Shamitabh has a doubly dramatic act - but less emotion
Mute Daanish becomes a superstar when Amitabh Sinha provides him his voice - what happens when ego pulls body and speech apart?
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.
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.