Eklavya : The Royal Guard

EklavyaL The Royal GuardEklavya has a great beginning. The first scene of the movie is probably the most powerful one. As Boman Irani recites a sonnet from Shakespeare to his dying wife, remembering the better moments of their courtship, one is mistaken for a moment about the present reality, and when the meaning of it crashes in with all its irony and cruelty, one doesn’t know whether to feel sad for Rani Ma (Sharmila Tagore) or for the Rana (Boman Irani, who is reminiscent of the kings in Shakespearean tragedies). However, this bitter irony of life soon takes a malicious turn and the movie takes off. The darker and gloomier foreground of the deathbed against the lighted backdrop sets the mood of the movie.

But as the movie progresses, the hints of a Shakespearean tragedy disappears. With such an original beginning (for an Indian movie), Chopra soon gives way to all sorts of cliches that we in the Bollywood specialize in. However, in one of his better performances yet, Amitabh manages to breath life into the character (and the movie) which seems to have been written with him in mind.

For example, when Amitabh stands in front of the chest in his room, we know instinctively that he is going to pull out that scarf Rani Sahiba had dropped a few scenes back. Then, since he wants to express his anguish over his failure, what better (and more cinematic) way to destroy a piece of cloth than burn it? But at the hands of Amitabh, this tedious and predictable scene (it should be borne in mind that the scene doesn’t make much sense in the first place unless we stretch the point) becomes one of the key scenes for his character.

Looking closely, however, we discover that the character of Eklavya has no real substance, and has to depend on the tried and tested formulas to get the point across. His character is well sketched, but lacks depth. Just like “Black,” the character works only because it is
Amitabh playing it.

Eklavya PosterIn comparison, Boman Irani’s character was much more real, and could have been made frightening in its helpless frustration and resignation. Looking at him one thinks that he is not much unlike Antonio Salieri, and lo! He whips out a plan for his ownAmadeus.

Jackie Shroff and Jimmi Shergil are more than adequate in their short roles. Raima Sen felt like a surprise discovery in this movie. She had some real acting talents after all!

Sanjay Dutt’s character of a dalit DSP is a stitch up job to hold the script together. He is completely miscast in the character, though he does a decent job. He has acted so seriously that it is hard not to like him.

saifvidyabalan.jpgVidya Balan looks as lovely as ever, and the fleeting moments of her romance with Saif Ali Khan remind us very strongly of “Parineeta.” One wonders why she made such an elaborate preparation (reading books on Rajasthan and other local researches! she mentioned them in an
interview) for such a short role that hardly required Rajasthani sensibilities (of which she showed none). She has been wasted in yet another movie.

(Note: I didn’t mean to imply that Vidya did badly in the movie by discussing how lovely she looks. It’s just that I am so smitten! She was her usual best in the movie, and one couldn’t have asked more.)

Saif just about holds his character. The problem is that the audience is asked to relate to the emotions of characters like the young Rana (Saif Ali Khan) with the briefest of introductions and the corniest of dialogues. Since the script did not allow for much character development, Chopra should have gone for the actions and mannerisms rather than the words. May be a bit longer movie would have been a good idea.

The brilliant cinematography and camera-work fail to hide the lack of a story as the movie fast progresses towards its predictable end. The director manages to keep the atmosphere intact till the very end, almost making the movie worth watching. But what the hell, one would be entirely justified for sitting through the movie just for the first ten fifteen minutes.

Chopra stops short of being gimmicky and tries to concentrate on the story once in a while, but the attempt (pressure?) to fit a commercial conclusion to the movie leaves an unsympathetic impression. The script could have been tighter without many of the sentimental false notes.
The commendable restraint in explaining plot details, however, was one bright point, except for the chemistry between Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh.

The background score and the sound tracks are competent, and they complement the movie well, sometimes touching a tender nerve, and sometimes depicting the acute agony of the characters.

Cast EklavyaIn spite of the appearance, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s “Eklavya” is not a murder mystery. It is not a love story, either. The way it ends does remind me of the Indian soap operas, but that would be an unkind comparison and the movie is good enough not to be dismissed that blandly.

All in all, Vidhu Vinod Chopra disappoints somewhat, though not probably as a director. The sheer originality behind the form of the movie stands out and puts it above the rest of the pack. With passage of time, I am sure this movie will be seen as an important commentary on Indian Cinema as a reflection of our growing consciousness about the technical aspects of movie-making in the frontier of our industry.

One of my problems with the movie was that I failed to relate to it. None of the issues or sentiments portrayed in the movie have any relevance to me, so I was pretty much detached from it all the while. However, some of the scenes were just terrific.

But the movie had a great start, and could be watched solely for the brilliant performance by Amitabh Bachan, not to mention the excellent cinematography. I give this movie a 2.5/5.

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Soumendra

Soumendra is someone else.
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2 Responses to Eklavya : The Royal Guard

  1. Neeraja says:

    Nice review but a little late (don’t you think so?)
    I watched Eklavya first day in theatre and was very disappointed. I totally agree with almost everything you said.
    It would be nice if indian directors would focus more on story and screenplay. Of course the movie was beautiful and the camera work was excellent but I would always prefer a not so beautifully shot movie with a great story treated with required sensitivity than a movie like Eklavya.

    Director could have avoided the last scene where Vidya Balan explains why she finally decided to marry Saif, Saif anounces that Eklavya is his father in front of the junta etc.
    “Vidya Balan looks as lovely as ever, and the fleeting moments of her romance with Saif Ali Khan remind us very strongly of Parineeta.” Well…she does look lovely but romantic moments in this movie were nowhere near those in Parineeta.

  2. Soumendra says:

    Actually, the review was written much earlier, but you know us!

    I agree with you that interesting storey-telling is mostly absent from Indian movies unless it is being lifted from hollywood. The few exceptions I can remember are “Dil Chahta Hai,” “Omkara,” “Munnabhai … !”

    Commercialisation ate up this movie.

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