Review: The Last Act
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Director: collaborative feature by twelve directors, selected by Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Chakri Toleti
Indian Express rating: **1/5
The credit line above will tell you instantly that this is not your standard procedure Bollywood flick. 'The Last Act' is a collaborative feature, twelve shorts of ten 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 and 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 the 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 unraveling a murder mystery slowly over two hours and twenty 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 lots of good intentions, some nice execution, and inexerienced slips between cup and lip.
The clutch of new faces bring in both freshness and some amount of ineptness : quite clearly, some of them have never faced a camera before. A gently climactic moment in the Lucknow segment leaves us with a mildly hilarious question about the number of young men called Babloo that may exist in the town : the two perplexed cops give it up with a lovely `Lucknawi' andaaz. My favourite segment is the one that's set in Pune, featuring a nicely drawn couple with the sort of quirkiness that leave you smiling.
Anything that takes us away from the brain-numbing dross that plays out in the 'plexes deserves a pat. And I also like that the film does, despite its unevenness, leads us towards questions about identity and self-worth and the faces that we don to beguile other faces. But those are threads fleeting : more consistency in quality would have made 'The Final Act' a more solid, better -realised act.