Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scorp's favorites - 7 - The Last Lear


Watching movies is a really good experience. It might give you new ideas, might totally change your mood and might leave you refreshed. I write mostly about foreign movies, and I have seldom written about Indian films. There are a few Indian directors who match and who sometimes exceed the best of the world’s finest directors. One such director is Rituparno Ghosh. Now, I first saw Ghosh in his ‘Raincoat’, starring Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai. It touched my heart and it still is one of the best movies I have ever seen, in any language. Inspired by an O Henry story, it’s a beautiful romantic tale. From then on, I knew this is a director who can make marks with his quality movies, in the world cinema.

‘The Last Lear’ too, didn’t disappoint me. Nicely filmed, it’s a trade mark Rituparno Ghosh movie. It stars Amitabh Bachchan in a very different kinda role. It has Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal, again in two offbeat, different roles. I want to see such kind of movies to be taken more frequently in India.

The movie begins when we learn from the leading actors that there is going to be a premiere of a new movie of director Siddharth. The leading lady Shabnam is getting ready to visit someone, and she tells her husband she is not going to the premiere. Her husband always suspects that she is seeing someone, and tortures her and sprays her perfume all over her face. She runs out, and goes to a house.

Back at the premiere, director Siddharth is seeing the movie all alone, to check about the scenes and the shots. He finishes watching it when press people want his interview outside the theatre. Strangely, he stays aloof from all the celebration of the premiere. His friend Gowtham comes in to the scene, and through Gowtham, we start to learn about what happened during the movie shoot, in a flashback.

Harish ‘Harry’ Mishra a greatly talented thespian, has refrained himself from acting for a few years. He stays in his home all the time. Once Gowtham, a reporter, goes to interview Harish and is driven out of the home when he doesn’t know the names of the characters in ‘A midsummer night’s dream’, a play by Shakespeare. Harish is a specialist in Shakespearian plays, and has a deep respect towards the celebrated playwright.

Through Gowtham, Siddharth comes to know about Harish, and he decides Harish will be perfect for the leading role in his new movie. So, he goes to Harish’s home and gradually becomes a friend of Harish, since he too is a Shakespeare fanatic. Slowly, Siddharth makes Harish to accept the offer.

What is happening to Shabnam is also shown in intercuts. She has gone to Harish’s home, to see him. Harish is paralyzed and is lying in the bed, without any consciousness. We learn that something has happened in the film shoot which resulted in Harish’s present condition. We meet a lady named Vandana who looks after Harish, and the nurse. The nurse is anxiously waiting for her boyfriend finally to pick her up, so that they can start a new living. She complains to Vandana and Shabnam though, that he at times tortures her by asking stupid questions like where is she, what is she doing in the night etc.. Shabnam too says she has the same treatment from her husband.

Back in the flashback, the film shoot is happening in an outdoor hill station, and due to the harsh treatment from her husband, Preity is gloomy, sitting alone, memorizing the dialogues in a mechanical way, when Harish sees her. He comes to her, talks to her to bring out her emotions, as she can act well only if she is able to bring them out. If she is sad, it will affect the takes and hence, she must get rid of the sadness. He convinces Shabnam and she finally cries out aloud, bringing all her emotions out. From that day, they both become good friends. Harish teaches Shabnam some great dialogues from Shakespeare’s plays.

The film is nearing the climax, and Siddharth is planning to shoot the climax. One night, when Siddharth and Harish are enjoying a drink, Siddharth tells Harish that he has a dupe planned for the climax, and this makes Harish sad, as he says he has never used a dupe in his plays so far and he wants to act in the climax himself. The climax has been written in such a way that the leading actor jumps from a hill top, and hence Siddharth says it might be dangerous for Harry to act in it, but Harry falls in Siddharth’s feet, begging him to grant him the opportunity of completing the climax. Finally, a reluctant Siddharth agrees.

The day arrives. Everything is set for the climax. The climax is shot, and Harry jumps off the cliff. Siddharth notices Harry holding the branches below the cliff, for balance and because of this, the shot has not come well. So, he grabs the mike and orders for a re-take. Being a perfectionist himself, his mind is thinking only about how to film the shoot, and hence he secretly orders people to cut the branches. When no one comes forward, he cuts them himself, and when Harry jumps from the cliff during the re-take, he falls down and breaks his spinal chord and falls unconscious.

Shabnam goes in to Harry’s room, and sees an unconscious Harry. Vandana tells her that Harry stopped acting in plays, since people were commenting about their relationship. They are not married, and are living together. Now, Shabnam slowly starts reading passages from Shakespeare and slowly Harry opens his eyes. He too starts uttering the dialogues, as the movie ends.

Amitabh Bachchan has rendered an excellent performance as Harish ‘Harry’ Mishra. The respect he has towards his plays and his funny comments towards films portray his character well. He has a deep yearning towards playing as King Lear, his most favorite role, and while he was about to play the character, he stopped acting in the plays, Vandana tells Shabnam. The way Siddharth convinces Harry to act in the movies is a touchy, yet enjoyable part of the film.

Amitabh Bachchan has lived the role of Harry, and I would easily say this is one of his greatest performances, if not the best.

Another masterpiece from Rituparno Ghosh, The Last Lear is a very realistic film which introduces us the eccentric as well as the passionate Harry, as the tagline says.

See the trailer here.

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