Review: The Last Lear (2008)

The Urban Lear

Star Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Preity Zinta, Divya Dutta, Shefali Shah, Prosenjit, Jishu
Director: Rituparno Ghosh

Ratings: * *

The film, ‘The Last Lear’ has a good performance of Amitabh Bachchan who tries to play a man who worked long in Shakespearian Theater and he starts living in the Shakespearian stories only. His skills in theatre is exploited by a movie director as he is called to perform a role in modern cinema. The actor is left with fatal injuries after the shoot. The film tries to say that cinema as a medium is less powerful and unrealistic, when compared to stage.

The film script has been taken from a play by Bengali actor and playwright, Utpal Dutt and the realistic performance of Amitabh Bachchan makes the audience to stay glued to the screens from the very outset. Indian cinema generally has less of Shakespearian stuffs but in Hollywood you have many actors who did Shakespearian roles. Bachchan looks very powerful in the movie, as if everything has been made for him to perform that way; in a way establishing how he is also capable of surviving in Hollywood, too. It’s amazing to watch him perfect confident in the film.

The story of the film is about an actor, Harish, who is bedridden and Shabnam, his co-star comes to meet him. Movie director Siddarth refuses to give interviews and Vandana and a nurse named Ivy, is taking care of Harish. Vandana does not want anybody to meet Harish because she thinks that people are responsible for Harish’s troubles.

The story is about a theatre artist who dreams of performing the “King Lear” and he is made to meet a director by a journalist Gautam. The director convinces Harish to work in his film and Harish agrees to play a joker in his film.

Harish teaches his co-star Shabnam about acting and helps her improve her professional and personal life. In the last shoot of the film, Harish gets hurt. There are many ambiguities in the script because it’s unclear why Harish does the stunt himself and gets hurt, when it was not compulsory.

Amitabh Bachchan is the life of ‘The Last Lear’. It’s definitely his best performance so far. The actor has been delivering strong performances in the past also. Arjun Rampal is evolving into a fine actor; which is very clear in this film. This is another performance that would fetch Arjun great applause. Preity is ok enough. Shefali Shah is superb. Divya Dutta is wasted. Prosenjit is alright. Jishu is impressive.

The good part of the film is that the cinematography is beautifully done. The locations are superb. Most of the shooting has been done in Himalayan location of Uttaranchal.

The problem with ‘The Last Lear’ is that there’s too much of Shakespeare in the movie, which, to put it bluntly, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea for a simple reason that Indian audience are not much into Shakespeare. Besides, certain themes may hold some appeal for those into theatre, but don’t work on cinematic level.

Also, Rituparno Ghosh’s choice of the subject has its limitations. It’s good to think different, but only when you know you can appeal to the crowd.

On the whole, ‘The Last Lear’ has something for the Festival circuit, but nothing for the cinema-going general audience in India. At the box-office it can attract people mostly from the urban sectors of the society.

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