To be very frank, The Last Lear will be remembered for things. One, Acting and two, Cinematography.
Recently released Rituporno Ghosh’s The Last Lear is not inspired by Utpal Dutt’s “Ajker Sajahan” but almost cinematic translation of that Bengali play with addition of a few characters like Bandana enacted by Shefali Shah. As the Bengali version “Ajker Sajahan” didn’t have any connection with D. L Ray’s “Shah Jahan”, here also there is no connection with William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. Only we come to know that Harish Mishra wanted to act as King Lear which was supposed to be a masterpiece, but after working 30 years and 9 months precisely as a theatre actor Harish Mishra refused to act in the play just seven days before the premiere.
Amitabh Bachchan as Harish Sharma is superb but as the screenplay does not allow us to see even for once Harish and his live in partner Bandana in a one-to-one situation in this film, we can’t understand that why famous Shakespearean actor decides not to play Lear even if some one remarks about their relationship. We understand acting is Harish, but we never understand what relationship means to him. And for that, his ultimate decision of not playing Lear doesn’t carry any sense; it is difficult to believe that a stage-actor of Harish’s stature will easily fall into the trap of film director Siddharth enacted by Arjun Rampal.
The film The Last Lear begins with a monologue of Gautam, a photo-journalist and then we understand that he is going to narrate the entire story. We see Gautam (Jisshu Sengupta) and Siddharth sitting in a moving car. Actually they were coming back from the premiere of the film “The Mask” directed by Siddharth in which Harish played the role of a tramp. The flash-backs of Gautam is not the only story. This is one part, and the remaining flash-back part is by Bandana and Shabnam enacted by Preity Zinta. Preity was the heroine of the film-within-film “The Mask” and Prasenjit played the hero. She did not go the premiere, she came to visit the Harish that star of The Mask, who was a scene. When the tramp would jump from a cliff and could commit suicide. One evening drunken Harish persuaded the director to enact the last scene himself as he believed the dummy won’t be able to express properly the pain of the character even though the shot was a long-shot. The first take was faulty, so a re-take was arranged on the second day. But on the second day Harish didn’t find any bush along the wall of the precipice. The bush was all cleared the next day by the order of the director as in the first take it was clearly seen. We find him in the last scene lying in his death bed. The entire film is based on acting of Amitabh Bachchan, Shefali and Arjun Rampal. It is very difficult to say who has done the best. Shefali is remarkable when she tells Preity how he fell in love with Harish Mishra and why she left her husband and child and started living in with Harish.
Arjun Rampal is believable as a film director. He has the most scenes with Amitabh Bachchan and each time he is at par with the master. In the first meet between them Harish enacted few lines from Shakespeare where Bachchan was superb. We find a different Bachchan when he teaches Preity how to bring out emotions from heart by shooting.
If acting is one pillar of the film, the other pillar is cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay. He captured the exact mood of the scenes. He tired to create heights as per the mood, tempo of individual scenes. The camera handy moves, almost all the shots are taken on block lenses. The shot in the imagination of the director where the tramp of a horse back is slowly moving on a bridge and the background there is only red sky – in just like a painting. Arghyakamal Mitra’s editing in flawless as we can’t recognize how the two different flash backs and all the present time scenes come and go making the entire body of the film. Indranil Ghosh’s set in beautiful as it is difficult to believe all the indoor shots are in sets. But ultimately the film is by the director. Rituparno has tried his best to make a memorable film and he successful in his attempt apart from certain major lapses in his screenplay.
The biggest lapse comes at the end of the film. We never understand why Sidharth, who was so caring the earlier evening to Harish, allows him to jump in the first day, and as the bush was visible he lied to Harish that the rushes have been damaged and faced him to jump from the precipice the next day?