Director: Anu Menon
Genre: Biopic | Comedy | Drama
“Shakuntala Devi’s” biopic played by Vidya Balan is a perfect weekend beginner.
When one talks of Shakuntala Devi, an image of a sari-clad mathematical genius, solving complex mental math problems, immediately springs to mind. An Indian woman, who was widely recognised as the Human Computer, especially at a time when other Indian women were confined to their homes, Shakuntala Devi went on to make the country proud. And to highlight her little known life story, director Anu Menon, in a part-fiction, part-fact format, brings it to the world, starring Vidya Balan in the lead.
The film begins with Anu Banerji (Sanya Malhotra), along with her husband Ajay Abhay Kumar (Amit Sadh), getting ready to take legal action against her mother and mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi. The ageing brainiac, though overwhelmed to see her daughter after years, is firm in her decision to take their matter to court.
Also Read: Dil Bechara Movie Review: Sushant Singh Rajput’s swan song is a thorough emotional joyride
Cut to the flashback, a 5-year-old Shakuntala is playing in the courtyard of her small Bangalore house, while her brother is solving maths. When the youngster is stuck at a problem, the little girl comes up with the correct answer within seconds, which amazes the boy. The brother gushes in front of the parents, “Shakuntala is the kind of genius that comes once in a lifetime.” This discovery leads Shakuntala’s father to take her to schools, where she is required to showcase her talent in front of awestruck audiences. Although Shakuntala never receives a formal education, her father taps on her unique talent to make money for the poor family.
As Shakuntala grows up, the braided girl is still taken to shows at clubs and events where she is paid handsomely for the display of her intellect. She then moves to London, where Shakuntala learns to settle in a new life. Here she meets Javier, a Spaniard, who helps her refine her personality, polish her skills and takes her talent to the ‘next level’. He also takes her to several countries, where Shakuntala’s flair for numbers is highly appreciated. She even goes on to challenge a computer error, which then earns her the nickname “The Human Computer”.
At an event, she falls for Paritosh Banerji (Jisshu Sengupta) and starts a relationship with him, which later culminates into marriage and a daughter. Post motherhood, she feels disconnected with the family and itches to return to the stage. This takes a toll on her family life and she parts ways with her husband and moves to London with her young daughter Anu, where she returns to her first love – solving complex math problems. But life isn’t easy for Shakuntala Devi anymore, for her daughter is soon growing up and doesn’t want to live under the shadow of her genius mother’s towering talent.
The film is, director Anu Menon’s own take on the rollercoaster ride that was Shakuntala Devi’s life, which deserved a grand stage. The film highlights the human side of the spunky Human Computer, who was more than a mathematical genius. The woman, who had earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, never settled for less and loved the game of numbers till she breathed her last.
Vidya Balan puts up a superlative performance. She shines as the titular character, playing funny, sarcastic, sad and mushy with equal efficacy. She is the soul of the movie and charms her way into the audiences’ hearts. Sanya Malhotra as the daughter is effective. Same goes for Amit Sadh, who has a flair for playing close-to-reality characters. Jisshu Sengupta lends his able support as the husband. While secondary characters do not have much scope, they pitch in.
Technically the film is sound with a lot of women handling various departments. Editing is crisp and does not drag the film on for hours. Songs are kept to a bare minimum, which is a major plus point in taking the film forward. Witty dialogues and smooth screenplay work in favour of the film, balancing it on all counts.
To ‘sum’ it, ‘Shakuntala Devi’ is a light-hearted semi-biopic of a determined mastermind, which comes once in a million years!
Eventznu rates Shakuntala Devi: * * * *