Rating: 2.5/5 stars (Two-and-a-half stars)
Star cast: Saurabh Shukla, Shreyas Pandit, Asif Basra
What’s Good: The very concept of 12 directors collaborating for one film; the direction; music.
What’s Bad: Too many characters stretch the mystery too long; the meandering stories.
Loo Break: None.
Watch or Not?: Watch it if you have the patience to untangle a web and for something that you rarely get to see in Indian cinema.
Directors collaborating for a film isn’t rare in India. You have the likes of Dus Kahaniyaan, Darna Mana Hai etc. that brought established directors to work together on one project and then run a common thread through the film. The Last Act is a different ball game. You have one story that runs through 12 cities of India.
The opening sequence of the film gives you a feel of things to come. You’re introduced to a corpse with half his skull smashed away while cops reluctantly carry it off in their jeep while shoving away the body’s splattered brain. Twelve different items on the dead man connect to 12 various cities of the country. The first clue is of a ticket to a play. As it turns out, the victim might have been a part of a play that has been touring the country (hence the paraphernalia on him). But since the director of the play (Saurabh Shukla) himself barely knew the guy, the police now have to pick on each of the clues, put together the pieces and figure out whether he was the killer or the victim.
With this, we travel with the movie to different cities gluing together the remnants of a man who never seems to be the same. With some lines scribbled on the back of a flyer, he turns out to be a mysterious man who wanted to learn flawless English while in Ghaziabad. The pair of glasses he kept on him seem to belong to a woman with a personality disorder in Kalyan. The Hisar story explores more about the troubled cop than the photograph on the corpse that led him there.
As the movie progresses, you begin to wonder whether these clues are red herrings or actually a peek into the head of a man who looked painfully normal on the outside and lived a completely different life alongside. While some stories investigate the missing man, others peep into the minds of the people on the fringes: quirky cops, gullible teenagers… The stories veer from compact thrillers to surreal and strange.
The Last Act Review: Script Analysis
Technically, we’re not dealing with 12 different stories here. Anurag Kashyap wrote the main plot and then chose 12 directors to deconstruct the clues in different cities. Interestingly, none of the plots sound too similar and each one has a distinct essence to it. The dialogues are trite and you have subtitles throughout the film (though the only non-Hindi part is in Chennai). The monologue in the end is well written but it should have been crisper.
Innovative as it may sound, mashing 12 sub-plots doesn’t work all that well for the movie. Independently, they may have done splendidly, but it becomes easy to lose thread of what’s actually going on.
The Last Act Review: Star Performances
The best part of The Last Act is the performances. Though you have more than 3 dozen characters on screen, they all seem to be made for the part. While most of the actors are largely unknown, they fit the bill. Shreyas Pandit’s act in the climax is most fascinating. It’s difficult to pay attention to the voiceover while he brilliantly keeps changing hues; and with just 5 minutes on screen, he’s got you hooked! It reminds you of Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist in many ways with Shreyas even resembling Jean Dujardin.
The Last Act Review: Direction, Music & Technical Aspects
If you gave talented directors like these only 10 minutes to tell a story, what would they conjure up in full length films! The directors have done very well. Tathagata Singha’s Kolkata story ambles with an old-world charm and intrigue that’s rarely found in cinema today. Tejas Joshi’s one in Kalyan is with a peculiar mix of dry humour, crudity and bits of a psycho-thriller. Jagannathan Krishnan goes on a different trip altogether with his surreal and dreamy Pune part and is closest to Kabir Choudhary’s Chandigarh one. Asmit Pathare’s Mumbai and Rohin V’s Chennai segment distinctly fall into the type of independent/short films that come from these two cities. As much as the Hissar story by Varun Choudhary is beautifully crafted, it needed a larger canvas to explain its part.
The editing is well done (particularly in the Hissar one). The music is very good. The technical parts are uneven throughout the film considering that the directors worked independent of each other. You can easily look over the grainy, blurry bits and rack your brains about the mystery.
What drags down the film is the very fact that interests you. So many different sub-plots, directors, styles don’t make it a short-film collection nor bits of a larger whole. The Keyser Söze-like character is not someone who’ll leave you in awe. In terms of closure for the entire mystery around it, the closure is plain good. Not exceptional, not disappointing.
The Last Act Review: The Last Word
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The Last Act Trailer
The Last Act released on 12th December, 2012.
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