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It's always fun making it to the first screening of a new film on the
very day it opens. My film-crazy friends and I habitually did this in
our college days. Long years later, the thrill has not worn off. This
time, the film I lined up to watch at its first screening in town is
"Eklavya The Royal Bodyguard". Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the filmmaker who,
in the capacity of either director or producer, gave us "Parinda",
"Mission Kashmir", "Parineeta", and the two wonderful Munna Bhai
movies, was unveiling his new directorial effort, and I was eager to
see what lay in store.
"Eklavya" boasts a huge cast of eminent actors; how their services would be utilized has piqued my curiosity for some time. The glittering line-up features Amitabh Bachchan in the title role, along with Chopra regulars Saif Ali Khan, Sunjay Dutt, the exquisite Vidya Balan, Boman Irani, Parikshat Sahni, Jackie Shroff, Jimmy Sher Gill, Raima Sen, and an elegant cameo by Sharmila Tagore.
The film opens with the unmistakable voice of Amitabh Bachchan narrating the legend of Eklavya from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Eklavya, a child of undistinguished antecedents yearns to study archery under the tutelage of Dronacharya, the instructor of kings. Contemptuous of his low birth, Dronacharya refuses to accept Eklavya as a student. Undeterred, Eklavya builds a clay effigy of Dronacharya and ceaselessly practices archery before it. Soon after, Dronacharya is taken aback by Eklavya's proficiency, which has outstripped that of his princely pupils. As it wouldn't do for this commoner's skills to rival those of the royalty, the crafty Dronacharya demands a "dakshina" or teacher's fee from Eklavya. Whatever you wish, the devoted lad replies. Your right thumb--that is what I want as my "dakshina", commands Dronacharya. Without hesitation, Eklavya slices off the thumb, knowing full well it would end his prowess in archery. The story is meant to illustrate the notion of "dharma" or the fulfillment of one's sacred duty in any circumstance, regardless of cost. Off screen, the child to whom Amitabh recounts the story protests this outcome, and his shrill tones are the voice of reason.
Amitabh, like his dutiful namesake Eklavya, is the loyal manservant and bodyguard of a line of minor royalty in Rajasthan. Despite the family's tyrannical ways, he unswervingly stands by them. The film unfolds in the present, but this particular royal family still resides in a fog of past glory, entitlement, and unquestioned power. Their continuing nastiness has made the natives restless, and the worm is about to turn.
The Queen Mother's (Sharmila Tagore) deathbed revelation sets the somewhat baroque, overwrought plot in motion. The heir apparent (Saif Ali Khan), who had earlier fled the principality in disgust at the profligate ways of his relatives, is summoned home for her funeral. Before breathing her last, the Queen pens a letter to her son spilling the proverbial beans. This confession causes a domino effect of cross and double cross, intrigue and counter-intrigue.
The film has the look and feel of a stately epic, but Vidhu Vinod Chopra is not interested in the luxuriant pace associated with epics. There is a business-like economy in his approach. There is no waxing philosophical about the misdeeds that have brought this family to its present ugly impasse. He appears to say that was then, in the past, there's no time for that; let's simply watch how their karmic debts are collected now. Voice-overs and numerous brisk flashbacks provide just enough expository detail to follow the events unfolding in the present. The pace is breathless, as though generations of past injustices can wait no longer for expiation. Every now and then, there is a moment of stillness, which one wishes would be held a few seconds longer for the mood to be savored. An effective scene on the palace ramparts is reminiscent of the ghostly visitation in "Hamlet", and the wraith, despite no lines to declaim, has similar impact.
Amitabh Bachchan's magisterial performance as a man programmed for blind duty, having to suddenly distinguish between obligation and reason transcends the silliness of the plot. Saif Ali Khan impresses yet again; there is maturity and depth in his performance as the conflicted prince with the populist conscience. Unlike "Parineeta", Vidya Balan doesn't have a whole lot to do here, but is dignified and graceful in her few scenes as the commoner in love with a prince. Boman Irani, an actor of sweeping range and intelligence, is a hoot with his hissy fits and sloe-eyed ambiguity, while Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Sher Gill, as the wicked uncle and cousin, handle the villainy with lip-smacking gusto. Sunjay Dutt, fresh off his Munnabhai success, is a welcome presence as the investigating police officer with little patience for the anachronisms of fiefdoms and effete royalty. What a pleasure it is to see Sharmila Tagore, who retains her looks and glamor despite the passage of the years.
