Written and directed by Anu Menon the biopic “Shakuntala Devi” is a masterpiece. The movie tells us two stories simultaneously. One story is of a girl, Shakuntala, who has had no mentor, no schooling, no formal training, but has a brain that loves figuring out numbers and play with them.
A girl who grows up to become a mathematician, a genius with sparkling eyes and bright sarees with happily contrasting borders. The second story is of equal importance and is of mothers and daughters, and their often rough relationship.
We see three generations in it, both daughter and mother want the same thing i.e. love, appreciation, and some praise but they still struggle with each other. And, after a long struggle life comes in a full circle.
Shakuntala Devi is the story of a fierce feminist, independent, and successful woman who is 1977 calculated the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. And, the bonus is Vidya Balan has given a masterpiece performance in the movie and we can’t imagine any other actress in her place now.
The movie starts in London with an artificial note. And, we Anupama (Sanya Malhotra) walking into a lawyer to file a case against her mother for destroying her financially and we hear the lawyer saying “Your mother could get a jail sentence.”
To which and says “My mother has taken from me everything I loved.” After this, the film cuts to 1934 Bangalore where we the childhood of Shakuntala Devi who is casually calculating a 10-digit number.
Her father (Prakash Belawari) starts to use her intelligence to make money for his house, by taking her to shows where she performed her genius maths magic.
As she turns into a performer she begins to understand the issues surrounding her and her house, and she grows up accepting the transactional nature of her relationship with her family.
Soon she realizes that she can make her life on her own pedestal and her skill will always be there for her. Soon she moves to London, leaving behind a story that speaks less of her childhood and more of her attitude.
In London, she starts a life of her own, and a man who is impressed with her genius watches how her crude style and broken English make people laugh and be dismissive of her talent.
And, after that, he decides to give her and her stage shows a makeover to make her more engaging, entertaining, and spectacular. The film goes into two timelines and later she comes to know as “human computer”.
Throughout, the movie a lot of attention is paid to Shakuntala Devi’s hair. We see her as a rustic girl who arrives in London, and we also see a confident woman who falls in love and marries the busy, working mother with short hair, and the aging, woman who is lonely, sad, bitter, but rich.