Duration: 2 Hr 07 Mins
Director: Anu Menon
Genre: Drama, Biopic
Releasing Date: 31st July 2020
Streaming On: Amazon Prime
Star Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta, Amit Sadh
Plot: The film Shakuntala Devi is a biographical drama on the life of the renowned mathematician. She had an uncanny ability to make numbers dance - whose astonishing competency of resolving complex math problems in record time won her applause and awe, the world over, despite no formal schooling.
The biopic is divided in two parts - the first part showcases how she as a little girl is discovered showing amazing mathematical skills. She used to solve complex mathematical equations faster than the computer hence her father used to make her participate in math shows, to earn money for the family by answering tough-as-nuts questions.
While, the second part of the biopic is about Shakuntala's turbulent relationship with her daughter Anupama (Sanya Malhotra). Shannkuntala who marries an IAS officer named Paritosh (Jisshu Sengupta) fails to find a balance between math and motherhood. Her relationship with her daughter forms the main conflict in the film - their lukewarm equation during Anupama's teenage years, and their icy vibes when Anupama is married to Ajay (Amit Sadh).
Review: Director Anu Menon’s biopic on the late mathematical genius brings to us the life of a woman whose story is so enthralling - upbeat, bright and loud that it is hard to look away. While it also reveals the not-so-positive and lesser-known aspects of her private life that hits some and misses many.
Since the audience usually watches a biopic not just to witness a re-enactment of what we already know about a public figure, but to know what happens when the curtains drop. But things get dicier, for instances, when Shakuntala Devi claims during her book launch titled ‘The World Of Homosexuals’ that she got her interest in this topic because her ex-husband was gay, but in the movie, Anupama accuses her of making the lie. Also, it isn't very clear as to what the truth is, and why Shakuntala tells Anupama that her father doesn't want to meet her for 10 years. Hence, the ultimate motive of the film is one blurry line. Perhaps, Anu wanted to focus more on the mother-daughter relationship, and other aspects like how both their ordeals are linked to the fact that they were let down by their mothers. The illustration could have been better, but the content was so abrupt and scattered that even a crisp edit couldn’t have saved it.
When it comes to star cast performances, Vidya Balan's unrestrained performance as Shakuntala Devi from the 1950s to 2000s is captivating to watch, and is a brilliant attempt to show how different her talented periphery could be. She has blended herself in well under the skin of her character and has simply aced it in the titular role. Moreover, she had previously essayed real-life personalities like Silk Smitha, hence definitely has the ability to smoothly carry out the transition between the age and appearances.
Also, Sanya Malhotra has always been a charmer. But the slightly older Anupama brings poise to her character, although her teenage act doesn’t quite pass off that easily. However, she deserved a more detailed character, yet she managed to stay afloat with her talent.
Jisshu Sengupta as the suave and sensitive Paritosh is a delight to watch. And Amit Sadh as Ajay (Anupama’s supportive husband), makes an impact even with his limited screen time.
When it comes to the technical aspects of the film, the film has been well-shot by Keiko Nakahara, as keeping the different periods in mind and Vidya’s looks by costume designer Niharika Bhasin also through the ages blend in well.
As far as the music is concerned, there are multiple songs by Sachin-Jigar, but none of them clicks well apart from Shreya Ghoshal’s Paheli. Karan Kulkarni’s background score is adequate, too much at some places and just about perfect at some.
Overall, the film Shakuntala Devi focuses on the mother-daughter relationship and demonstrates how success and wealth may not guarantee a happy childhood, and how childhood memories are often adjusted, embellished and altered when we grow up. The film is fairly critical of Shakuntala Devi as a mother and wife.
A joy to watch as it is certainly a film that would make viewers want to know more about Devi - ‘the human computer faster than an actual computer’ after seeing her in all her larger-than-life splendour.