Vanaprastham: The Last Dance (French: Vanaprastham: La Dernière Danse) is a 1999 Indo-French psychological drama period film in Malayalam-language that was directed by Shaji N. Karun. It was produced by Pierre Assouline and co-produced by Mohanlal. The screenplay was written by Karun and Raghunath Paleri (who also wrote the dialogues) based on a story by Assouline. It features Mohanlal in the lead role, with Suhasini Maniratnam, Mattannur Sankarankutty Marar, Kalamandalam Gopi, Venmani Haridas, and Kukku Parameshwaram in supporting roles. The film's music was composed by Zakir Hussain.

DVD cover
Directed byShaji N. Karun
Screenplay byShaji N. Karun
Raghunath Paleri
Raghunath Paleri
Story byPierre Assouline
Produced byPierre Assouline
Mohanlal (co-producer)
Suhasini Maniratnam
CinematographyRenato Berta
Santosh Sivan
Edited byA. Sreekar Prasad
Joseph Guinvarch
Music byZakir Hussain
Euro American Films
Pranavam Arts
CLT-UFA International
(in association with)
Distributed bySND Films (France)
Pranavam Arts (Kerala)
Release dates
  • 21 May 1999 (1999-05-21) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • 13 October 1999 (1999-10-13) (France)
  • 25 December 1999 (1999-12-25) (India)
Running time
119 minutes

Set in the 1950s in Travancore, the plot follows a lower-caste Kathakali artist Kunjikuttan (Mohanlal). Subhadra (Suhasini), a member of an aristocratic family sees him perform Arjuna. Lost between reality and fiction she falls in love with the character. Their relationship leads to the birth of a child, who is hidden away by Subhadra from Kunjikuttan for almost a lifetime.

The film premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on 21 May 1999, where it was selected at the Un Certain Regard section, and was theatrically released in France on 13 October 1999 and in India on 25 December 1999. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the American Film Institute's 1999 AFI Fest (Los Angeles International Film Festival). It won the Special Prize of the Jury at the Istanbul International Film Festival and the FIPRESCI prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival. The film won three awards at the 47th National Film AwardsBest Feature Film, Best Actor (Mohanlal), and Best Editing (A. Sreekar Prasad), and six awards at the 1999 Kerala State Film Awards, including Best Director and Best Actor (Mohanlal). In 2014, Vanaprastham was screened retrospective at the 45th International Film Festival of India in the Celebrating Dance in Indian cinema section.


The story revolves around a male Kathakali artist Kunhikuttan, an admirable and respected performer but a member of a lower caste. He struggles to come to terms with the rejection and estrangement of his father, a member of an upper caste who denies his son. Poor, unhappy, and stuck in an arranged marriage that provides no relief, he gets by for the sake of his daughter.

One night, whilst performing as Putana from Poothanamoksham from the epic Mahabharata on stage, his performance is witnessed by Subhadra, an educated and married upper-caste women, niece of the Dewan and an aspiring composer. Impressed by his performance she invites him to play Arjuna in her adaptation of Subhadraharanam. Defying the norms of India's rigid caste system, the two have an affair which results in a son.

But it soon becomes clear that Subhadra loves the character Arjuna from his stage performances, and not Kunhikuttan the artist. More in love with the valiant, noble hero of the Mahabharata, than the lower-caste dancer Kunhikuttan, she rejects him and refuses to let him see his son.

Denied access to his son, and rejected by his father, Kunhikuttan returns to the stage, leaving behind his hero roles to play demonic characters, reaching within the dark corners of his mind, becoming increasingly resentful and full of anger, until one last dance which brings the feature to a stunning end Subhadraharanam.



The film premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on 21 May 1999, where it was selected at the Un Certain Regard section.[1] In 2014, the film was screened retrospective during the 45th International Film Festival of India in the Celebrating Dance in Indian cinema section.[2]

Writing for Variety, film critic Emanuel Levy said that "The Last Dance, which marks noted Indian cinematographer-director Shaji Karun's third appearance in Cannes, is an elaborately produced, exceedingly handsome period film about the art form of Kathakali, which combines dance, pantomime and theater [...] Through his meticulous mise-en-scene and well-crafted production, director Karun offers poignant commentary on the political and mythic role of artists in a rapidly changing society, and the fine line between the characters they play onstage and off".[3]


The film has been nominated for the following awards since its release:

1999 Cannes Film Festival

Competed at the Un Certain Regard section

1999 AFI Fest (United States)
1999 Istanbul International Film Festival
1999 Mumbai International Film Festival[4]
47th National Film Awards[5]
1999 Kerala State Film Awards
1999 Filmfare Awards South
Other awards


Vanaprastham (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
Released1 October 1999 (1999-10-01) (Europe)
LabelUniversal Music France
ProducerZakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain chronology
Vanaprastham (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Mystic Masseur

The music for the film was composed by Zakir Hussain. The soundtrack album was distributed by Universal Music France, it was released on 1 October 1999 in Europe.[6][7]

Vanaprastham (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
7."Dark Melody"4:27
8."Subhadra 2"7:18
9."Taal Mantra"4:32
Total length:41:00


Vanaprastham was the first Indian film made in Panavision format.[8] Mohanlal's performance in the film is often regarded by critics as one of the best performances in his career.[9] Vanaprastham was Karun's third directorial after Piravi (1989) and Swaham (1994) and it was the third time his film getting selection at the Cannes Film Festival.[10] After the screening of the film, the Government of France conferred him with the title Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Chevalier); Karun responded that "I think they gave me the award because all three of my films were premiered at Cannes - a very rare honour".[11] Impressed with his work in Vanaprastham, A. Sreekar Prasad was hired by Mani Ratnam for editing Alaipayuthey (their first collaboration), who later becomes his regular editor.[12] In 2005, Mohanlal listed Vanaprastham in his list of top ten best Indian films of all time.[13] In 2013, in an online poll conducted by CNN-IBN on their website as part of the 100 years celebration of Indian cinema, Vanaprastham came ninth in the poll for finding the "greatest Indian film ever".[14][15] In 2016, on the occasion of India celebrating its 70th Independence day, news agency NDTV compiled a list called "70 Years, 70 Great Films" and Vanaprastham was among the four Malayalam films that found place in the list.[16]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Vanaprastham". 1999. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  2. ^ "45th International Film Festival of Goa" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  3. ^ Levy, Emanuel (21 May 1999). "The Last Dance". Variety. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Festival awards 2000". Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  5. ^ Variety staff (11 July 2000). "Film faves win kudos". Variety. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Vanaprastham - Zakir Hussain". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Vanaprastham: Last Dance". 29 February 2000. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  8. ^ Warrier, Shobha (11 March 1999). "Payback time!". Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  9. ^ Jeshi, K. (4 March 2011). "A passion for pain". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  10. ^ Warrier, Shobha (16 June 1999). "Hat-trick!". Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  11. ^ Taliculam, Sharmila; Warrier, Shobha (22 August 2000). "'Indians go abroad to watch Indian films!". Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  12. ^ Ramnath, Nandini (25 September 2018). "The man in the middle: How acclaimed film editor Sreekar Prasad has stood out while blending in". Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  13. ^ Warrier, Shobha (7 June 2005). "India's Best Films: Mohanlal". Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  14. ^ "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever: IBNLive poll". CNN-IBN. 12 May 2013. Archived from the original on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  15. ^ "IBNLive Poll: Vote for India's greatest film of all time". CNN-IBN. 26 April 2013. Archived from the original on 15 November 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Happy Independence Day: 70 Years, 70 Great Films". NDTV. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2020.

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