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Shakuntala Devi Film Review: Vidya Balan manages to give a joyful ride but fails to solve some major narrative problems.

Aakash Mishra

After a time, you realize that you just want to see the performance of Vidya and aren’t very interested to know the life of Shakuntala Devi.

“ Children can claim their parents for the rest of their lives. But, parents can’t claim their children forever. “ Amazon Prime’s new release, Shakuntala Devi is filled with drama and explores the tormenting life of a mother and daughter and how they both repeat the vicious cycle they are intentionally trying to exit. The film is filled with cliche drama and lacks proper detailing, just like Vidya says in a scene “We Indians are like that only, either drama or nothing.” It is joyful to watch the presence of Vidya but other than that as a biopic, the film isn’t much inspiring.

If you study the life of real Shakuntala Devi, you will realize, she was so much more than a ‘Human Computer’. She wrote a book on homosexuality called The World Of Homosexuals which is considered to be the very first study of homosexuality in India and she even contested the Lok Sabha Elections in the 1980s. The achievements list is endless and the film tries to capture almost all the achievements in a short span of time. But what it actually forgets is to cover the grounds of hardships faced by Shakuntala Devi be it racism or sexism. Her winning attitude looks appealing but her win just appears very easy. One moment you are seeing her doing maths shows in rich parties of India, the next moment the film takes a high jump and you see her winning hearts through her mental abilities in London. During her childhood, her mental gift to solve the hardest maths problems becomes a source of living for his father. Even at a small age, she is all ready to fight patriarchy with utmost bravery.

Be it maths or her beliefs, they have always stayed strong. The film gradually adapts itself to suit the personality of Vidya Balan. The visual tone changes itself like a chameleon to serve the atmosphere Vidya needs for her character which isn’t wrong, it’s just way too flexible to actually connect. You start to understand that the film took many shortcuts and never explored the intricate details. You never come to know about the tension, the loneliness, and the deep thoughts of Shakuntala Devi in managing a family and her innate talent. After a time, you realize that you just want to see the performance of Vidya and aren’t very interested to know the life of Shakuntala Devi.

Shakuntala wants to be more famous as a mathematician but she also wants to be an able mother. And so, in the struggle of achieving both, she unintentionally cages her daughter which eventually makes Anupama hate her mother. The director Anu Menon largely focuses on creating the troublesome relationship between the mother and daughter. Shakuntala doesn’t want to be like her mother and Anupama doesn’t want to be like Shakuntala. And this ‘parallel cycle’, the drama around it is interesting to watch and somehow gathers the right set of emotions. But, they aren’t enough to build the entire biopic around it. Sanya Malhotra did an amazing job as Anupama. Vidya Balan as Shakuntala Devi is a delight to watch, her performance alone saves the film from being a complete waste.

Cinematography, the makeup, and the setup at places appear to be way over the top. The sense of dialogue delivery helps the film in various situations. They are filled with cliches and appear quite dramatic but they do look like covering up proper grounds. Overall, Shakuntala Devi shifts from its actual goal, yet somehow manages to be a joyful ride just because of the performance of the protagonist.

Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Amit Sadh.

Director: Anu Menon.

Streaming: Amazon Prime Video.

Verdict: Didn’t live up to expectations still give it a try for the spectacular Vidya Balan.

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