Planet Bollywood
The Last Lear
Producer: Arindam Chauduri (Planman Motion Pictures)
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah, Preity Zinta, Divya Dutta, Jishu Sengupta, Prosenjit
Genre: Art-Film
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Film Released on: 12 September 2008
Reviewed by: Joxily John  - Rating: 5.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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THE LAST LEAR is yet another movie that tries to make the transition from the confines of the theatre to the bigger canvas that cinema provides. Pretty odd, because this transition is more or less what the film is essentially all about. With this film, director Rituparno Ghosh tries to dive deep into the study of the art form of theatre, one that is dying thanks to cinema.

THE LAST LEAR is the story of an aged theatre personality who claims to have set the stages ablaze with his performances. The kind of actor who considers himself too good simply because he just cannot be bad. The kind of thespian who breathes Shakespeare and would kick you out of his house for not knowing you’re A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. That is the larger than life personality that we meet by the name of Harish Mishra, aka Harry (Amitabh Bachchan).

The film starts off with a film premiere set on Diwali night. But the dreary look that the occasion wears reveals that all is not well in tinsel town. We soon learn that the lead actor of the film, Harry, is bedridden. The rest of the film is a portrayal of how this came to be.

To get out of this murky confusing situation, as viewers, we are taken back a year in time when an aspiring film director, Siddharth (Arjun Rampal) walks into the life of Harry. Instantly a friendship is born and the director manages to win the trust of the actor. Hence when the director puts forward his wish of casting the actor in his film, Harry is drawn into it and decides to take the plunge!

We learn more about the relationship between this cinema director and the stage actor from the other characters. Most notable is the meeting of Harry’s mistress (Shefali Shah), his co-star (Preity Zinta) and the home nurse (Divya Dutta). Then we also see the events from the view of the narrator himself, the journalist (Jishu Sengupta), who was responsible for bringing the two protagonists together.

The writing is a muddled affair and while the narration tries to entangle itself out of the knotty situation, it becomes a little testing on the viewers as well. As we go along, the writing takes a contrived route with subsequent events failing to create the desired impact. The editing too is a major let down and does nothing to prevent the sluggish pace from creating havoc. Scenes depicting the three ladies chatting away over dinner about life and lovers are certainly no Macbeth material. Instead, it becomes more of a much ado about nothing, doing only harm by steering the plot away. Even as the film goes on, we realize that a stronger voiceover was the need of the hour to grab the attention. But instead, we are left to do with the feeble voice of the narrator.

The film teases us with the possibility of a detailed study of the two leading characters. But even that does not take off. The character of Siddharth becomes confounded as his actions and motives are left unexplained to a great degree. All it does eventually is leave a gaping hole in the screenplay.

The Last Lear is a film that has the kind of subject that instantly makes it a favorite in the festival circuit, but at your local cinema hall, it might be in store for a rather lackluster reception.

However, I would still recommend this film for its USP that director Ghosh always stood by – that of having Amitabh Bachchan performing in a full length English role. To watch him deliver the Shakespearean monologues and soliloquies with prowess is a unique experience. When the other performers scrabble away with their lines, it does look like something is amiss. But when Bachchan’s trademark baritone voice takes over, what we have is one of those rare cinematic treats…both for the audience as well as for the legendary actor who seem to be relishing the opportunity bestowed upon him.

Performances, after all, keep things afloat in this venture. Amitabh Bachchan might not be exactly giving the best performance to date, but this is one of those occasions when you see the actor really getting into the skin of the character. He gets together with Rampal and plays off some key sequences rather splendidly. However, such sequences are few and far in between. Arjun Rampal might have ended up with a character that requires a lot more depth, but it still counts for a praiseworthy performance that continues the good run that he is enjoying post OM SHANTI OM and ROCK ON.

Preity Zinta, as a model-turned-actress, does put in a tidy show but is clearly overshadowed by the brilliance of Shefali Shah. Divya Dutta, meanwhile, is wasted in a character that does not add any significant value to the proceedings.

,The Last Lear is good in bursts, though lethargically narrated. It’s noble in intentions but shoddily mounted. It’s a movie that demands a viewing solely for the reason that it is sprinkled with a significant performance. Yet the question remains…to watch or not to watch!

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