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Vanguard Cinema presents
Vanaprastham: The Last Dance (1999)

"An artiste is respected when his characterisation subjugates the mind."
- Kunhuikuttan (Mohanlal)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: April 10, 2003

Stars: Mohanlal, Suhasini, Mattanoor Shankara Marar, Kukku Parameshwaram
Other Stars: Venmani Haridas, Venmani Vishnu, Kalamadalam Gopi
Director: Shaji Karun

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains adult themes, but is suitable for most audiences)
Run Time: 01h:55m:07s
Release Date: July 22, 2002
UPC: 658769029130
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C+B- D

DVD Review

When dealing with matters of love, artists, novelists, and other talented figures must face a difficult question: Does my partner love me, or my creations? This dilemma can be especially difficult to solve, as one must overcome the nagging feeling that their celebrity might be the attraction. These problems are faced by the Kathakali dancer Kunhukuttan, who is receiving apparent adoration from a lovely young girl of a higher caste. Does she love him, or is it Arjuna, his famous character who supposedly spoke with a higher power?

Set mostly in the 1950s, Vanaprastham—also known as "The Last Dance"—presents an effective portrayal of Kun, who possesses a creative talent but struggles with numerous personal problems. A large man with a propensity for alcohol, he transforms himself into a new figure while dancing before enraptured audiences. I am sorry to say that I didn't really grasp the allure of these traditional performances, but that does not lessen the story's impact. Kun's portrayal of Arjuna is especially invigorating for Subhadra (Suhasini), who nearly forgets that he is not the actual character. Events become even more complicated when she becomes pregnant, which reveals a less positive side to their affair.

Far from being completely devoid of guilt, Kun also has a wife through an arranged marriage and an energetic daughter. When his child reaches maturity, Kun's own problems come to the forefront once again. Although supposedly born to a low caste, Kun also has a secret background even unknown to him. Personal doubts make things more difficult when dealing with his wife and daughter. In the midst, Kun continues to dance and tries to resolve the difficult personal issues that are weighing down his artistic ideas.

Writer/director Shaji N. Karun (Piravi) has crafted an interesting story that should please viewers who possess a more open-minded approach to cinema. While I found this film slow at times, it related more to my own lack of knowledge about the Indian culture than any major story problems. Mohanlal carries the load throughout the film and makes his character identifiable even for audiences who know little about the dancing. The emotional burden facing Kun continues to grow, and the talented star never overdoes the role. He keeps the events moving throughout the tale and all the way to the final performance.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Vanaprastham features an acceptable transfer that presents the events in an understandable manner. The colors are bright enought but lack the sharpness inherent in many new digital transfers. A decent amount of grain and some significant defects do arise during the film, but nothing becomes a major distraction. The overall result is an acceptable picture that allows you to watch the story without being awed by much impressive visuals.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Hindino

Audio Transfer Review: The music plays a large role in this story and spurs the key dance sequences. While not exceptional, the 2.0-channel stereo transfer does offer enough power to keep the scenes moving. Little complexity exists here, and the sounds are very centralized, but everything is generally clear and recognizable. A slight notch above its visual counterpart, this track provides an adequate experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The lone extra feature on this release is the inclusion of 12 chapter cues. The lack of supplements is not a major surprise due to the film's limited audience in the United States.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Released by Vanguard Cinema, Vanaprastam is unlikely to generate large audiences in the American home video market. More high-profile foreign releases will draw away even the more discerning viewers. While perhaps not a fascinating experience, it does offer plenty of notable moments that make this tale worth a viewing.


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