7.1/10
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180 user 7 critic

The Last Lear (2007)

An aging Shakespearean actor takes on one of the bard's most challenging roles. Based on Utpal Dutt's play "Aajker Shahjahan".

Director:

Rituparno Ghosh

Writers:

Utpal Dutt (inspired by), Rituparno Ghosh (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Amitabh Bachchan ... Harish 'Harry' Mishra
Preity Zinta ... Shabnam
Arjun Rampal ... Siddharth Kumar
Shefali Shah ... Vandana
Jishu Sengupta ... Gautam (as JIsshu Sengupta)
Divya Dutta ... Ivy
Shahbaaz Khan ... Ramesh (as Shahbaz Khan)
Sudip Mukherjee Sudip Mukherjee
Prasenjit Chatterjee ... Rajiv (as Prosenjit Chatterjee)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Anil Kuriakose Anil Kuriakose ... Venky
Hu Xin Hu Xin ... Girl at the Diwali celebration (as Hue Xin)
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Storyline

Film-maker Siddharth Kumar is receiving guests at his premiere 'The Mask' which stars Harish Mishra, Shabnam, amongst others. He finds out that Shabnam is not attending and is not available. The reason why she cannot attend is that she has gone to visit the ailing main actor of this movie, Harish, who was injured while filming. She sits with his mistress, Vandana, and Nurse Ivy, and recount Harish's life; his meeting with Journalist, Gautam, and subsequently Siddharth himself; the installation of a camera to view people walking on the street as well as males who urinate on the walls. As they await to hear the initial reviews of the film both Shabnam and Ivy must also deal with personal issues involving their respective spouses. Written by rAjOo (gunwanti@hotmail.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

India

Language:

English | Bengali | Hindi

Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Aajker Shahjahan See more »

Filming Locations:

Kolkata, West Bengal, India

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Box Office

Budget:

INR 100,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Planman Motion Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Quotes

[first lines]
Gautam: The premier of your first film is always special, but not if Diwali is on the same day. People are generally busy with celebrations at home. It is unlikely that all the invitees will turn up - especially if it's an off-beat film.
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User Reviews

 
Last Lear: the real tragedy will be if this doesn't get into theatres!!
14 November 2007 | by VirginiaK_NYCSee all my reviews

I've run into comments about this movie that call Amitabh Bachchan a scenery-chewer in this movie. I'd say he's not. That makes it sound as if you're going to get Prithvirraj Kapoor in Mughul-e-Azam -- but Amitabh's character, Harish Mishra/Harry, not AB, is himself something of a scenery-chewer, and in fact in The Last Lear he gives a nuanced performance of maybe the best character I've seen him play in this career phase, and maybe ever.

(Most coincidentally -- the current New Yorker Magazine - Nov. 19, 2007 -- has an article, "The Player Kings," about this kind of bigger-than-life Shakespeare guy,Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier.)

It's wonderful to see major "Bollywood" stars take on straight acting roles in English. And for some time I hoped Preity Zinta, cast as Shabnam, an actress Harry's co-star in the film he is making, would be given something like this to do that used the mature intensity I thought I saw in her.

Importantly and fascinatingly to me, The Last Lear takes the 75-year-old Harish Mishra and us eventually and starkly into some of the themes of King Lear, not that you have to know the play to be affected by his performance as a retired/withdrawn Shakespearean stage actor in Calcutta, persuaded to take his first film role by Siddarth, the hotshot young director played by Arjun Rampal.

I'd say it's only in the last maybe 20 minutes of the movie that you might start having a cascade of recognitions about the Lear themes here. This guy is irritable and cranky -- plenty of scorn for the movies heaped on Arjun -- but also wise, loving, and fully responsive to life. In a great scene on an outdoors shoot in the mountains, you see true delight replace bluster when the old actor, on a film set for the first time, catches on to the filmmaker's way of using shots of unguarded conversation to compose his story.

What makes this powerful old guy verge on boorish in one situation - he declaims Prospero's big speech about his mastery of the spirits to the back of the house in his own smallish living room, to teach Arjun something or other -- makes him a wise counsellor for his co-star Preity in the next, when he uses what he knows about both life and art to push the unhappy and inexperienced young film actress to shout her anger out to the faraway mountain top, and we can feel and see her grief unlock and blood start to flow.

The movie begins explosively on the Diwali when the film is having its opening, with a fight in a fancy flat between Preity, Harry's film co-star, and a man she lives with who is hectoring her offensively about where she's going. She's going to visit Harry instead of attending her premiere, and he now some kind of invalid. Her character is strong and self-possessed, somebody a woman would want for a real friend. She's also somewhat bottled up.

In the course of a long night with fireworks in the background Shabnam, Shefali Shetty as Vandana, Harish's long-time companion, and Divya Dutta as Ivy the night nurse, form a world in Harry's old Calcutta flat, furnished like the home of a London stage actor at mid-century, and the story leading up to the accident on a film-shoot in the mountains unfurls along with their own stories.

The back-story scenes of Siddarth and Harry meeting in Harry's flat, quoting Shakespeare and bonding over watching guys relieve themselves against the wall outside on the closed-circuit TV Harry has installed, are comical and moving.

As the night goes on - it's really a night of metabolization of what has happened -- the night nurse is fired and then offered tea, and she's agitatedly trying to get hold of a boyfriend who, like Shabnam's man, is a persecutory, entitled jerk, full of offensive accusations, and the two older women -- try hard talk her out of submitting to him.

By dawn when Preity crosses the threshhold into Amitabh's room, I think you start to get it about his tragic flaw - I am not spoiling things if I tell you it has to do with his pride - as well as the flaws in someone he's trusted -- that's ended him up in a tragic situation, and thus you're prepared for the brilliant full emotional finish that follows.

One thing I'd hope for from another viewing is a better understanding of what's going on with a shocking decision made by Arjun's character.

I haven't said much about Shefali and Divya, but they are wonderful. Vandana is loving, loyal, angry, exasperated -- if the spirit of Cordelia is in the story, it's distributed between her and Shabnam; Divya is adorable -- she supplies a comic presence -- and touching as a girl who probably can't help going down a tube she's been warned about, off into her own tragedy in the name of love.

I hope the actors found this first English-language movie as rewarding to make as I found it to watch at a film festival, but I also hope this finds theatre release in English-speaking places – if it doesn't, that will be a tragedy.


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