We all knew that Shakuntala Devi (SD) was a Maths genius and brought fame to India abroad with her maths wizardry. What we didn’t know of course, were the trials and tribulations she went through as a mother in the process. This biopic directed by Anu Menon attempts to fill in that gap. If you are patient with the 1st 30 odd minutes, the film manages to redeem itself in that effort.
As the film progresses you will realise that it is more of a Mother- Daughter connect story than about Shakuntala Devi the mathematical genius. Beyond a point, her exploits take a back seat and her own struggles with building bridges with her daughter become the focus. That the makers decide to tell the story through the eyes of her daughter, probably nailed the narrative that way.
What works well for the film most is Vidya Balan’s portrayal of SD who is shown not as the “hero” who does only the “right” things. She is shown as a genius but also as a normal human being with her own flaws. We know Vidya as a power house performer and she doesn’t disappoint. She clutches the opportunity thrown at her tightly and gets under the skin of the personality quite well. Here, I must add that if you haven’t seen SD’s shows or videos before you might feel that Vidya’s performance is a bit over the top! But if you have seen SD on TV, you will realise that Vidya is on point.
Anu Menon opts for a non linear narrative and the story goes back and forth in time. Till the daughter is grown up, its ok as we can make out the time line of the story. But after that, due to the not so different get ups of both Vidya and the daughter played by Sanya Malhotra, it becomes difficult to make out the timeline of the scene.
Apart from Vidya, the other cast that includes Amit Sadh, Sanya and Jisshu Sengupta have less opportunities but they do their bits satisfactorily.
The climax is a bit filmy but for a commercial film that is understandable. The film doesn’t get into details of how SD became a “human computer” as she was known. I would have loved to see the film showcase that part more.
Anu Menon in my eyes joins the growing list of sensitive and talented women directors who are good at their craft.
Shakuntala Devi now streaming on Amazon Prime is an interesting watch, if you ignore the vagueness in the initial half an hour or so.