Reviewed by Julia Stier
The Last Color, written and directed by Michelin Star Chef and Filmmaker Vikas Khanna, tells the story of an unlikely friendship and the endurance of the female spirit.
An ancient law in India – one which prevents widows from partaking in the celebration of Holi – has just been overturned. After this win, Noor Saxena, an Indian Supreme Court Justice who fought to overturn the law, returns home to Banaras. However, it is not quite a happy homecoming. When she lived in Banaras, Noor Saxena was an Untouchable, a 9-year-old girl who went by the name “Choti” (played by the delightfully talented Aqsa Siddiqui). Through Noor Saxena’s memory, the audience is taken on Choti’s journey of befriending a 70-year-old widow, Noor (the gentle and expressive Neena Gupta), and their struggle to break free of the restrictions society has placed on them.
Holi is known as the “Festival of Colors,” and signifies the arrival of spring. One of the main parts of the festival is a free-for-all color fight, where people throw colorful powders at each other. Widows, who must take a vow of abstinence, were formerly banned from taking part in these festivities.
The Last Color is a beautiful exploration of female resiliency and strength. Choti serves as an inspiring, albeit young, protagonist, and stands up to discrimination and injustice with the wisdom of someone quadruple her age. Not only was this movie touching in its depiction of two outsiders building each other up, but I found myself unexpectedly moved by its presentation of an inter-generational friendship. While Noor encourages Choti to strive for more, Choti in turn reminds Noor of things she has forgotten – the joy of connecting with a stranger, the blind positivity of youth, and the happiness that color can bring to a life.
However, the joy of this dreamlike friendship is juxtaposed with images from their harsh reality. It is hard to watch moments of female repression, especially since this is not a period piece. The movie takes place only a couple years ago, and still, at times the women in the film are treated as inferior. Except, they know that they are not. The fighting spirit of females comes out beautifully in the micro-rebellions these women commit. Noor hides a book of poems in the Ashram. The evil policeman’s wife, at great risk to herself, refuses to participate in a ritual that would “bless” her with a son – she doesn’t want to give the world another version of her husband. Choti works to earn enough money to attend school rise above her position. These women are not meek. These women are not mild. These women have had to learn to adapt and survive, but they have not given up their power.
The cinematography is exquisite. However, some scene changes employ a fade-to-black transition, which at times awkwardly slow down the pacing.
The Last Color
Now Playing in Los Angeles
Laemmle Town Center
17200 Ventura Blvd #121, Encino, CA 91316
Written and Directed By: Vikas Khanna
Producers: Bindu Khanna, Poonam Kaul, Jitendra Mishra, and Jay Shetty
Starring: Neena Gupta, Aqsa Siddiqui, Rudrani Chhetri, Rajeshwar Khanna
The Last Color is a story of empowerment and friendship. Nine-year-old flower seller and tightrope walker Chhoti (Aqsa Siddiqui) befriends Noor (Neena Gupta), a 70-year-old widow living a colorless life of abstinence. Both outcasts yet vastly different people, Chhoti and Noor touch each other’s lives in profound ways. Chhoti promises hope to Noor as this poignant story of love, friendship, commitment and victory of the human spirit unfolds on the banks of River Ganges.
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