The ongoing second Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah is featuring Pan Nalin's autobiographical skit "Last Film Show," which is India's Oscar entry. It is a touching examination of a little boy's aspirations made the more delightful by the work's inherent purity.
Nalin takes us on a nostalgic journey through his formative years in the picturesque Gujarati village of Chalala. He finds and gains an understanding of the cinema's potential to engulf us in a dreamlike realm.
Samay, the son of a lowly tea vendor, regularly skips school and spends his free time daydreaming about movies when he is not assisting his father. He is constantly being reminded by his father that they are from an elite caste and that hobbies like watching movies are bad for them. Samay is persistent in his quest for film, and locates a single-screen theatre where he makes friends with the projectionist Fazal. Samay, however, is not content with only viewing movies; he is also interested in learning the craft of filmmaking and devises clever ways to accomplish it. With the use of a number of incredible tools, such as a sewing machine, he and his companions create their own small show using stolen film reels.
Watching Samay's innovations is entertaining, but "Last Film Show" has a deeper significance. It is a tribute to the movies we used to see in modest, single-screen cinemas. The sequence in which Fazal's theatre is destroyed to make room for a multiplex outfitted with digital technology is quite unsettling. It is significant that Nalin's work be released at a time when there is considerable ambiguity around what will happen to traditional movie theatres as streaming services continue to grow.
Additionally, "Last Film Show" includes stunning imagery, strong emotional connections, and an impactful perspective on caste and class. The film "Last Film Show," which poignantly reflects change at a leisurely pace with a great performance by its young protagonist who is a natural star, also addresses the necessity to change with the times. After all, film is just a fantastic, magical dream.