The Last Lear: Not Bachchan’s best but watch it for the performances

September 12, 2008

There has been so much controversy about the release of “The Last Lear” that it’s easy to overlook this is a film that has been well received in the international festival circuit, has some of India’s best known actors and has even been touted as Amitabh Bachchan’s finest work yet.

Honestly, I don’t agree with that last statement — but then people are entitled to their own opinion.

Amitabh BachchanUndoubtedly, Bachchan plays the role of Harish Mishra, an ageing but passionate Shakespearean actor to the T, with dexterity and skill.

But this is not his best. In fact, I would even say his is not the best performance in the film.

But I am getting ahead of myself. “The Last Lear” is a film in a film and it starts off the way most movies do. With a premiere. It’s Diwali night and also the premiere of Siddharth’s (Arjun Rampal) first film.

The mood though is anything but celebratory. The film’s lead actor is seriously ill and actress Shabnam (Preity Zinta) decides to visit him rather than attend the premiere. Even Siddharth is not as happy as a director making his debut should be.

Film maker Rituparno Ghosh tells the whole story in flashback, interspersed with the events of the night. We learn that Siddharth, a young, enthusiastic director convinces ageing theatre actor Mishra to play a role in his film about an out of work circus clown. Mishra agrees and the entire film unit moves to a hill station for the shoot.

Actress Shabnam, who feels trapped in her marriage, is also part of the cast. The story of how Mishra gets hurt during the shooting is revealed almost at the end and so is the interplay of relationships. To reveal any more would be to spoil the plot.

Ghosh explores the ruthlessness of an artist when it comes to perfecting his art through Siddharth, played brilliantly by Arjun Rampal. Zinta, playing an actress who deals with her own demons is also wonderful, especially in her scenes with Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta.

Which brings us to Shefali Shah. Hers is easily the most power-packed and passionate performance in the film. Her character and her relationship with Mishra is not revealed till the end. Yet, instead of treating this as a handicap, Shah uses it to the best of her ability.

Divya Dutta as the nurse is also good. The scenes in which the three women discuss their lives, matter of factly, yet with so much underlying pain are some of the most powerful in the film.

The pace is quite good and the flashback scenes don’t hinder the film much. Again, this is not a film for everyone, but if your movie palate can handle a different cuisine, go watch “The Last Lear” — if not for anything else, the performances.


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hmm this movie had created ripples much before it release.
the reviews so far have been amazing…
It deserves to be on the TO WATCH list if it has lifetime performances.
Thanx for the review.

Posted by vivek khandelwal | Report as abusive

Another well-written review from Shilpa. Honestly the only thing holding me back was my reservation about Ghosh’s directorial skills in commercial Hindi cinema. He is usually good and occasionally brilliant in a controlled environment with actors who go back a long way with him. Handling Amitabh isn’t quite the same as handling Soumitro, who I feel is equally if not more brilliant than Bachchan. But your review has aroused my curiosity. I’m looking forward to seeing the film. Keep them coming.

Posted by Rituparna Bhowmik | Report as abusive

Hi Shilpa, I saw the movie and disagree with you on most of the points.
I think the Sir/Shri Amitabh Bachchan (which I think he should be called) has stirred the screen in this movie more than ever. The comparable performances are Agnipath and Black only. But if i am to put an order to his performance in these movies then it would be
1. Lear
2. Black
3. Agnipath
Simply because black could still be called commercialized cinema as compared to Lear. He seems more convinced as a Shakespearen than as a blind school teacher.
Arjun Rampal was the second best performer in the movie but to his dismay and delight, most of his scenes were with Sir Bachchan, who overshadowed everything else around him.
Infact I can say that I felt that the screen would darken whenever Sir Bachchan would appear leaving only him as a visible entity. You would want to see more of Sir Bachchan throughout the movie.
The pace of the movies was slow but fast enough not to make it boring.
I think its the only movie I could rate more than 4/5 after Black that was released in 2005.

Posted by Hulbi | Report as abusive