Movie Review – Shakuntala Devi

Yet another biopic in the Bollywood stables is the 31st July Amazon Prime release – Shakuntala Devi. While most biopics are on sports personalities, it was refreshing to see one on a mathematical genius.

Shakuntala was born in a poor Kannada family and was “good with numbers”, even though she had received no formal education. It is said that the real Shakuntala Devi acquired her skill as her father, a circus performer by profession, used to include her in card tricks.

Once it became apparent that the young girl had a real gift, her father began to take her on road shows, where she used to take up mathematical challenges and rattle off answers in the blink of an eye. Subsequently, she traveled to various cities abroad hosting her shows.

According to facts stated in Wikipedia: In 1977, she gave the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. Her answer was confirmed by calculations done by a UNIVAC 1101 computer, for which a special program had to be written to perform such a large calculation, and it took a longer time than for her to do the same.

On 18 June 1980, she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers — 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779. These numbers were picked at random by the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. She correctly answered 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 in 28 seconds, which was the time taken by her to speak the answer. This event was recorded in the 1982 Guinness Book of Records.

Although tests were conducted on her brain to find out how she does it, the studies came up with nothing. There is a good scene in the movie, where the expert gives her an elaborate explanation in lieu of an answer and when Shakuntala asks him to state it in plain terms, he goes, “We don’t know yet”.

In fact, it is being portrayed that Shakuntala herself is unaware about her abilities. But in some scenes, she explains the techniques that she uses for finding the squares of complicated numbers, for example, which suggests that she must have at least read extensively on the subject.

It would have been interesting to find out how she hones her skills.

But instead of dwelling in that angle, the movie runs a parallel track into her dysfunctional family life.

As a child, Shakuntala resented her father for using her as an income source. Her anger further rises when her sister Sharda expires due to her family not being able to provide her health care. She vows to her sister that she will one day be a successful independent woman. Through all this, she hates her mother for being dependent upon her father and not having her own opinion.

However, once Shakuntala has her own daughter, she repeats the cycle by separating the child from her father and chains her to her side while she travels for her Maths shows. Her daughter grows up to resent Shakuntala for her dominance, like how Shakuntala hated her mother for her subservient nature. It takes a major rift between mother-daughter to remind them both of the famous saying which goes, “By the time a woman realizes her mother was right, she has a daughter who thinks she’s wrong.”

That’s all the emotional crux of the movie is about. And it makes the movie just an average experience and not something “amazing” (a movie reference).

What holds the movie afloat is Vidya Balan’s flawless act. It is obvious that Balan was a dependable choice for the role. Maybe in the hands of lesser experienced actors, the movie would have not managed to draw audiences to the character of this boisterous young lady dressed in beautiful sarees. Balan makes you admire the mathematical wiz, envy her wealthy banjaara life and hate her manipulative behavior.

It definitely helps that the supporting star cast did their part well – Sanya Malhotra(as the rebellious daughter), Jisshu Sengupta(the supportive husband) and Amit Sadh(the practical damaad).

As one final thought – it won’t hurt to watch the movie esp since we are in a lockdown anyway, best utilize all the streaming options. And you might even pick up some Maths tricks. But I doubt, it’s gonna make you want to emo-hug your mom.

Mixed Bag – 1

I have been reading, watching, streaming all over the place; literally.

Movie: The Sky Is Pink


For a movie that is about impending death, this is a very positive one.

Inspired by a true story; Aisha Chaudhary was a girl who was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). She was destined to not live long. The movie traces the journey of Aisha’s parents (Moose and Panda – as Aisha calls them) who vow to give her all the happiness they can for whatever time she has left.

sky is pink family pic

In a voiceover Aisha says, “You know those moments when everything is perfect and you feel so blessed to have this life as yours. My life didn’t have these magical moments – Moose and Panda created them.”

The real life Aisha Chaudhary was a motivational speaker at the young age of 15 and wrote the book My Little Epiphanies, which got published one day before her death. She was 18 when she died.

aishas book

This is a very heartwarming movie , despite the fact that is about a family dealing with a lot of pain. Maybe because, it is projected with a buoyant lens. And Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar have pulled a fine job being Moose and Panda.

I wonder why real life inspiring stories such as these do not get sent to the Oscars?!

Book: The Single Girl’s To Do List

Rachel Summers is in a relationship for 7 years. She knows that Simon is The One. Meanwhile, Simon….. breaks up with her.

singel girl

Suddenly, Rachel’s perfect life is in shatters. She can’t figure out what she did wrong or why suddenly everything is swiveling. To get a grip, she does the one thing she is best at – Makes a To Do List.

