The releases of the vidya balance tara Shakuntala Devi directed by Anu Menon the film which is based in the mathematical wonder the genius Shakuntala Devi known as the human-computer had generated its skeptics due to its caricatures and animated trailer I still went in with my hope side to watch the film which has been co-created in consultation with Shakuntala Devi’s daughter on Obama Banerjee assuming that this will be a more personal detailed and in-depth look at the brilliance of the legendary figure a Guinness world record holder a pioneer regarding the gay movement an international celebrity revered as a miracle in the pragmatic industry the film aims to mainly focus on the dichotomy faced by the protagonist between professional brilliance and the personal stability.
A struggle many scholars and excellent minds have always had to deal with here’s me telling you the good and bad aspects in no particular order so that you guys can ultimately decide whether the movie is worth it or not manage your expectations you have to realize that whatever your notion that the movie is going to be about has to be chucked out of the window and you have to surrender to the vision of the creators and the route that they have taken firstly the film has been made in consultation with srikanthala Devi’s daughter Anupam Banerjee and as I say this you can already guess the movie is not a celebration of Shakuntala Devi the mathematical genius it focuses on highlighting her torrid and oscillating personal life quite contrary to how people perceive her in the public something honestly that majority of the viewers didn’t sign up for this more than a film choice.
i believe is a misleading marketing move as most of the viewers will tune in to tap it in the mind of the mathematical genius and the international praise and respect she gained in a deeply patriarchal society but transitions to become a family drama taking a deep dive into Shakuntala Devi’s personal life the mathematical genius the prizes the multiple books written the fascinating take on gay people all take a fleeting backseat and her flawed human characteristics take center stage my only point is through this example Gandhi starring Ben Kingsley focused on the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle Gandhi my father focused on the torrid relationship of the figure with his son harilal Gandhi in both cases we knew what we were signing up for where Shakuntala Devi is commendable as a biopic for not presenting a whitewashed version of an individual and actually showcases a gifted person to have blemishes it definitely stares away from what most people tuned in for a realistic story of the fascinating life of Shakuntala Devi the mathematician not the mother performances.
The film is presented at a particular commercial Bollywood movie pitch. Despite the extremely expressive excited and angsty requirements to the situations it’s straightforward to sway towards the side of being overbearing and irritating thankfully due to the capable cast that is involved in the project each character is convincing in the world created by Anu Menon and Nanika methane Vidhya Balan, especially in the moments of conflict and despair, shines in this film where her character definitely embodies the essence in a nutshell if the cast from tamari sulu became a mathematician how she would be it is in the moments of resistance or opposition provided by she shines she embodies everything other than what the social structure wanted women to be like she is free-spirited independent intelligent and not ordinary.
All the other aspects which cater to the commercial audience which includes dance numbers and wide-eyed exuberance was unnecessary for me the main argument of the creators is that shakuntala devi was an eccentric individual and therefore that is the reason for this colorful portrayal but even when you see biopics with eccentric and influential women of history audrey tutu in coco before chanel and meryl streep in julie and julia both films that i would highly recommend you watch the character portrayals never venture into people-pleasing theatrics despite their exuberant personalities an effective feature especially for a movie based on a real person the supporting cast lends tremendously to the effectiveness of the story sanya milotra is brilliant as the daughter anupama banerjee and the internal struggle to be as far from the traits her mother embodies is conveyed spectacularly amit saad and jishu saying gupta as ajay and paritos respectively are i would believe the ideal men that the women of today would want in their life empathetic liberating and extremely sensitive both the actors are spectacular additions to this film amit saad and sanya malodrash has some brilliant chemistry and jisu saying gupta provides the restrained and calm aura that is required for his character caricaturish
I definitely feel that the treatment of the movie in multiple parts was theatrical and caricaturish it’s bright colorful and chirpy but also in many ways farcical the way for Hollywood their perception of brown people is a pro from the Simpsons and raj from big bang theory the film also presents Britishers as these wide-eyed full of themselves snobs I feel like Indian audiences especially in 2020 deserve a realistic treatment rather than this over-the-top flowery version of what the world especially the UK and Europe were like in the 50s to the 80s lessons through moments in all my criticism I cannot deny that there are several moments in the film that stand out and are profoundly impactful and this is mainly due to the dialogues written by ishita more a character fittingly tells a new to London Shakuntala, a girl who can speak her mind laugh freely what more can a man fear a clear picture of the sexist society that existed thrived and were cautious of such behavior.
A movie that clearly shows the notoriety and respect Shakuntala Devi garnered in international forums with exhibitions and shows but was barely celebrated in her own country it is a reminder to many of the personal ramifications that exist in the pursuit of professional excellence a reminder that success does not necessarily translate into a happy life it taps into the dilemma most women face even today the constant tug of war between individual eminence and the need and want of a family side by side Shakuntala as a character didn’t want to embody any of the heartless characteristics of her parents and in the pursuit of wanting to become nothing like them she unknowingly became a version of what she detested projecting her own needs and wants on her child craving for a mirror reflection to aid her accomplishments there are many lessons that mothers and daughters will connect and empathize with as again the movie sparingly focuses on the mind of the mathematician and is more on the oscillating relationships of her personal life.
I want to conclude by saying that i genuinely was curious about shakuntala devi’s brilliance in the field of mathematics what we were introduced to through this film was the person not the scholar especially through the eyes of her daughter in many ways she is portrayed as manipulative a fraud in the case of the influence of her books and an overbearing mother who can’t stop rejecting and can never let go of her daughter to love and live freely where all of these provide a human portrayal to a revered legend it made me feel like i was in a drawing room discussion with the family and too much personal information was being spelled out which i didn’t sign up for her exhibition shows her performances her guinness world record her mathematical puzzles and books her dealing with the complexity of the gay community her profound appearance in the 2001 documentary for straits only is only fleetingly brushed upon or not brushed upon at all i have to mention in this review three examples one of a hollywood film second a commercial bollywood film and third a parallel cinema hindi film that are far superior in celebrating the works of great minds the man who knew infinity an inspiring film on mathematician s ramanujan focuses mainly on his revolutionary work in the university of cambridge while the correspondence with his wife and his deteriorating health are subplots the commercial bollywood film super 30 onan kumar despite its bollywood commercial movie treatment focused primarily on the selfless and inspiring journey of anand and underprivileged children all aspirants of the prestigious institution iit the romance and political corruption in the education industry were the subplots egg dr kimoth based on dr subhash mokopadiya focuses mainly on the bureaucracy and the negligence towards scientific breakthroughs while sema played by shabana azmi stands beside him like a steady rock through the turbulent time it never took over the main story i refuse to believe that a biopic has to be designed in a particular commercial fashion to be palatable for the indian audience where i respect what anupama banerjee shakuntala devi’s daughter wanted to convey through this film i feel it does not do justice to the mind and works with a brilliant scholar mathematician and trailblazer shakuntala devi.