A mute struggler tries to get a break in Bollywood. Luckily for Danish (Dhanush) he meets kindly Akshara (Akshara Haasan), as assistant director with dreams of directing her own movie one day soon. Akshara becomes the facilitator and the kingmaker as her connections inside and out of the film industry help Danish find a voice and a launch pad. A drunk Amitabh (Amitabh Bachchan) who is bitter at his own failure to become an actor, whose voice was once said to be his shortcoming, enters into a contract to become Danish’s voice.
Danish adopts the screen name Shamitabh and is launched in a film called ‘Lifebuoy’, thus begins a rags-to-riches story that leans on many of the tropes of a meta-movie with emphasis on humour and satire. You have to love the idea that a struggler finds shelter in locked up vanity vans and all the cameos are so casually placed they are pleasant, not haughty. Rekha’s appearance as she presents an award to Shamitabh is indeed a trump card.
At the same time, the deceit is executed rather unquestioningly and easily – how this technology that allows voice transfer actually works, Amitabh the silent and surly valet shadowing Shamitabh everywhere while the latter’s silence (at the times when his voice is not in the vicinity) are hardly questioned.
The film moves at a good clip and is entertaining enough until interval. But once the ego battles and insecurities creep into the star and his booming star voice, the narrative slows down. Lengthy monologues by Bachchan playing up his baritone appear to be director R. Balki’s way of paying obeisance to a mega-star and with this he shortchanges the talented Dhanush who is forced to be a mute spectator to the imbalance in the script. Haasan pitches in with a natural performance.
Illaiyaraja’s music does a great deal of work but the greatest disappointments of ‘Shamitabh’ are the shortcuts in the plot, the superficiality of the story and forgetting an important B – brevity.