With the help of her best friends, Emelie and Matthew, they come up with the following:

  • Get a makeover
  • Exercise
  • Do something extreme
  • Find a date for your dad’s wedding
  • Do something your ex wouldn’t approve of
  • Buy yourself something obscenely expensive and selfish
  • Write a letter to your ex
  • Travel somewhere you’ve never been before
  • Contact your first crush
  • Break the law

This book is a typical chick lit romance and since currently I’m in my chick lit romance book phase, I lapped up all the mushiness and all the bound-to-undergo-a metamorphosis plot. It is not a new story – it’s all expected. But even then, it’s a fun enough read.

But, if you are newly single, this list is certainly not to be considered for pointers. Let’s be realistic 😜

dont take notes
Don’t take notes!!

Youtube: Pretty Fit

pretty fit

Well, Prajakta Kohli is one of my favourite Youtubers but Pretty Fit….umm…

The idea of the show, Functional Fitness, is fabulous. And it also fits in with MostlySane’s RealTalkTuesday Content. But you know, I wished, instead of having a frivolous air, it could have been a bit more serious.

Instead it looked all staged – the Kareena Kapoor pranking Prajakta parts,
felt like it was trying too much – Prajakta trying to distract the celebs from their tasks
and too kiddish – showering the winners with all the “validation in the world.”

It has great potential – I just wish it could be treated as an earnest show committed to the fitness challenge.

I loved all the challenges – they were unique and very creative. Also, it is inspiring to see your favourite women performing these tasks.

We had,

prettyfit 1

Neha Kakkar making a glass of Lassi from scratch – from cleaning and milking buffalos to churning the milk.

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Dangal actress Sanya Malhotra visiting the Dhobi ghats to wash, dry, press and iron an armload of clothes.

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Mithila Palkar on a fishing boat, pulling the nets and getting nuste aboard.

prettyfit 4

Stand up comedian Sumukhi Suresh getting sugarcane juice from the fields to the glass, literally.

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RJ Malishka’s Day In the Village – sweeping the angaan, fetching pails of water from the well, making bhakris of rice and gobar cakes.

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Finally Bollywood diva Kareena Kapoor Khan getting her hands and feet dirty digging the soil and making a beautiful clay pot.

I loved the exercises that were designed by the trainer Urmi, for each challenge. Again unique and creative and very much doable by even common folk like us.

Other plus points, all the heart to heart talk shared by the celebs, the colorful costumes, the way in which every challenge was properly organised.

I would personally love to see another season albeit focused at the tasks in hand.

The Lion’s Fort

In the year 1665, Shivaji Maharaj had to give up several forts to the Mughals because of the Treaty of Purandar. One of these forts was Kondana. But due to it’s strategic importance, Shivaji wanted to win it back.

This famous story of the 1670 Battle of Kondana was recreated on screen this weekend by the Ajay Devgan-Saif Ali Khan starrer, Tanhaji.

As a history lover, I appreciate movies which bring back to life stories of unsung warriors such as Tanhaji.

Tanhaji Malusare was a Subedar in Shivaji’s regime. He was also a lifelong friend of the Chhatrapati. He had gone to Rajgad to invite Shivaji for his son, Rayba’s wedding. Upon learning of the plan to regain Kondana, he immediately put the marriage plans on hold & took charge of the Mohim.

He is quoted to have said the words,

“आदि लगन कोनदानाचे, नंतर रायबाचे”

First we shall win back Kondana, then get Rayba married.

The fort was looked after by the Rajput commander Udaybhan Rathore. This character has been portrayed wonderfully by Saif. His look in the movie was very often compared to GoT’s Jon Snow.

However, let me tell you, Udaybhan is nothing like Jon Snow. In Saif’s own words, “Udaybhan is insanely wicked. He is a great warrior, and is smart, but he is also unhinged. The idea was to show the character as crazy yet lucid.”

I love a period drama that does justice to the historical account.

Tanhaji along with his platoon had scaled the steep fort in the dead of the night with the help of a Ghorpad (monitor lizard).

Once inside, they fought bravely against Udaybhan’s forces. They managed to break open the Kalyan and Pune Darwarzas and penetrated the fort from all directions. After a fierce battle in which Udaybhan literally broke down Tanhaji’s shield, the Marathas successfully regained Kondana back.

However, Tanhaji was grievously injured and he succumbed to death. Upon hearing of this loss, Shivaji was overcome with grief and he uttered the famous words,

“गढ आला पण सिंह घेला”

The fort is captured but we lost the lion

To commiserate Tanhaji’s memory, Kondana was renamed as Sinhagad, which means The Lion’s Fort.

Sinhagad is now one of the tourist attractions in Maharashtra. A memorial of Tanhaji is constructed on the Gad.

In 2019, site restoration workers unearthed the original Samadhi.

I have visited this fort twice but I was intrigued by it’s history after watching this fabulous movie.