STORY: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 dhanush& Bachchan fan.