"Eklavya" displays a most un-Indian efficiency (in film-making terms, at least) and speed (a mere 105 minutes) in telling its tale that had me longing for a little more of some of the characters. It would be interesting to see just how much of the film was left on the editing room floor perhaps the DVD will have the deleted scenes. Music is used appropriately: there is a lone song, of which only a judicious snatch is used on screen. The cinematography makes full use of the gorgeous Rajasthani terrain, with its pitiless crags and sun-scorched sands. Clearly, Vidhu Vinod Chopra has an eye on international audiences for his film, and glowing endorsements from the likes of Ralph Fiennes enhance his chances. Here's to you, Mr. Chopra, and more power to you.
Eklavya is a lesson in movie making. It shows you how a bad screenplay
can rip apart what could have been a gem.
The flaws are way too elementary and can not be covered by the good performances from Amitabh and Saif and some eye catching cinematography. Too much time wasted on Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Shergil (why were the characters required at all in the script, can some one explain please). Too many clichéd romantic moments between Saif and Vidya Balan, who sleepwalks through her "doormat" character. The dialogues in the second half of the film make you wonder if the writer got tired with the eloquence of the first half and copied the lines from a Lost and Found drama of the eighties.
IMHO, more energy could have been spent on Sharmila's character and Amitabhs relation with her; or his relation with the characters played by Saif and Boman Irani for that matter. Maybe that would have given more grip to the story line which, truth be told, did not justify a full feature.
Eklavya is definitely not the worst that we have seen from Mr Vinod Chopra (remember Kareeb?...well, no one does) but he should still stick to producing movies. There must be better ways of spending the money Munna Bhai series is making him
Vidhu Vinod Chopra has always been the master stylist...repertoire is
full of cinematic brilliance...whether it was Parinda where he
showcased a underworld gangster with haunting memories...or 1947 a love
story..a power house packed romantic film in the backdrop of Quit India
movement...or it was Mission Kashmir where estranged son and father
fought and valley burnt in their anguish...his narration has always
been packed with a grip, sheer brilliance of dialog delivery, daunting
back score music and use of lights and camera angles which reminds you
of Guru Dutt's work...no doubt Vidhu has his traits in all his protégé,
be it Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Hirani or Pardeep Sarkar... so when one
hears it took him five years to pen the screenplay of Eklavya, the
expectations had to be high.
But then Eklavya is no disappointment. a failing dynasty with frail rulers, a secret seeded deep in heart, and dilapidated royal guard trying to keep secret intact. There is heresy, treachery, pain, unrequited love all wrapped beautifully in four walls of a grandiose palace (..Heard its Maharani Gayatri Devi's. Palace).... shimmering chandeliers, royal swords, candle lit harem's...they are mesmerizing...and so are the actors who have slipped into their characters as if they are living them from ages.. Mr. Bachchan is powerhouse at its best...Saif is yet again reserved but impact full...Jackie and Jimmy are at their evil best. It's amazing to see Balan making her presence felt among all stalwarts. So does Raima impress. Sanjay is flawless in his rustic, vindictive demeanor. But its Boman with niceties of queen, which make you realize, he is one hell of an actor.
