The Last Lear (2008) *HQ*

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.

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal

Veteran thespian Harish Mishra (Amitabh Bachchan) is gravely ill. The punishments of a film shoot have left the old man in a coma.His co-star, Shabnam (Preity Zinta), is wracked with worry, but their director, Siddharth (Arjun Rampal), keeps strangely distant and refuses to visit his ailing star.In flashbacks, their story emerges.Siddharth first had to woo Harish from the comforts of his retirement, and the interaction between the two yields some of the film’s most delightful scenes.

The impatient young auteur attempts to win the trust and collaboration of the aged performer, who sits raging against the modern world from the sanctuary of his study.Sporting a silver mane, Bachchan is irresistible here – vain, forceful and impetuous.He trumpets the superiority of Shakespeare over anything cinema can create.And yet, the movies hold out a new challenge.

Once he agrees to act in the film, The Last Lear becomes a captivating reflection on the comparative artifices of stagecraft and cinema. As the outsider in the cast, Harish is hilarious in dismissing movie fakery. His theatre skills are grander. Standing on a hillside, he teaches Shabnam how to project her voice clear across a valley to the next hill.

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