Director – Anu Menon
Cast – Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Amit Sadh, Jisshu Sengupta
Shakuntala Devi lives as she laughs. He tilts his head back and triggers a full throat blow; his is a belly laugh and is usually heard on the 2-hour-10-minute biopic. Even when he’s not laughing, his facial expression suggests he’s kidding.
As a mathematical genius at the plates, he would have understood the value of humor for a long time. Shakuntala had a strange ability to make numbers dance. As a young girl, she participated in math shows, supporting her family by answering difficult questions. When he says “I never lose,” he means it.
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Even in a field as crowded as biopsies of geniuses, finding one about a woman who knows how to live life is rare. The geniuses who get their own biopsies are tortured, enigmatic, and largely male. Its value is often recognized long after it is gone. Shakuntala Devi of Vidya Balan does not mark any of these boxes. She likes her saris, attention, and transcontinental lifestyle.
Shakuntala Devi, the film, dramatizes the life of the math assistant whose daring schemes are public knowledge. A girl whose talent for mathematics was identified at a young age, Shakuntala supplemented the resources her family dwindled by doing math shows from a very young age. Fierce feminist before she might even know the word, Shakuntala lived her life on her terms.
After shooting a paramour who tries to trick her, she is sent to the UK where her first love, math, rescues her again. A Spanish man named Javier teaches him English and how to live in Europe, as he finds fame as a “human computer”, ending up working on the Guinness Book of World Records. She marries an IAS officer named Paritosh (Jisshu Sengupta), but finds no balance between math and motherhood. His relationship with his daughter Anu (Sanya Malhotra), who wants a “normal” life, is the main conflict of the film.
Vidya Balan and Sanya Malhotra at a Shakuntala Devi site.
With a lot of eagerness for the girl in pigtails, it’s a shame that the film never has any chance, happy to stick to the same constructions that Shakuntala herself despises. The film feels functional, in a race to tell us the whole story of her life by skipping the blows they made from real life Shakuntala Devi a woman ahead of her time.
It is displayed chapter after chapter and will provide you with as much satisfaction as converting the pages of your NCERT math textbook, despite the detailed design and focus on the specific costumes of the period. The sepia hue of his childhood spent in poverty merges with the lush colors of his youth in the UK without the viewer truly understanding towards his life.
The screenplay by Nayanika Mehtani, co-written by director Anu Menon, Shakuntala Devi feels evil. The most important relationships of his life, especially with the men he loved, are explained in the expository dialogues. Paritosh and Javier receive the kind of treatment that is usually reserved for women in Hindi cinema, just overthrown there without much arc, with perhaps a song. Even something as important as Shakuntala author of a book on homosexuality in India in 1977 is brilliant. in a scene that causes strength.
Shakuntala Devi truly focuses on only two relationships in the lives of her protagonists: with math and her daughter Anu, and they even get a short piece, with emotions lost on display.
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Vidya Balan brings a sense of vibration to Shakuntala – the math genius who was the heart of a rock star. Shakuntala is another addition to the long line of independent, free-thinking women who populate her filmography. Sanya is competent, but fails to match her most illustrious co-star, especially when it comes to the scenes of the mother-daughter conflict. Both Jisshu and Amit Sadh, who plays Anu’s husband, Abhaya, are charming and solid. Amit gets what is perhaps the most fleshy male role in the film and does him justice.
In defense of the film, it is not a hagiography. Shakuntala is not perfect. He has his imperfections like the rest of us. The film seems to be in a hurry to get from point A to point B, like a standard cradle biopic. A woman who never understood the meaning of the word “normal,” Shakuntala Devi now has a biopic that can only be described as such.
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The author tweets @ JSB17