Coinciding with the release of the New Education Policy (NEP), Shakuntala Devi’s release should be celebrated as it is a cinematic celebration of our own strength in Mathematics.
Though it has taken a long time to come, Shakuntala Devi’s release on the OTT means SHAKUNTALA DEVI can have outreach across more than 300 countries. Viewers of these 300 countries may not have had an opportunity to be made aware about a phenomenon called Shakuntala Devi and how she gave a new meaning to approach mathematics.
SHAKUNTALA DEVI is also the first film which boasts of an all-woman crew. This also is an occasion for celebration in the world of Hindi cinema. Shakuntala Devi is an out-and-out Vidya Balan film. She has again underlined how effortlessly she can carry a film on her shoulder if the narrative revolves around her character.
Director Anu Menon needs to be congratulated as she has seamlessly woven the narrative of a mother juggling with mathematics and motherhood and triumphing at both the fronts. Its ultimate manifestation cinematically was in the scene where Sania Malhotra’s character impromptu bursts out of her seat and whistles when the mother Vidya Balan takes the podium for her final appearance on the stage.
SHAKUNTALA DEVI is also a celebration of saree, the epitome of a dress that accentuates and adds an element of mystique to womanhood. How many of us are aware about the fact that a saree worn by Vidya Balan in the film, which is a famous Sambalpuri saree has all the mathematical formulas woven over it?
This aspect needs to have been highlighted in the film as there is a dialogue in the film which underlines the importance saree has in the life of a woman.
Mother-daughter relationship across two generations which has been used as a reference point to build up the narrative could have been explored further especially the relationship that SHAKUNTALA DEVI had with her mother. During those times the male dominance did not allow this relationship to proliferate and the umbilical cord was not permitted by the society to have its bonding over the years. Its other manifestation is evident when SHAKUNTALA DEVI becomes mother and she pulls all punches so that it is not severed at any cost.
SHAKUNTALA DEVI subtly also poses a question whether an ambitious woman should continue to pursue her ambitions or let it die a social death. This happens in most of the cases in India at least, where many a genius woman sacrifice their talent at the altar of motherhood and choose anonymity by choice. So far cinema has used this trajectory where a daughter again tries and brings out the hidden talent of her mother when she grows up, but SHAKUNTALA DEVI has taken it to the other end. One only hopes it inspires more such talents which are lost in chores of kitchen to come out of the closet and contribute to economy. For AATMNIRBHAR BHARAT such talents are needed for the hour and SHAKUNTALA DEVI should rekindle this spirit.
SHAKUNTALA DEVI may have spent most of her time outside India, but she was a quintessentially a Bangalorean and the movie was a perfect occasion to cinematically capture the charms of old Bangalore specially the iconic eateries like Vidyarthi Bhawan which she adored. Maybe, some other film still is in the pipeline to capture the aroma and charm of the eclectic street food that Bangalore offers daily!