Saturday, March 21, 2015


That Magic Voice

A few years ago, there was a controversy kicked up over Kirron Kher getting a National Award forBaariwali, because her Bengali dialogue was dubbed by another actress. The question being, how much does the voice and dialogue delivery contribute to a performance, and if an actress has not dubbed her own lines, can she get an award?

R. Balki’s Shamitabh works with the idea of a voice being ‘lent’ to a very talented mute actor. It is also an unabashed tribute to India’s most famous baritone. In his earlier two films, Cheeni Kum and Paa, Balki had come up with unusual roles for Amitabh Bachchan, and the star if fortunate that he gets to play such parts instead of the conventional daddy roles that are the fate of stars over a certain age.

Danish (Dhanush) is like the millions of hopefuls who land in Mumbai with starry dreams in their eyes. Most of them fade into oblivion. But the scrawny, ordinary-looking Danish, who stars as a bus conductor (like his real life pa-in-law Rajinikanth) is helped by an assistant director (Akshara Haasan).  Danish needs a voice—the throat implant technology is provided by Finland, and the deep baritone by a drunk, failed actor Amitabh Sinha who lives in a graveyard. With Danish’s talent and Amitabh’s voice, the “mixture” is successful, but beset by ego clashes.

Unless the idea goes somewhere and makes the story soar, it is a waste. The old film Padosan in which the hero gets his buddy to playback for him in order to impress the pretty girl next door, was funny. Shamitabh struggles to find its tone and a convincing story. It depends too much on Bachchan’s soliloquies and ‘dialoguebaazi’ for its own good.

Balki also gets Rekha to do a cameo and praise the ‘Voice’ as god’s gift. She is as much an obvious in-joke as the many product placements that adman Balki smoothly slides in.

Dhanush is a good actor, but he is overwhelmed by that voice, which doesn’t really sound as if it is coming out of the Southern actor’s larynx. Bachchan get the meatier role and who would ever have any doubts about his ability to carry it off.

Despite its meandering over 157 minutes, the film is a one-time watch; when Balki was sticking his neck out anyway with an offbeat subject, he could have added some more depth to it, so that it would be a film worth mulling over long after the end.


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