Let’s just say one thing right off: Bollywood this ain’t! After enjoying the delightful Straight From the Heart song-and-dance flick at SIFF last year, we rushed to pick an Indian film from the new schedule. Oy, vey. Straight From the Heart was eye-popping entertainment that kept your interest for three hours, whereas Vanaprastham: Last Dance was just about as much fun as, well, watching paint dry.
The story takes place roughly over the adulthood of a popular actor of a very specific type of dancing in India, involving storytelling through sign language and actions of the dancers, who are accompanied by musicians. This is all fine and good, and the dancers are all men, which isn’t too strange, but the fact that they look a bit like overly-decorated Christmas trees with clown makeup shattered a bit of the magic for me.
Our hero is kind of a Luciano Pavarotti-type burly fellow, and of course the women fall all over him like he is all that and a bag of chips. We see that in his spare time he only seems to sleep a lot and ignore his wife and child. He gains the attention of a gorgeous upper-class woman, who writes him a play (which he dances), and they have an affair. Of course it turns out she is in love with the character, not the lower-caste man who plays him. So she takes the child and breaks contact, ultimately emotionally ruining both of their lives.
This sounds good enough on paper, but the film is glacial. The photography is gorgeous, but the sound is almost too… Well, let’s put it this way: the lead actor moans and groans whenever he gets up from his nap (which is every other scene), and he breathes really loudly through his nose (and you know how annoying that is in real life, much less amplified by the Cinerama’s speakers).
Save two hours of your time. Skip it.