The Last Lear
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Preity Zinta, Silver Wig
Direction: Rituparno Ghosh
Friends, countrymen and Shakespeare,
Lend me your ears. I come neither to bury director Rituparno Ghosh, actor Amitabh Bachchan, supporting artiste Divya Dutta, nor to condemn them. <b1>
The good that men do lives with them. So let it be with The Last Lear, a pedestal for the histrionics of Mr Bachchan. You all do love him not without cause. So doth me, your Mark-Akbar-Anthony who doth know a trifle about Oberon and not Oberoi as boorishly muttered by a ciggy-puffing journalist in the movie. The puffer also confuses the bard’s Robin with Robin Hood. What kind of journos is Ghoshda acquainted with, anyway? The sort who think Shakespeare is a milk shake?<b1>
Alright fair is foul and foul is fair. From the two-and-a-half stars crowning this bard-di-dah review, you might have guessed that this Learda leaves the viewer with remixed feelings. On the upside, there are at least three extraordinary moments for which it might still be worth enduring the roundelay of three ladies chattering away like magpies, on Diwali night. Flashbacks keep going up in the black Kolkata sky like baby rockets, the bard-challenged journalist pops in with his voice-over intermittently. And a movie about a very aged clown titled The Mask is being premiered. If that’s a tribute to Raj Kapoor, Ghoshda confirms that by giving his Lear a Satyam Shivam Zeenatam-like face burn.
O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts. Do discourse on the positives yaar. When the aged theatre stalwart Harish aka Harry (Bachchan) falls on his feet to beg a film’s director to let him perform his last scene – a stunt – your eyes truly moist. When the intense, realistic-type director (Arjun Rampal) cajoles him to return from three decades of retirement, you marvel at the actor’s brilliant, theatrical rendition. And you care for the old man’s foibles as he sits before a CVV screen, watching passers-by urinate on the wall. Street watching is very Satyajit Rayesque (please see Charulata) and it’s done with quirky humour here.
Heart-bracingly the cinematography is topnotch. The sound design is on the pretentious side though. Who would be listening to Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam late at night on Diwali, pray? And the screenplay has more potholes than the roads nowadays. And shiver me timbers, Shefali Shah and Harryda are supposed to have sparked a scandal, 30 years ago. Not very flattering to Ms Chhaya’s age status but well. And what’s all that hullabaloo about the stunt shot? And please why are women always being tormented by men, especially Preity Zinta being stalked by a gruff phone voice and nurse Ivy Dutta’s hot date who vanishes like Aladdin’s genie?
Essentially, the frisson between Bachchan and Rampal work. Bachchan is flamboyant, assured and catty. Rampal, restrained and implosive, is excellent.
So friends, countrymen and Shakespeare, to be honest Bachchan’s shout into a valley is on the embarrassing side though (check out Liza Minnelli’s yell fest in Cabaret). All said and a bit slept through, The Last Lear merits a toss of the coin. Heads you see..tails you don’t.