01 Aug 2020: 'Shakuntala Devi' review: Vidya Balan couldn't save this unmoving biopic
They say good biopics are a rarity in Bollywood, and clearly writer/director Anu Menon is not looking to disrupt that notion.
Her latest outing, Shakuntala Devi, based on the adventurous life of the late Mathematics genius, is spirited, but awfully uneven and unmoving.
Vidya Balan, in the titular role, is feisty, but she could hardly save the movie.
Here's our review.
Details: From Mathematics prodigy to acclaimed author, Shakuntala is a winner
Shakuntala is a born champion.
She is a Mathematics prodigy, who can solve dramatically complex problems in the blink of an eye. She travels the world, impressing one and all with her unbelievable abilities.
Further, she goes on to earn herself a place in the coveted Guinness World Records and also writes acclaimed books on a diverse range of subjects including astrology and homosexuality.
Plot: More so, she is her own person
Early on during the film, little Shakuntala's father tells her, "School tujhe kya sikhayega, tu ulta school ko hi sikha degi." You can't agree more.
Apart from her unbeatable knack for numbers, Shakuntala is also a spirited and spunky person. She discards gender differences and has a wicked sense of humor.
In short, she makes her own choices, and she owns them.
Plot: But Mathematics and motherhood don't go together, or do they?
But things take a particularly drastic turn when Shakuntala becomes a mother.
Perhaps, because motherhood is not math. There are no perfect answers and the lines between winning and failing are way too subjective.
While Shakuntala refuses to let go of her dreams and ambitions because of motherhood, her daughter (a terrific Sanya Malhotra) simply longs for a "normal" life.
Details: There is plenty of drama. It just isn't worth it
Shakuntala Devi starts off at a pretty dramatic note, and ends in a similar fashion too. Plus, there is a lot of (at times, unnecessary) drama infused in between as well. Sadly, it doesn't really add up.
What is intended to be a touching family tale eventually becomes an unemotional and unmoving journey, thanks to the patchy writing and disappointing execution.
Details: It is painfully slow and exhausting
Even at just two hours, Shakuntala Devi is painfully slow and exhausting.
Tellingly, the biggest culprit is the film's uneven storytelling, that inexplicably moves across continents and times on countless occasions.
In fact, I had enough time to repeatedly ponder how the makers failed to draw enough inspiration from their own protagonist's speed and sharpness.
Performance: Balan is top notch. But she can't save the film
Two people win the most in this film: Shakuntala Devi and Vidya Balan.
In fact, it is an out and out Vidya Balan show. As the spunky and passionate Shakuntala, Vidya owns the character.
But the disheartening part is that she gets little support from other departments, especially the writing and direction of the movie.
Final word: To watch or not to watch?
Shakuntala Devi serves as yet another reminder why Bollywood can't be trusted with biopics.
While Vidya delivers her level best and comes off as a treat to witness, her performance is the only saving grace for this otherwise patchy and underwhelming drama.
When today, movie releases are just a click away, Shakuntala Devi is unlikely to satisfy your entertainment craving.
Final rating: 2/5 stars.