STORY: Mute Daanish becomes a superstar when Amitabh Sinha provides him his voice – what happens when ego pulls body and speech apart?

REVIEW: So, Shamitabh has a lovely concept – a boy falls in love with the movies and dreams of becoming a star. He has pizzazz, passion, presence – but no voice. Daanish (Dhanush) is born mute, his soul, like the film-mad lad of Cinema Paradiso, finding utterance with movies, Igatpuri’s bus conductor (rather like a certain Rajini Sir) determined to achieve stardom. Daanish hits Film City and impresses assistant director Akshara
(Haasan) but directors reject a mute hero.

Akshara’s doctor dad introduces Daanish to technology which, using embedded micro-recorders and ear-pieces, enables a mute person to communicate via a ‘borrowed’ voice. Daanish and Akshara find the perfect voice – that of Amitabh Sinha (Bachchan), a failed actor, snubbed due to his baritone, who lives in a graveyard, soaked in whisky and cynicism. Amitabh’s tickled by the idea of making his rejected voice successful and the ‘Shamitabh’ team becomes a super-hit.

But what happens when Amitabh feels he’s getting no recognition, despite being as good a kalakaar as Daanish – if not better?

Shamitabh’s dramatic performances match its unusual tale. Often evoking The Artist, Dhanush is terrific as film-crazy Daanish, whose eyes sparkle at the cinema, whose brow furrows in desperation to meet directors, who schmoozes and rages without saying a word. Amitabh Bachchan provides perfect balance, catty and chatty in that wondrous velveteen baritone, dripping sarcasm, yodelling ditties, expressing irony, then abhimaan, bringing to life Shamitabh’s crackling dialogues.

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Their acting is electric – but also, frequently over-indulged. Scenes that should’ve been tight are allowed to stretch or become repetitive. The vibrant ‘Piddly’ song gets wasted while the plot is too convenient – a rural boy flings his village life behind him like dust, no doctor explains how the mute hero’s ‘voice’ reads his thoughts and speaks them, no-one swears Amitabh’s sidekick to secrecy.

In over-explaining this uncommon story – “Very deep”, as Amitabh drawls – the plot rushes through emotional moments. And amidst the high-wattage attention around the Dhanush-Amitabh pairing, less is paid to Akshara, whose performance, although sincere, sometimes looks a tad banal.

As does the film occasionally, a pity because Shamitabh’s striking story could leave you speechless.

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