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Shakuntala Devi Movie Review: Vidya Balan delivers a calculated performance; raises experience to n-th power

One of the challenges of reviewing a Vidya Balan film is that one doesn’t know if the actor should be addressed as Vidya or by the character she essays. Vidya kasam!
vidya balan,bollywood,Reviews,Shakuntala Devi movieShakuntala Devi Movie Review: Vidya Balan delivers a calculated performance; raises experience to n-th power
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Movie: Shakuntala Devi 

Shakuntala Devi Director: Anu Menon 
 

Shakuntala Devi Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Amit Sadh, Jisshu Sengupta

 
Shakuntala Devi Movie Stars 3.5/5
Shakuntala Devi is a biographical film on ‘Human Computer’ Shakuntala Devi who was a world-class educator and a brilliant mathematician. Though Shakuntala never really preferred to be compared to a computer, people’s limited imagination had nothing else to compare her arithmetic skills. But how did a Brahmin girl born in Karnataka with absolutely no formal education turn out to be a maths genius? The film also explores how her calculations are not entirely perfect when it comes to her life – but in the end, Shakuntala never loses. 

One of the challenges of reviewing a Vidya Balan film is that one doesn’t know if the actor should be addressed as Vidya or by the character she essays. Vidya kasam! Through the film, Vidya keeps a tight grip on the character’s body language, expressions, tonality and accent. The general excitement in her voice when Shakuntala is on stage is in stark contrast to the measured breaths she takes sitting across the negotiation table. The duo of (director) Anu Menon and Vidya (actor) makes you question the judgement of Shakuntala Devi through the film, only to pose a question: When did we all forget that she too is a woman, and not just a daughter, spouse or mother. 


You rarely watch the life journey of a genius with enough flaws that you relate to them. Director Anu Menon’s storytelling explores Shakuntala Devi not just as a genius mathematician but as a girl with aspiration, dreams, a woman with an open and free mind. At the same time, she is not devoid of the vices that make her perfectly-imperfect – she is a woman with ego, anger, possessiveness and someone who is in constant tiff to be not the mother who is ‘spineless’ or ‘selfish’. In the struggle, Shakuntala forgets she too is a person, and people are flawed. The film tries to normalise the fact that many women might go through a feeling- ‘I am not a perfect mother’. It’s absolutely fine not to be a perfect mother or an ideal wife. The film argues that it is a futile attempt to seek perfection as no one is perfect. 

Vidya Balan once again creates magic on the screen. Her laughter, her passion, her carefree approach allows her to conquer the screen so effortlessly that she becomes one of us. The actress has managed to showcase Shakuntala Devi with the same grace and ease she would have probably preferred to be seen on the silver screen. The immense poise, confidence, the decision-making ability without being on a guilt trip is what makes the character so real and believable. Her laughter, her determination to chase her dreams and the tightening of her throat and gut-wrenching sobs in an extremely emotional scene makes it a must-watch for cinema lovers.


While the journey of arithmetic genius is one pillar of the film, the other is Shakuntala’s relationship with her daughter Anupama Banerji (Sanya Malhotra). Sanya, who is one of the underrated actors of the industry, adeptly plays the daughter who is continuously upset for not having a normal childhood. But as Shakuntala says: why be normal, when you can be amazing. Sanya manages to give a measured performance; convincing the audience that her perspective is not entirely wrong. Depending on which phase of life one is, the makers and actors ensure that you swing like a pendulum to decide who’s right and who’s not. 

Anu Menon has ensured to showcase equality means there is no superior or inferior gender. Though this film revolves mostly around the delicate mother-and-daughter relationship, the contribution of a loving father and husband is never underplayed. That is why another bright spot of the film is Jisshu Sengupta and Amit Sadh. It’s nice to see that the makers haven’t bucked down to the trend of showing all Indian men as patriarchal. Director Anu Menon entrusts two brilliant actors Jishu and Amit to handle the responsibility to play a supportive partner that every woman desires and deserves. Jisshu Sengupta as Paritosh Banerji is effortless, vulnerable, but lovable. Amit Sadh, who recently impressed with his intense performance in Breathe is back as an adorable guy next door. His portrayal as Ajay quickly settles on-screen and is seemingly consistent. 

Shakuntala Devi is a treat to watch during the lockdown with your family members. It’s a great tribute to Shakuntala Devi for her awe-striking abilities to perform complex mathematical calculations quickly.
 
 
 

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Anonymous 5 days ago

I used to like this lady in the past but after her statement against Sushant, I will never watch her again. All I can say is Vidya is a talented actress and can deliver strong performances but in order to stay connect she needs to show honesty. She herself is an outsider who is well settled in bollywood. If she can't support the public movement she should refrain from commenting. That will be more respectful. You loose your fan Vidya. I'm going to watch Raat Akeli hai, Lootcase, Yaara, and others in this league.

Anonymous 5 days ago

People irritated with her non stop giggling be ready ...she does that in her movies too. Seems to be the new 'acting' now. What a waste of time this movie is, it is not a tribute to the genius Devi.

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