Shakuntala Devi: Vidya Gets Her Math Right When it Comes to Winning Hearts!
Shakuntala Devi is the biopic of a woman who was often referred to as ‘the human computer’ and has inspired millions. She was a globe trotting math wizard who impressed people right from the age of 3 with her genius with numbers. She was an accomplished author who wrote a book on homosexuality, which was considered the first account on the hush hush topic in India. She was a famous astrologer, an aspiring politician who competed with Indira Gandhi and more than anything she was a free spirited woman who refused to give in to the patriarchal shackles of the society. Unfortunately even if her equations with math were seamless her real life equations often ended up being miscalculated.
There was humungous scope for a brilliant story to be told about the life of this wonder woman. To be very honest when the news of Vidya Balan portraying Shakuntala Devi was announced, it got a lot of movie enthusiasts like me all overwhelmed! But Director Anu Menon and co screenplay writer Nayanika Mahtani make the tried and tested blunder of saying it all in one movie, desperately trying to squeeze in so much content into a movie of 127-minute runtime. The back and forth screenplay, juggling multiple timelines and countries make the viewer’s head giddy, confused and finally we loose track. We do not get enough time to invest into the character. The same kinds of scenes where she is solving math problems and applauded are shown again and again. Just by repeating the same scenes multiple times, it doesn’t create the required impact. Also, too mush gloss takes away from the essence of the film.
You so wish the film stayed with Shakuntala, the math genius just a bit more. It would have been nice to ponder into the process with which Shakuntala did what she did, even though she had no idea: numbers just communicated with her. The fact that she had political ambitions is so loosely drafted. A little more focus on her now-affectionate-now-thorny relationship with the father of her daughter would have shed light on why she wrote a book on homosexuality, the first of its kind in India. We never exactly got to know what exactly was her grudge with her mother. What made her interested in astrology? More focus on these interesting aspects of her life would have given us a more wholesome Shakuntala experience. Such distinct lack of rhythm – a sense of disjointedness and randomness – taints the film.
Is there anything Vidya Balan cannot do? She gets under the skin of her character with ease and never misses a beat. Another brilliant showcase of her talent. Her unabashed portrayal of a feisty woman who would not settle for anything normal, no matter how socially imperfect it makes her look is endearing. She takes the beats of a hindi film heroine and completely owns them. She is having a ball with the numbers. She gets her math right when it comes to winning hearts. Sanya Malhotra is a revelation. The supporting cast of Amit Sadh and Jisshu Sengupta add value to the film.
The film is not a celebration of Shakuntala Devi, the mathematical genius, it rather focuses more on her torrid personal relationhips with her daughter, parents and husband which honestly a lot of viewers did not sign up for. It is essentially a family drama.
P.S.- Hail the Marvellous Ms. Balan!
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