L Shakuntala Devi; R Vidya Balan in the movie

Vidya Balan is nothing if not dependable. This is proven again as she breathes life into the ‘human computer’, Shakuntala Devi. She plays the character with just enough charisma and vulnerability. This is exactly what the film requires her to do as it majorly focuses on her personal life.

The film chronicles her life from performing in circus to making the Guinness Book of World Records. She also ages from a young woman to a mother herself. Niharika Bhasin styling is extremely effective in making the change seem believable.

There are shots after shots of Shakuntala devi’s unexplainable abilities. However, it does not try too hard to answer these questions and concerns itself with her personal life. Usually, biopics of women end up becoming about their romantic interests but in this case it is the daughter.

You can’t help but notice traces of tumhari sulu but it is not jarring enough to throw you off and you quickly surrender yourself to the enigma Vidya Balan is.

Use of Parallels

A central theme seems to be her relationship with her mother and her daughter. How daughters finally learn to empathize with their mothers after becoming mothers themselves.

It makes use of parallels to make it clearer. Shakuntala devi resents her mother for being silent and not allowing her ambitions her to take off and passes on the trauma to her daughter when she

Her mother does not support her when her father forces her to skip school against her wishes. This causes her to resent her mother and in turn passes on her trauma to her daughter. Imagine if people were required to undergo counselling before having children. So many of us would’ve had better childhoods.

Shakuntala and Anu both find out their mothers’ love for them through old scrapbooks. However, none of this ever tells you what you want to know – how does she do it?

In a memorable scene Shakuntala is aghast at knowing that her daughter’s life goal is getting married. After bandwagon watching Indian Matchmaking in the lock down this sure was a relief. I could not help but chuckle at a prospective meeting between Sima Aunty and Shakuntala Devi.

Lack of emphasis on her abilities

The film has the same problem as female lead action movie, you don’t see them fail.

She is no way a Mary Sue. Yet, you don’t see Shakuntala Devi solving or attempt to answer how she does or how she prepares for big events like the Guinness Records. You don’t get answers to questions like how she managed to learn about trigonometry and logarithms without going to school.

Plus, it seems unfair to show the movie majorly from her daughter’s perspective. Given the strong cast and interesting characters it’d have been fun to get different insights on Shakuntala Devi’s character.

The supporting cast is good and performances by are strong and convincing. They never bore you or seem one dimensional but neither do they stand out or offer any strong vision.

Some memorable lines

Vidya Balan hard carries the film with her self confidence and charm and has some really great lines like,

‘Aadmi kyu, main to duniya kee sabsi badi auarat banungi

Why do men always want women to need them

and my personal favourite, ‘Vidya kasam’.

It is by no means a bad film but it is sure disappointing to think of what it could’ve been. Definitely one you should watch with your mother figures!


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