The narration is what makes it impeccably, nicely told, not a scene out of context. Good camera work during panoramic view of palace. The use of special effects adds gravity to story. It's another brilliance from master stylist and best story narrator in film industry.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the surface, the idea behind Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Eklavya may seem
terribly anachronistic. After all who talks about the outmoded concept
of Dharma in this time and age? But that's precisely the point. The
philosophy of Dharma is as relevant today as it was during the time of
the mythical Eklavya. Only, its definition has changed. Through
Eklavya, Vidhu Vinod Chopra tries to debunk the belief that Dharma is
all about following the path of righteousness as defined by tradition;
rather, he endorses the view that righteousness is not an absolute
concept but has to be rooted in reason - Dharmah Matibhyah Utgritah.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra takes the idea from well known tale from the Mahabharata, gives it a distinctly Shakesperean flavour, and comes up with a fascinating multi-layered saga of duty, honour, loyalty and deceit - and above all, the true meaning of Dharma. He takes a potentially melodramatic content and presents it in a largely undramatic style. Well....that's not entirely true. Let me put it this way, he deliberately makes his actors be less theatrical so that the he can create drama through other means - music, camera, visuals, etc. At times he completely goes against popular conventions. Scenes that one would expect to be dramatic are laid out subtly, whereas melodrama finds centre stage in scenes that would otherwise be routine scenes. That's the most interesting part about Eklavya.
The protagonist, Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan) is a man of unmistakable honour. He is a 'royal guard' who would do anything to protect his royal masters because that's his Dharma. He would sacrifice his emotions to guard a royal secret because that's his Dharma. In that respect, he is in some sort of a time warp - the world around him has moved on but he still lives by what tradition dictates. This contrast is brilliantly depicted in the film by the character of Pannalal Chauhar (Sanjay Dutt) - an untouchable who questions the traditions because in today's time he probably has more 'power' than the royal family and thus demands respect that his ancestors never got.
The beauty of Eklavya does not lie in its theme, rather it's the director's vision and actors' sincerity that make it stand out. The theme demands the visual opulence that Vidhu Vinod Chopra lends it, every frame of the movie being visually perfect. But it's not that either. The director pushes the envelope here and conjures some brilliant, sometimes even surrealistic and abstruse, imagery. Forget the travesty called Kareeb, with Eklavya Vidhu Vinod Chopra gets back his groove. Remember his first film, a documentary called An Encounter with Faces, was nominated for an Oscar (I don't think many people even know this fact).
It's clearly not the director's intention to make a crowd-pleasing film. His desire to do something out of the ordinary is evident all through the film, but he is particularly audacious when he chooses to blank out the screen completely for a full 90 second. Imagine watching an extremely 'visual' film in a dark theatre and the screen going completely blank for such a long time! The director pulls it off so well that this scene becomes the film's highpoint.
I have one problem with the film though. The ending seems to belong to an entirely different film. There's no place for a neat, crowd-pleasing wrap-up ending in this dark and grim tale. Why the director should succumb to pleasing the audiences in the last 5 minutes of the film, when he has defiantly stood against it in first 100 - I just don't understand. My other problem is that they're promoting the film as an "edge-of-the-seat dramatic action thriller" which is like doing gross injustice to this gem of a film - 'dramatic' is probably the only word in this phrase that applies to Eklavya. If people walk into the theatres expecting an action thriller, they'll be disappointed big time.
Eklavya is marked by some great performances. Amitabh Bachchan in the title roles comes up with a really Rolls Royce deserving performance. His character demands reticence, but he uses his expressive eyes so effectively that he's able to convey what even pages and pages of dialogue would fail to do. Saif Ali Khan seems to get better with each film, and has learnt the art of subtlety and underplaying for dramatic effect. In this film he is effectively restrained, even in the scene when the real twist in the tale comes in. If your attention flags even for a moment, you would miss the revelation because the drama is contained and there are no high-voltage theatrics here. That, in my opinion, is as much a credit to Saif Ali Khan's performance as it is to the director's conceptualization of the scene.
All through its 107 minutes, Eklavya kept reminding me of Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara and Maqbool because of its Shakesperean quality. Any comparisons would be fallacious, for Chopra and Bhardwaj are two very different directors, with very different sensibilities. Vishal's approach is earthy and raw, while Vidhu Vinod Chopra goes for more polish and bigger scale. But they have one thing in common - whatever they serve is delicious and hugely satisfying!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having heard all the rumours surrounding 'Eklavya' and reading the
reviews, I was quite curious about it. Most friend told me that the
film is visually stunning but the screenplay is what lets it down.
