September 6, 2007

Eklavya- utterly beautiful

Title: Eklavya- The Royal Guard
Year: 2007
Cast: Amitabh Bacchan, Sunjay Dutt, Vidya Balan, Jackie Shroff, Jimmy Shergill, Saif Ali Khan, Raima Sen, Boman Irani.

I like movies by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. His first movie as a director was the 1985 thriller Khamosh, and from that to the latest crowd pleaser Munna Bhai- each one shares one commonality: great cinematography. And Eklavya is no exception. Despite a relatively short running time of 105 minutes (for a Indian movie this is super short), the movies progresses with grace and languor against a heart-stopping Rajasthani backdrop.

Rana Jaywardhan (Boman Irani) rules over a tiny estate in some picturesque part of Rajasthan. The movie opens with him at the bedside of his ailing queen, Rani Suhasinidevi (Sharmila Tagore).

The queen keeps calling for "Eklavya" (Amitabh Bacchan) in her near unconcious state- which infuriates the Rana to the point of strangling her in her bed, right before the eyes of his mentally challenged daughter, Princess Nandini (Raima Sen).

Now that the queen is dead, he finally calls Eklavya, taking care to mention that the queen did not call for anyone as she died, except her son. Eklavya is sent off to prepare for the queen's funeral. We also find out that Eklavya's family has served for generations as the royal guard to the Ranas. Now old and almost blind, he remains completely devoted to Rana Jaya and his family as he knows no better.

Jayawardhan prepares for the queen's last rites, and shares the reason for murdering her with his brother Rana Jyotiwardhan (Jackie Shroff ) and nephew Rana Udaywardhan (Jimmy Shergill)- [btw both men look amazingly hot in the movie]- years ago, unknown to the Rana, his mom had asked the queen to sleep with Eklavya and produce the heir to the throne, since the Rana himself had meen declared impotent by the doctors. The twins born to the queen were of course Nandini and Rana Harshwardhan (Saif Ali Khan).

The queen's muttering of Eklavya's name on her death bead had confirmed the suspicions Jayawardhan had always harbored, and now his only goal is Eklavya's death, which he wants Jyoti and Uday to arrange.

While Uday and Jyoti set about planning their task at hand, the queen's last rites are completed. The Prince, Rana Harshwardhan (Saif) arrives soon after. He is eager to meet Rajjo (Vidya Balan), who was his playmate in childhood.
Rajjo is the daughter of the family chauffeur, and now serves as a companion to the mentally challenged Nandini.

Harsh is reallly happy to see Nandini, who lets slip their father's murder of their mother...

Meanwhile, Jaya, Jyoti and Uday have been busy spreading rumors that the local peasants are attempting to murder Jaya. The ever-faithful Eklavya is quick to act and calls in the local police, headed by the low-caste inspector Pannalal Chohar (Sanjay Dutt, doing a brilliant job here, honestly).

Meanwhile (repititive I know, but lots of behind-the-back type work is going on in this movie at all times) Uday and his dad Jyoti have the entire set-up in place- per Jaya's orders.

Jaya takes off with the chauffeur and Eklavya. In a deserted spot, the car is caught in a stampede of a herd of camel, staged by Uday and Jyoti. The chauffeur is shot to death, while the partly blind Eklavya is separated from Jaya. Jaya wants Jyoti to shoot Eklavya, with the idea being that the local farmers would later be blamed for the attack, and Jaya could pretend that his two servants died protecting him.

However, Jyoti turns the tables on Jaya by shooting him instead....

Jyoti and Uday take off, while Eklavya is left mourning his dead master...

Harsh remains unperturbed to hear of his father's murder, especially since he knows his dad had killed his mom. And we are tantalized by Saif looking suitably hot in his dhoti while performing the last rites...

The prince lets go of Eklavya's services, which the latter does not understand. What Eklavya does realize is that Uday was behind Jaya's murder, since he recognizes Uday's shoes (Uday had kicked him while separating him from the Rana, and Eklavya is able to see things clearly only if they are super close to him). He tells Chauhar, but the police can take no action since there is no evidence, and a part-blind man is a poor witness.

So Eklavya takes matters into his own hands, and goes and murders Uday. Then he terrorizes Jyoti to the point where he confesses that it was Harsh who had paid him extra to kill Jaya...

Here comes Eklavya's dilemma. Harsh is his son, a fact he has been quiet about all his life. Harsh is also his new master (or not so much, he has been kicked out after all). He decides to go ahead and confront Harsh anyways. When he does so, Harsh tell him he knows that Eklavya is his real father, and he had Jaya killed because not only did the latter murder his mom, but was also conspiring to kill Eklavya.

And thats really it. Harsh openly declares Eklavya to be his real dad, divides his property amongst the poor farmers, and Chauhar produces false evidence to save Eklavya from murder charges. and they lived happily ever after.

1- Beautiful visuals, as mentioned before. Lots of style.
2- Everyone is super sincere in the acting department. Jackie and Uday are dreamboats (also as mentioned before), but very convincing as scheming relatives as well. Sunjay Dutt has charisma dripping from his pores. Raima and Vidya are beautiful and believable.

1- I do not understand why Rajjo (Vidya) decides to stick around with Harsh (Saif) and marry him, despite knowing his planned murder of Jaya caused her Chauffeur father's death. Makes no sense- how can you live with someone who caused your dad to die? She says that she had no option- which is ridiculous- there is always an option.
2- The story is really simple, but still feels very languorous in places- perhaps better editing may have helped (?).
3- A lot of stress is put on the fact that though Eklavya is almost blind, he remains a wonderful marksman- that is neither here nor there. He does go ahead and kill Uday and Jyoti despite his blindness, and one wonders why a strapping young man like Uday dies like a dumb chicken by the hands of an old man.

It wasn't bad- definitely worth watching for the visuals.

No comments: