Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
The Last Lear: Not Bachchan’s best but watch it for the performances
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.
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.