Direction: R Balki
Actors: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan
Shamitabh is an original, bittersweet fable about the magic of cinema, the giddy ride of fame and the downfall that inevitably arrives when hubris and ego get in the way. Dhanush plays Daanish, a mute bus conductor from Igatpuri who is obsessed with cinema.
His mother lies about her health to prevent him from running away to Mumbai to become an actor. But eventually, she dies and he takes the bus to the city of dreams.
This is where the film starts to wobble. An assistant director (Akshara Haasan) takes him on as a project. She and her father send him to Finland where, through something called live voice transfer technology, Daanish is enabled to speak with someone else’s voice.
Enter Amitabh Sinha, a failed actor played by Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh is an alcoholic, hollowed out by rejection. But somehow, together, these two nonentities create a superstar named Shamitabh.
Balki captures our mad passion for movies. And he pays a fitting homage to the great Amitabh Bachchan baritone — a voice that has fuelled our cinematic fantasies for more than 40 years.
There’s also the interminable length. Daanish and Amitabh are well-enacted, strong characters. Shamitabh is a lovingly crafted film that doesn’t quite pan out. Which is a shame, because there is much to savour here.