Somehow I too feel the same. I did find the plot interesting in parts
(with some clever twists) and the mystery was well-built but it does
drag at some point (even though it's about 105 minutes) while other
scenes could have been more effective had they been given more time.
The songs should have been better left out (even though there were only
very few). The ending is hugely disappointing and I just don't feel a
happy ending was suitable for such a dark film.
On the positive side, the film is visually beautiful to watch. It is technically well-made. The cinematography and art direction are remarkable and special effects are impressive. Most sequences have been wonderfully shot. The interiors of the palace and Rajasthan look great. Having seen '1942, A Love Story', 'Mission Kashmir' and 'Parinda', I never thought of Chopra as one of the greatest directors and 'Eklavya' doesn't make any difference either but he deserves credit for handling a few sequences very well e.g. Udaywardhan's murder scene.
Amitabh Bachchan in the title role is mostly disappointing. He carries the same facial expression throughout the whole film. He's the only one with a fleshed out role while the rest of the cast (some talented names) don't really have much to do. Saif Ali Khan is alright too. This isn't among his finest performances but what more could an actor do with a not-so-well written role? Jimmy Shergill stands out in a tiny role. Ditto for Jackie Shroff. Boman Irani goes over the top in a few scenes but is otherwise pretty good. Sharmila Tagore and Sanjay Dutt are wasted. Vidya Balan does well with a badly written role. Raima Sen does well.
'Eklavya' mainly fails because of the screenplay that could have been very engaging if Chopra had given it more focus rather than try to make it appeal to the audience by limiting it to 100 minutes or giving it a happy ending. This just proves that story should come first especially for films like 'Eklavya' which is plot driven (and to an extent character driven). This film also proves that putting some great shots together doesn't necessarily make a good film. Do I think this movie deserves to go to the Oscars? Certainly not.
VV Chopra takes on the director's baton after 7 years and unleashes a
treat for your senses... your visual senses in particular. Eklavya is
nothing less than poetry on celluloid. It's still a wonder why VV
Chopra took so long to go behind the camera again, when he can produce
such a masterstroke so effortlessly, so effectively.
Technically the film scores in almost all departments. Stunning cinematography is the highest point of the film after Chopra's direction of course. Visually the movie is so delightful with vivid colors of Rajasthan splashed all over the screen. The forts never looked so beautiful, so alive. You can actually feel the royal feel of the film in the costumes, art direction and the whole setup. There is an aura of class all over.
Director is able to extract solid performances from everyone in the cast. Amitabh, as expected excels once again in the title role. Sharmila Tagore could have been used better. Sanjay Dutt, the most enjoyable character, should have been given some more screen presence.
But the biggest drawback of Eklavya is in the most important part. The story. Despite being a rather short film, with only about 120 minutes of running time, the film seems dragging. The second half in particular is slow paced. You might start loosing interest by the end of 1st half itself. If it was not the brilliance in direction, you might even give leaving in the interval a thought. Even the Parineeta chemistry between Saif and Vidya Balan seems to be lost this time.
If only the script had been a bit stronger, a bit more gripping, we easily had a winner in hand. Eklavya is not a looser anyway.
Welcome back Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the director. Don't make us wait so long again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think Amitabh Bachchan's performance was a thing of brilliance,
definitely up there with his best work. The story takes no time in
getting going, throwing you right into the plot from the very
beginning. The movie never drags, and while there are plenty of
characters, almost all of them get their appropriate time to bring to
light their true personalities (would have like to have seen more of
Saif Ali Khan is really coming into his own as an actor, and I might need to be hit for saying this so late. With Omkara, Being Cyrus and now this, he has moved himself into the premier circle of Bollywood actors. And if someone could resonate warmth on screen the way Vidya Balan does, I would like to see it, as she is magnificent once again.
I really cannot take much away from this movie at all, as it presents a very serious, fast-paced drama, and finishes off with just the right amount of humor. Bravo!
