The Last Color Is Vikas Khanna-Neena Gupta’s Chef d’Oeuvre

The  Last Color (Amazon Prime Video)

Starring : Neena Gupta,Aqsa Siddiqui

Directed by: Vikas Khanna

Rating: ****

Although  there are some clunky  portion  in  the narration,specially the   enforced climax , The Last  Color is  a  true heartwarmer, a rare  film  in the Hindi language that has  a heart,a  mind and plenty  of  balls.

 Masterchef  Vikas Khanna  takes on the horrendous ancient  tradition of  abandoning widows  in Varanasi , leaving them to  fend  for themselves and  die. The film, based  on Khanna’s  own novel , weaves  a  beautiful relationship between  a derelict widow and a spirited   urchin who in her  own naïve way, teaches  the  widow the  value of  life and the  preciousness  of every breath.

 The film opens  with the urchin Choti(an excellent uninhibited Aqsa Siddiqui) doing what she  knows in her brief life—walking the  tightrope,literally,  as a voiceover informs  that , “The sun wins every day. But  during the  solar eclipse  it is the moon that wins.” From this inspired beginning  Vikas Khanna  works his narration organically into the  bond between the  Varanasi  widow and  her unlikely little  friend.Their scenes together have an unrehearsed  spontaneous  feel  and flavor to them.

Colour, specially the  colour pink plays  a major in the  film. It is the widow’s favourite. My favourite moment  in the film is when Choti brings  a jar of pink nailpolish for her new friend and tenderly paints her toenails. Such moments imbue  the  narrative with a  magical  quality making you forget the excesses that  finally overpower  the  plot.

 Watching Neena Gupta and the supremely  undaunted  Aqsa Siddiqui  thresh out a feminine  kinship  is  one of  the great joys of watching this  film. The plucky little  girl simply  plunges  into the  chance  offered for  a special  bonding. She  buys tea  for  her new friend with  her  own hard-earned money with the  question,  “You tee dink?”

Neena  Gupta’s  weatherworn face  breaks  into a smile every time she meets the girl. I wish Vikas Khanna  had focused  on  female bromance instead  of letting the plot scamper  into  different  directions. There is Choti’s  best friend Chintu(Rajeshwar Khanna) who  wants to grow up to be  a cop to help the distressed , a  brutalized eunuch Anarkali(thus named because her parents abandoned her in a theatre  screening Mughal-e-Azam),and a cop Raja(Aslam Sheikh) so  uni-dimensionally  villainous  as  to give  evil a  bad  name. The diabolic cop brings the  otherwise-gentle  narration kicking dragging and screaming to its climax.This  concession to  a conventional closure could have  comfortably been avoided in a  film so  bold and  out-of-the-box.

 On  the plus  side The Last Color  is  exquisitely shot. Cinematographer  Subhranshu Das  lenses  Varanasi with a keen eye for the sublimity and  the  squalor that  characterize  the  Holy city. Very often  the  film reminded me  of Deepa Mehta’s Water.  Eventually Vikas  Khanna’s  look  into the  lives of outcasts on the banks of  the river Ganga is all his own.  The film is original, thought provoking, heartwarming and deeply affecting. Not to be  missed.

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