Spotting a woman among biopics of geniuses is rare even today. Their worth is sadly recognised only after they are long gone. However, Vidya Balan’s Shakuntala Devi tells a tale that deserves to be told.
The film dramatises the life of a bold math wizard. It is about a regular girl whose talent for Maths was discovered very early in life. A fierce feminist, especially in her age, was pretty unusual, Shakuntala lived life on her terms.
After she is cheated on by a lover, she leaves for UK – where her best friend, Mathematics, comes to her rescue. Javier, a Spanish man, teaches her the way of life in Europe and she eventually finds fame by gaining a mention into the Guinness World Records for being a ‘human computer.’ She gets married to an IAS officer named Paritosh played Jisshu Sengupta, but she fails to race between motherhood and mathematics. Her relationship with her daughter Anu played by Sanya Malhotra, is tested as she wants a regular life, forming the central conflict of the film.
The girl with the pigtails had some much to herself. However, the movie limited itself to the constructs that even this genius despised. It feels functional and seems as though it is created in a race to make a biopic, instead of covering the several aspects that made Shakuntala Devi a woman beyond time.
Although there are commendable set designs and detail in costume changes periodically, something is lacking—the screen shifts from the protagonist’s early poverty-ridden life to one in the UK without giving much insight.
Scripted by NayanikaMehtani and co-written by director Anu Menon, Shakuntala Devi did not live up to most of our expectations. Some of the most important relationships of her life shared with the men she loved are not given much attention. Instead, it focuses on just her connection with Mathematics and her daughter.
However, no one could have played Shakuntala better than Vidya Balan – she brings her vibrancy to the character. Sanya is competent however fails to match up with her co-star, especially while playing mother-daughter conflicts. Amit Sadh, who plays the son in law, gave a commendable performance and indeed the best played male role in the film.
What we love, though, is that they portray Shakuntala as imperfect, just like anybody else. She is no goddess.