Amitabh Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan)’s loyal caretaker calls him “Jahanpanah”. It’s not explained why and how the royal looking alcoholic relic is addressed thus. But the title does suit him to the J.
Therein lies writer and director, R Balki’s own filmmaking arrogance and diehard faith in his one and only legendary hero of Hindi cinema.
Shamitabh is the Cheeni Kum and Paa director’s most creative, original and indulgent tribute to Amitabh Bachchan and his famous baritone.
Amitabh Bachchan has been unfailingly loved for the amazing way he uses his voice, especially in drunken scenes. What can be better than to give him a character that epitomizes both? Balki knows that, uses it with a sharp writing wit and also shows exactly how well he also knows Bachchan’s each and every expression of arrogance and mocking humour that come across delightfully through the familiar glint in the eyes.
Bachchan is Amitabh Sinha, a 70 something alcoholic relic who lives in a graveyard. Only he looks more royal than anyone else, in mildly shabby white linen clothes and thick white straight locks on his forehead. Despite his tottering walk and penniless existence, Amitabh looks more larger than life than his character, Shahenshah. Little wonder then that he is called “Jahanpanah”; especially when he delivers a classic Mughal-e-Azam line. The impact is a delightful symphony to the ears that deserves a big applause.
Bachchan continues to play to the happy fan filled gallery with lines like, “yeh awaaz ek kutte ke muh se bhi bhi achchi lagegi” and “meri awaaz ka vajan isse (Dhanush) zyada hai”. We couldn’t agree more.
Yet it is the skinny “monkey faced” Dhanush as his assistant director, (Akshara) calls him; who makes the film quite endearing and watchable. Dhanush is Daanish, a mute and poor village boy who wants to be a superstar. He believes that all he needs is a voice. Not a six pack abs or a great face; but a voice. Miraculously, he finds a new medical technology that can help him get a voice through someone who will shadow him throughout his shoots. More miraculously, he finds none other than “God’s own voice” as Rekha puts it in a “special appearance”.
Once you adjust to all the unbelievable miracles, you start enjoying the hate relationship between Daanish and Amitabh and the size of ‘Sh” in Danish’s new name ‘Shamitabh”. The amusing play on the name symbolizing each one’s ego and a most aptly dramatized version of ‘what’s in a name’, follows.
Akshara plays a tireless mediator between the two. Why she helps Danish at all in the first place, is rather unconvincing and the real spoiler in the story and screenplay. Her cute looks, unglamorous and earnest debut is delightfully winsome, though.
A melodramatic turn of events towards the end, dampens the experience, but not enough to bother too much.
Dhanush carries off his role, non-existential looks and lack of voice and lines, so well that he stands shoulder to taller AB shoulder, with great pizzaz and charm.
If Cheeni Kum made Amitabh Bachchan undeniably sexy at 60, Shamitabh succeeds in making him the coolest 70 plus actor who can arrest your attention, just sitting on a commode, singing.
Ilaiyaraaja’s catchy song “pidli si baatein..” is the best picturised, situational song that clubs both the movie’s characters and Hindi cinema’s make believe world, together, hilariously well.
Shamitabh is exactly like the song: as entertaining as it is unbelievable.