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The Last Act
Directors: Collaborative feature of 12 directors (Asmit Pathare, Nitin Bhardwaj, Tathagata Singha, Nijo–Rohit, Tejas Joshi, Jagannathan Krishnan, Kabir Chowdhry, Nitye Sood, Varun Chowdhury, Anurag Goswami, Rohin V, Himanshu Tyagi), selected by Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Chakri Toleti
Cast: Saurabh Shukla, Shreyas Pandit, Asif Basra
The credit line above will tell you instantly that this is not your standard procedure Bollywood flick. The Last Act is a collaborative feature, 12 shorts of 10 minutes each, forming distinctive segments in a larger whole. A brutal murder takes place, and about the body are strewn a dozen clues, pointing to a dozen different cities. Each segment takes us to a different part of India — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Gwalior, Pune, Kalyan, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hissar, Lucknow—and introduces us to a gamut of characters, colours and cadences, and leaves us to piece things together.
The film opens with Mumbai cops informing a theatre troupe director (Shukla) that the badly mutilated corpse may be one of his team. As each clue is dredged up, the investigation shifts, from one place to another, from one suspect to another, from one scarlet herring to another.One of the interesting factoids surrounding the venture is that Anurag Kashyap, who's credited with the plot outline, Sudhir Mishra and Chakri Toleti (a filmmaker based in the US) didn't helm the film, but chose a dozen new voices from several hundred entries from across the country. The filmmakers got a month to finish their segments, and did not interact with each other. The result of this experiment is a toss-up: some segments sag, some sing, and a couple are downright clunky.
The idea leads to novelty, even if it isn't entirely new. There have been similar films in the past , with different directors creating segments in a similarly-themed film. But The Last Act gives it a little twist, by unravelling a murder mystery slowly over two hours and 10 minutes. The film's unevenness is both a good thing and a bad thing: I like that the resolution is not too pat, but the getting to it is paved with a lot of good intentions, some nice execution, and inexperienced slips between cup and lip.