Review - The Last Lear: How far can performances take a movie?

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV (?)
quick review:

Is it a play? Is it a movie? Whatever it is, it's a collage of brilliant performances. If only story had some clear direction!

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I'm sure at most times, our mind works in moments, switching threads with or without connection, fluttering around various compartments of our lives. The Last Lear appears to be a peek into the writer's thoughts. We get glimpses playing out one after the other. Only, these glimpses are enacted by the most talented set of performers we have.

What is it about? Broken trust? Guilt? An inside look at the passion a man feels for his art? Manipulation another equally passionate artist is capable of? The lives of three women and how one incident has marked their lives? A comment on how working women are treated by their men irrespective of the economic strata they come from? To bring about the difference between plays and cinema? A little bit of each, a whole lot of ultimately nothing.

Now, whether this aimlessness is a result of Utpal Dutt's writing or because of the way it is adapted for screen by Rituparno Ghosh and Co. - I don't know. What I do know is it comes across as meandering all over the place. And the only undertones I can interpret are way too contrived to even mention here.

The word 'realisitic cinema' is mentioned in the movie. True the characters and their situaions seem real. But there's one thing I don't understand about so-called 'realistic cinema'. Granted, they save us from the bright, eye-torturing color saturation. But does painting it all jaundiced yellow make it any more real?

The nicotine tinge wouldn't have bothered me that much if any of the relationships were given apt attention. Also most of the Shakespeare verses sounded more mysterious than meaningful. And since I couldn't decipher the mystery, I sure hope that they were used in context with what was going on in the story at that point.

Maybe the parallel narration could be blamed for adding to the patch-work feel. But, I liked how we know Harish Mishra (Amitabh Bachchan) bit-by-bit, sewn together by memories of various people who knew him and the warmth each one feels for him. But that's the narrative style; the character itself is more-or-less one-dimensional.

Similarly we know very superficially, what the other characters are going through on that particular day. Shabnam (Priety Zinta) is confident yet vulnerable. Vandana (Shefaly Shah) masks her tender devotion with an arrogant poise. Just because Ivy (Divya Dutta) doesn't react doesn't mean she's dumb or heartless. Yet, I feel cheated, deprived from knowing them more, knowing them better.

Despite this, the actors perform with such passion. And this is not just for Amitabh Bachchan. Priety, Shefali, and Divya are so convincing that for me the movie is more about their characters than Harish's. This is certainly the most I've seen Arjun Rampal's facial muscles move - he can actually do it! What a shame that it has taken so long!?

Sir Bachchan - what do I say? That his performance was eloquent, his voice modulation articulate, his body language mesmerizing, his diction immaculate, his talent...? Such shallow words they are. Overacting? Maybe - in an off scene here or there. But, I was in awe, rubbing my arms to get rid of the goose bumps during his audition for the director. This in spite of the so unnecessary and out-of-place melodramatic lighting and camerawork. My favorite moments were those when he switched from Harish to a Shakespearean character and back in what looked like single takes.

'Moment' - that's the key word throughout. As Harish mentions, "you never know when 'the moment' will come". And you see them trying hard to create that perfect moment. But so engrossed are they in doing that, that the motivations of the characters and the movie remain blurry.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Sexual content: None
  • Concept: It's too serious for kids to enjoy or understand.

The Last Lear - Movie Details

The Last Lear - Trailer

Comments (6)

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meetu:

Rajat, when you put it that way, it makes sense. But, none of this came across to me while watching the movie. The focus of Sholay was crystal clear. That the cart driver, the widow were clearly sub-plots in 'Sholay'. The women in "The Last Lear" had much more substantial roles.

"Reflection suggested."

Suggestion accepted. Thanks!

sunnetra basu:

The film represents a major miscalculation in its adaptation of what must be a fairly static play and its use of Bachchan as an aging Shakespearian actor.
But it is still a pleasure to watch Mr. Bachchan declaiming lines from “ Lear” and rendering wisdom in his rich, stentorian voice. Honestly speaking,the script is extremely melodramatic, which is unexpected from a Ghosh's film.

sara:

Hey, this is a cool blog..just stopped here!!
Its a one-stop blog for any movie review.

meetu:

Thanks, Sara!

Thanks for the suggestion, Sanket. The scrolling of posts has been annoying me too. Currently working on a complete site-rehaul. Much much more user-friendliness is promised. Meanwhile, I'll try to see if the review category can be set-up in the navigation bar itself or like the way you said.

Manoj:

As Harish says in the movie, cinema only represents fragments. In a cinematic moment you may only see the face but not the entire person. Meetu, you are expecting too much. The director never wanted to narrate a complete story. His desire was to show how fragments can still stitch together a particular representation of reality though incomplete. This movie is like a camera panning across a room full of people. You know only as much about the person as the camera stays on that person. Beyond that you know nothing. I kind of like that incompleteness. But you are entitled to your comments. Cheers,

meetu:

@Manoj Thank you! Loved your take on the film. I might disagree in this instance, but you've embraced the film in a very charming way. Thank you for sharing.

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