Verdict: The child born out of introspecting Shakespearean psyche is an admirable work of crippled art.
Produced by Arindam Chaudhuri of Planman Motion Pictures, Rituparno Ghosh presents an adaptation of Utpal Dutt’s Aajker Shahjahan. In an attempt to show the story of an actor’s life on stage, on set, and himself within, Rituparno Ghosh brings to the audience a screenplay with poetic pauses and occasional silences. But the flip-side of not having to watch OTT cinema can often mean being over-exposed to the virtues of art-house filmmaking.
The Last Lear brings together Amitabh Bachchan as Harish Mishra, along with Preity Zinta, Shefali Shah, Arjun Rampal, Divya Dutta and Jisshu Sengupta. An ensemble of actors known for their diverse work backgrounds mold into characters seldom played in their respective careers. The film is directed with much sincerity, albeit taking for granted theater-going audience’s intellect to be sky high.
Harry, a veteran in theater has stayed loyal to Shakespeare all his life. For one plain reason, it was his school of acting. King Lear, the tragedy by Shakespeare, has enticed Harish to play the titular. However, he withdraws himself for a bogus reason (find out when you watch). When journalist Goutam visits the actor in Kolkata, he is mesmerized by Harry’s charm and suggests brother Siddharth to cast him for the film.
In a scene where Amitabh Bachchan interacts with Goutam (Jishhu Sengupta), his atrocious reaction at learning of Goutam’s bewilderment of the basics of literature is priceless. He fumes and is seen chasing the ignorant journalist. Moments like these make the film a must-watch despite its shortcomings.
The film for the most part is narrated by Goutam. When Harry finally agrees to working on the film, he befriends co-star Shabnam (Preity Zinta), and the two are seen bonding over miseries of life and acting lessons. Siddharth, a compulsive and obsessed filmmaker gives the audiences a strikingly successful film but every success has a price to pay. Harish Mishra takes to coma and Siddharth blames himself for it.
The film begins with present day where Shabnam takes a detour to an ailing Harish’s house on premiere day. Film editor Arghya Kamal Mitra does fairly well with the screenplay while running into flashbacks and present day. However, the fade out sequences are more than required. As are Ghosh’s films, this one too is about the frailty of human minds, the setbacks one experiences, and the intricate journeys of the soul.
Arjun Rampal’s character is the best-written and has many layers. At the onset, he who appears to be of steel, is also vulnerable and values the loss of others. However, Arjun favors the ice cold personality more, and the acting is average hence. Preity Zinta’s performance is commendable as she lets go off her baggage of being bubbly.
Shabnam who isn’t much welcomed by Harry’s love interest and homemaker, Vandana, finds comfort in her company a few scenes later. The two are seen bonding over conversations, and the film proceeds showing montages of all they speak. Divya Dutta who plays the nurse Ivy has limited screen-time, but ensures to deliver an admirable performance. The women in this film are life support when Ghosh’s direction too starts to tremble.
The tone of the film is purposefully depressing (for the lack of a better adjective), and cinematographer Abhik Mukhopadhyay’s lenses take care to maintain that. Ultimately, The Last Lear is unarguably Amitabh Bachchan’s film. Any viewer watching with a penchant for parallel cinema, will testify the same. Amitabh Bachchan truly delivers his career’s most-powerful performance.
The film is recommended for serious viewing. Watching The Last Lear is synonymous to half paralysis; you know you’re better than late but only to use a fraction of potential.
Why should you watch this film?
Two Words. AMITABH BACHCHAN. Period!
By Soham Bhattacharyya