The movie has excellent star casting. first time ever i have liked an
Indian movie and i am confused to decide whether which character in the
movie was played well. its not that there is no other Indian movie that
has been created well, but watching Eklavya was just a different
experience. while you are watching " Eklavya" , you feel no matter how
many other movie this actors have done for v.v.c. before, they act
completely different. in other words all of the character reminds you
that they have a new and better ways of expressing the dialogues of the
script. the is not too lengthy. and yet it wont seem like there is any
Every actor in EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD stands out for terrific portrayal. Sanjay Dutt has a brief role, but he's fantastic all through.Vidya Balan is superb yet again. There's no stopping this actress! Boman Irani is first-rate in a negative role. Watch him interact with Sharmila Tagore in the very first scene and with Jackie subsequently to know the range of this gifted actor. Jimmy Shergill introduces you to a hitherto unknown facet of his talent. He excels in a negative role. Jackie Shroff gets a meaty role yet again in a Vidhu Vinod Chopra film. He's wonderful. Raima Sen leaves a mark in a significant role. Sharmila Tagore exudes class in a cameo. Parikshit Sahni is efficient.
EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD is an opulent film, with a gargantuan cast, gripping story seeped in Indian emotions and values, striking visuals and topnotch making as its trump cards. Without a shred of doubt, it's one of the finest products to come out of the Hindi film industry.
A lot of critics recommended Eklavya if you liked Guru or Omkara. But I
didn't like them at all and I rented Eklavya because there was no other
film that looks good to watch. I thought that it would just turn out to
be another disposable movie but it didn't.
The film had an amazing story told in a very neat way about a royal guard of a rich family who is also like a family member and is going to avenge the murder of his master. It had an excellent blend of emotional drama & thriller; the most emotional scene was when Eklavya met Saif Ali Khan for the first time.
The best scene of the whole film was when Eklavya was blindfolded and threw his knife at a flying dove with a bell tied to its foot and managed to cut off the bell without hurting the dove, later he caught the bell before it fell into the water. Also shows that he has poor eyesight but has really good hearing.
The casting was great and Amitabh Bachchan is simply the No 1 in Bollywood, he was the best throughout the whole film and he never fails to impress. Running length is small but it was better that way because it's like a story telling film that starts to get boring after 2 hours but it was 1 hour 40 minutes, which was better. Unlike Guru which was 2.5 hours and could of been cut down to half.
Overall it is an absolute beautiful film and a must see. Although it was flopped at box office but was critically acclaimed and might be nominated for an Oscar because it certainly does deserves it. I couldn't see a single mistake in the film also it doesn't have a single useless scene and the ending was perfect. There was only 1 song "Chanda Re" which was a very nice, light and heartfelt song.
Is it me or has Bollywood really stepped up to a new level these past
two years. Performances, locations, directors, make-up and art
direction are entering new heights of excellence. While this movie is
not perfect, Kudos to Vinod Chopra and his production team in providing
the cinema going public with a classy movie. Great locations, great
back ground music and powerhouse yet subtle, nuanced performances make
this a great watch in the cinema.
Bollywood actors seemed to have learned how to underplay and downplay the usual melodrama to give performances that leave a lasting impact. The Big B does not really have much dialogue but his protective and watchful presence can be felt throughout the movie even when he is not in the scene. Now for the Vinot Chopra regulars - After a good performance in the disappointing salaam namaste, saif has been cranking out great performance after performance ( being cyrus, omkara) and Eklavya is no different. He really holds his own against the big B. The supporting cast are all wonderful - Boman Irani was powerful, Jackie had a strong menacing role which was ably suppported by Jimmy Shergill, Vidya Balan mesmerizing as always. Raima Sen and Sharmila Tagore were effective and of course the always excellent Sanjay Dutt in a small role that lightens the mood somewhat.
Yes the movie does have a huge star cast but in my opinion the true stars of this movie are the director Mr. VV chopra and the astounding palace/fort location used for the film shoot.
This movie can be considered a novelty in Bollywood and I feel it deserves to be watched. It looks as if Yash Raj films, VC films and to a small extent RGV films seem to be at the forefront of Bollywood film making in terms of excellence, profitability and risk taking.
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