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Rituparno GhoshThe Last Lear - Movie Review
12th Sept 2008  23.30 IST
By Aparajita Ghosh  


When it comes to recommending this movie to someone, 'The Last Lear' leaves you in a Shakespearean dilemma - To see or not to see.

The movie, like any certified Rituparno Ghosh film, is contemplative, subtle, languid, and therefore not to the tastes of those Bollywood buffs who relish on star-studded potboilers. Of course, 'The Last Lear' has stars - and a towering one at that - but it doesn't cast them in larger-than-life roles. Here, they are ordinary humans with their follies and foibles.




The Last Lear opens on a Diwali night in Kolkata. A movie titled 'The Mask' is set to premiere at a theatre while its leading man lies paralyzed in his bed at home, attended by a glum-looking nurse ( Divya Dutta ) and an ill-tempered wife ( Shefali Shah ).

Shabnam ( Preity Zinta ), the leading lady of the film, skips the premiere and pays a visit to the bedridden old man, Harish Mishra ( Amitabh Bachchan ) who likes to be called Harry (after all, what's in a name).

As the three ladies (nurse, actress and wife) sit through the night ruminating on their personal lives, the movie keeps going into flashbacks of how Harry, the uncompromising theatre veteran addicted to Shakespeare, came to be this way.

Arjun Rampal plays Siddharth, a movie director who would do anything for a good shot. It was Siddharth who prodded Harry out of self-chosen hibernation by offering him the role of a clown in his movie 'The Mask'. It turns out Harry's last performance.

The best moments of 'The Last Lear' expectedly come from the man with the baritone. There is a moving scene when Harry - usually stern and eccentrically domineering - gets down on his knees and begs Siddharth to let him do the climax stunt himself. Or another one when Harry unravels his Shakespearean oratory to Siddharth. Or the scene in which a rather intrusive Harry compels Shabnam to scream out her pent-up anger.

Arjun Rampal is stunningly handsome and expressive. Shefali Shah is convincing as a peeved housewife with a soft corner deep inside. Preity Zinta shows flashes of brilliance in a few scenes, one of which is when she shakingly lights up a cigarette after an argument with her boyfriend on the phone. Divya Dutta is simply superb in a small role as a young nurse awaiting her boyfriend who never shows up.

Which brings me to the weak link in the film. 'The Last Lear' becomes a drag when it focuses on the sob tales of the three ladies about the suspicious, domineering and imposing men in their lives. Ghosh appears as an over-feminist in trying to highlight the angst of emotionally oppressed women. And this subplot is not merely restricted to a few reels. It runs parallel to the main plot through the course of the film.

Barring this utterly boring subplot, 'The Last Lear' is watchable, particularly for a terrific performance by Mr. Bachchan.

Rating: **1/2



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Shefali Shah
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