Amitabh Bachchan in Shamitabh.

The idea behind Shamitabh is novel and no one seems to know it better than its lead actors Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush. The two revel in playing their parts to perfection.

While Amitabh Sinha (Bachchan) is a cantankerous alcoholic in Mumbai who once harboured dreams of becoming an actor, there’s Danish (Dhanush), a deaf and mute small-towner, who dreams of becoming a Bollywood superstar. He doesn’t have a voice, but what he lacks in vocals he makes up with his spirited approach. Bachchan has nothing going for him except his rich baritone.

With the help of technology from Finland and a kind-hearted assistant director (Akshara Haasan), the two combine forces for a shot at stardom. They re-christen themselves as Shamitabh, a name with a gravitas that befits a star. What works in their favour is their bond that’s laced with jealousy and one-upmanship. It’s entertaining to watch them spar, especially Sinha who never misses an opportunity to belittle Danish with taunts like “it’s not your face they love, but my voice.” He even points out that Danish’s weight (all of 59kgs) is lighter than his voice and that there’s a disconnect between his bass and Danish’s face. The blows come fast ad powerful, but Dhanush ducks it all with impressive earnestness. His transformation from a conductor to a matinee idol might seem all too easy, but his performance makes for a riveting watch. Bachchan, who is the picture of sobriety in real life, has no problems embracing this potty-mouthed, grimy, egotistic, whisky-guzzling geriatric. He even pulls off the idea of living in a shack in a graveyard with aplomb.

Even Akshara Haasan does a commendable job of playing a feisty, ambitious assistant director who often acts as their mediator.

The scene in which she sits them down like two school kids in a nursery room and convinces them to put their egos aside puts a smile on your face. While the performances is what makes Shamitabh engaging, there are moments in the film that seem to drag and drive home the ego-clashes again and again. It gets tiring and the climax gets unnecessary convoluted. At some point, the focus of the film becomes a commentary on the state of Bollywood films and how mediocrity thrives there. The song Pidly, sung by Bachchan and enacted by Dhanush with toilets as props and a heroine in chiffon saris cavorting in freezing cold, is a segment that’s effortlessly satirical. But after that, writer and director Balki seems to have lost his sense of direction because the twists in the second half doesn’t necessarily add up. While Shamitabh may not be gripping from start to finish, it’s a treat to watch its lead actors. They make it work even if it’s not heavy on plot.


Out now

Film: Shamitabh

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush and Akshara Haasan

Stars: 3.5 out of 5