Flawed human, perfect story
90%Overall Score

Streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

A life as fulfilling and vibrant as that of Shakuntala Devi cannot be encapsulated within a two-hour movie. That is why when you hit that play button, you can expect a story that doesn’t waste time and gets to all the points in a non-linear fashion. The story begins with Anupama Banerjee (Sanya Malhotra) filing a criminal case against her mother Shakuntala Devi (Vidya Balan). The story moves to 1936 when Shakuntala Devi manages to impress her neighbor by figuring out the cube root of a number. She replicates this feat with any number and mathematical problem given to her. Her father, portrayed by Prakash Belawadi, uses this opportunity to conduct shows where Shakuntala develops her dramatic persona as she does magic with numbers. After an unfortunate incident, she has to move to London where she meets Javier (Luca Calvani) who teaches her English, which in turn helps her conduct more shows. She beats computers without any inconvenience and travels the world while playing with numbers. But all of that changes when she becomes a mother.

A perfect story is crafted by highlighting the imperfections

It is the habit of biopics to gloss over the mistakes of their heroes. Anu Menon chose to narrate the story of the genius Shakuntala Devi from the eyes of the person who was closest to her and had the most issues with her. We all aim to not repeat our parents’ mistakes and this movie tries to portray this across three generations. Shakuntala Devi vows to never be like her mother and always stands by it. Anupama, in turn, vows to never be like Shakuntala Devi and has a clear disdain for mathematics. It is through their interactions and journies that we see the story play out.

Only Vidya Balan could have pulled this off

Vidya Balan is no novice to essaying the roles of real people. She slips into this character with as much gusto as Shakuntala Devi had for mathematics. You can see her shine in every frame. Right from the younger days of the celebrated mathematician to the older ones when she becomes a grandmother, she portrays a true feminist icon who shined in an era when feminism was not even discussed. Sanya Malhotra should also be given credit in filling the shoes of Anupama Banerjee, who became her own person in her quest to become the opposite of her mother. Jisshu Sengupta and Amit Sadh play amazing characters as the husbands of these women who have a strong mind and a will of their own. They are their partners in the truest sense.

Even the music gets all the notes right

Sachin-Jigar‘s music helps you zoom through parts of Shakuntala Devi’s life as she goes on tours and takes a break to raise her daughter. You can listen to these tracks on repeat with songs like Paheli fills your heart with warmth. Priya Saraiya and Vayu‘s lyrics have an old-age touch and are yet modern at the same. There are not too many songs and dance sequences to take you away from the story, which is a huge plus as well. The non-linear jumps can become a little too much but that is only if you are not paying attention.

If you have always admired Shakuntala Devi, this movie gives you additional insight into the human part of the human-computer. If the thought of mathematics scares you, let Shakuntala Devi make it easier for you. Either way, you don’t want to miss Vidya Balan’s electrifying performance.

Director: Anu Menon
Writer: Ishita Moitra, Anu Menon, Nayanika Mahtani
Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta, Amit Sadh, Luca Calvani, Prakash Belawadi
Language: Hindi
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

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