voice? They make the film a one-sided drone.

Also, so much of suspension of disbelief (how possible is it for an actor to be voiceless and not be rumbled within a moment?) needed to have been balanced by the sort of flourish, which makes us say okay, I buy into this, but only because you are showing it to me with quirk and smartness. ‘Shamitabh’ swings between being intelligent and banal, the latter more so when it begins worshipping at the altar of the nation’s most beloved voice.

Debutante Akshara Haasan, an intriguing mix of mom Sarika and dad Kamal Haasan, has promise. Dhanush shows what a real actor can do with just body language : he is fluid, twists and turns, and says what he wants to, without using any spoken words.

Paradoxically, it is Amitabh Bachchan, whose voice powers the movie, who is not able to break free from the pedestal he is put upon : the lines between Amitabh the superstar playing Amitabh the drunk wastrel are so blurred that the film becomes more paean than anything else, burying the character and the story.

‘Shamitabh’ had the potential to use irony and knowingness and a self-awareness, and the presence of the most durable star in Bollywood whose velvet-and-iron rumble has become part of the national soundtrack, to give us an unforgettable story of ego and identity, rejection and acceptance, success and failure. There are a few moments which sparkle, and we laugh in acknowledgement. But the rest of it is overpowered by unabashed reverence.

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  1. R
    Ragini Sha
    Feb 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm
    You know what... don't miss the movie just because someone writes what she think she want to write when she mood off. Just because the writer doesn't like the movie.. doesn't mean you also will not like the movie.. I am going to watch it again on Wednesday.
    1. B
      Bishow raj
      Feb 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm
      Its a good movie
      1. J
        Feb 8, 2015 at 9:55 am
        Wow what a movie standing wishes. THOSE WHO DONT LIKE MOVIE GO AND Bhes charao saalu
        1. R
          Feb 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm
          Worst movie I have saw till the time
          1. A
            Arvind viswanat
            Feb 7, 2015 at 3:01 am
            I thought the movie was simply superb - Firstly, it is a creative effort and so much above the trash that is peddled out in the name of entertainment by Bollywood. Apart from the obvious of Amitabh's brilliant voice and Dhh's screen presence, I found that there was so much in the movie! Social commentary, snide remarks about Bollywood banality and filching from foreign scripts, witty use of language and puns, contemporary, stylish and cly sets! I wonder why our reviewers can never rise above the stars and look at movies from an all round perspective. Possibly it the system of colonial education dished out over the past many years that stifles individual thought and freedom of expression?
            1. D
              dr sandeep
              Feb 6, 2015 at 3:01 pm
              what subhra gupta what a u had written have u really went to the theatre or u had just asked from some dumb guy or gal who was standing in front of the theatre editor should go to watch this movie and then he must fire u from your job what a u given 2 star for this great movie shame on u if u cant do justice with your job then u should raise the pig and make your living shame on u
              1. G
                Gllen Pappaachan
                Feb 7, 2015 at 11:49 am
                SHAMITABH is a Masterpiece! A movie par excellence. Three powerhouse talents, AMITABH BACHCHAN, DHH & AKSHARA take this movie to an altogether different level. I would give 5 / 5 stars for this movie without blinking my eyelids even once. One feels as if we are watching not a Bollywood film but a Hollywood movie. I think R. Balki must have had an experience of a lifetime directing these three super-duper talents of Indian movies. AMITABH is AMITABH. After watching him in BLACK & PAA, I thought there will be no more characters left for him to potray in Hindi films anymore. But I was 100% wrong. Watch him in SHAMITABH and you will agree with what I am saying. Another surefire "National Award" winning performance I bet. No words will suffice to praise this great great great star of Bollywood. I SALUTE YOU, SIR! DHH: It is not at all an easy task to share the same screen frame with a super star like Amitabh. But Dhh has given a shoulder to shoulder praiseworthy performance in SHAMITBH. After the National Award winning performance in ADUKULAM, expect him to take away yet another National Award in this movie, if not for best actor, at least as a best supporting actor alongwith best actor Amitabh Bachchan. Finally, the surprise pack of this movie. KAMALHAN's second daughter AKSHARA without any doubt has inherited her dad's natural acting talent. She is mind-blowing. I have a doubt, "Is this her very first film?". Can't believe it. The last graveyard scene will remain edged in our hearts for many many years to come. What a performance Sirji! Thankfully this Hindi movie comes with English subles on the big screen. So those of you who does not understand or follow Hindi can go and watch this movie and understand each and every single dialogue of this movie. Thank you Balki Sir for the subles.
                1. M
                  Feb 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm
                  last 10 minutes was 20-20 match performance wise Big B show why he is so.Dhh Amitabh = shamitabh a good combo to set the pace of the innings (movie). Balki only u could give this performance oriented good film. Music by Maestro especially the last scenes reminds one of cult clic of 90's Anjali, Thalapathi
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