Eklavya—the Review

42 Comments

There is only one positive in Eklavya (picture left from its Imax launch).

No, not the “Eklavya dilemma”, central to its theme. That incidentally has about as much depth as a grocery-store self-help book parable.

Not the performance of its ensemble cast, which is often uneven.

Not the bleedingly beautiful visuals which try to pack so much artistry and symbolism into each shot that technique often suffuses the narrative.

No not even the intense Amitabh Bachchan who got a Rolls Royce for this role.

What makes Eklavya refreshingly original is that after an eternity of waiting, we finally get to see a palace not filled up by ambiguously happy people leading idyllic lives and dancing in choreographed lock-step while doing Karva Chauth.

Instead we get to see their evil twins. We get to see family dementia. The patriarch isn’t kind and gentle Alok Nath hugging daughter and blessing son. No no. His mind, refreshingly, is full of hatred. He is, again unlike Alok Nath, also impotent. The matriarch dies within the first five minutes and no she does not leave any gajar ka halwa and mooli ki paratha for her brood.

Instead she leaves a letter to her son.

Does it say things like “Please get your father married to his old girl-friend.”? (remember “Kuch Kuch Hota Hain”).

Nope.

It says “Your real dad is the palace guard.”

The son does arrive in a helicopter (reminding us of “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam) but does not run straight into a group dance. There are no giggling “sahelis”, no backless cholis, no “chota chota kacha kacha nimbura” songs.

Phew.

Most importantly, after many years, the importance of the servant in the Indian feudal family has finally been recognized. For too long, the loyal servant character has been sideshifted to people like Laxmikant Berde and the other Ramu chacha types, even when they have often discharged vital roles (like getting the lovers together in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun”).

Not any more.

This time the loyal servant is Amitabh Bachchan and no he does not cook or clean or tease the nubile maids. He is the guard, who does some amazingly logic-defying stunts like tying a small ornament to the toes of a pigeon, blindfolding himself, throwing a dagger at the flying pigeon so that only the ornament thread is severed and then catching the falling ornament through his knowledge of the Jedi force [besides of course balancing a stick on his nose while sneezing (okay I made that one up)], faces ponderous moral dilemmas, does his “dharma” with aplomb and impregnates the queen in the line of duty, presumably also with his eyes closed.

Perfect.

Of course there is one big fly in the ointment for even this sole positive that I could extract.

That being how after studiously spending all that time creating an atmosphere of feudal atrophy and brooding despondency, Vidhu Vinod Chopra throws it all away in a last ten minutes of such sugar-solution-induced madness that even Sooraj Barjatiya would say “tut-tut” . Seriously, all that was missing was a “Dhiktana” song and a cricket match where the dog is the umpire.

Ah well…no use cribbing.

At least we have our thumbs.

Which I am, for Eklavya, keeping firmly down.

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42 thoughts on “Eklavya—the Review

  1. Need to be first commenter, so won’t say much. I didn’t think much of the film’s substance either – visuals were good, though. (Incidentally, Boman almost certainly had something going on with Jackie. And Raima Sen is looking quite hot.)

  2. That’s quite a brilliant last line 😀

    I have this instinctive wariness of costume drama type Bollywood outputs. The ‘atmosphere’ as they put it is more often than not so utterly claustophobic they choke the narrative completely. This is, of course, assuming there IS a narrative beyond the us happy–us fight–us make-up–us happy again structure.

    But then again, these days, what film is NOT a costume drama, given the most important aspect seems to be to doll up the stars?

  3. does his “dharma” with aplomb and impregnates the queen in the line of duty, presumably also with his eyes closed.

    Simply superb.

  4. Now which was that riproaring costume drama comedy of the ’60s starring a forgettable hero and heroine, but starred the comedic pair of Mehmood and Mumtaz?

  5. I suggest you review “Black Friday” sometime. In this film,even when the dharma guy avenges his Master’s death in a novel manner by throwing a knife in the dark, you can’t help thinking, he is the guy who messed up Boman’s life in the first place. However Big B with no such dharmic qualms, must be the only happy person, because the film helped him escape taxes on his Rolls Royce. (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main27.asp?filename=Ne240207Marquee_garage_PRO.asp)

  6. Well, I saw the movie and liked it despite its flaws. Its like a good software application with a few bugs; The movie has a good storyline, great camerawork, and good performances, and gud dialogues too… my rating – 6.5/10

  7. Heard that VVC took 5 years to write the story….such a waste of time…..and i am tired of seeing amitabh playing bechara look on his face…story continues in Nishabd…which infact left me Nishabd…..

  8. Breaking news! Eklabya has been declared tax free in all communist ruled states of India, for promoting the economically weaker section. Honest…

    Happy Holi, folks(-:

  9. While I dont completely agree with the critic (I think the performances are good, the camera work is quite distinctive and the cast well chosen); nevetheless can’t but appreciate your classic writing style – love it!

    @Srinivas

    I know its GB’s review of Black Friday that you want (agree with u that he shud review that movie) but just in case you are interested, I reviewed Black Friday here.
    (http://the-complete-man.blogspot.com/2007/02/black-friday.html)

  10. Eklayva was a big yawn. I just couldnt get it why each shot was panned in slow-motion sequence. And ultimately it was a 10 minute story streched to 100 infinite minutes.

    S

  11. i really liked the movie.
    and the interior shots of the palace looked so eery and dark. very nice. there was another aerial shot oh the palace, where you could see the paint coming off and had a very worn out look. i think that was great. the train/camel sequence was breath-taking. seriously.. to me at least.
    what i didn’t like in the movie, however, was vidya balan. not that i don’t like her work. but what really annoys me is when she’ll be talking and suddenly goes all coy and starts whispering. she does it in every scene! you want to punch her. aarghh.

  12. Din’t like it either…the movie had substance of a 30 min episode of some shitty soap opera….the killing should have been done earlier….

  13. The actual royal families have some juice-oozing scandals– I mean, the more the ‘ahem’ stuff, the more ancient the liniage.
    One piddly secret does not a movie make.
    The screen stuff falls far short of reality.

    Imagine the bahurani’s lover getting smuggled in the dicky of a car.
    Or the young rani of 18 getting besotted by the stepson(34)– the rajah was around 60-65.
    And the bands sinister and dexter that put such interesting twists in the family tree.
    And that niyog thing was is the natural way of AI (as they say in the veterinary circles).

    The trouble with us is that all this stuff has already been documented, more or less, in the Ramayana and the Mahabhatarata, making us quite shock-proof.

  14. I found the matriarch’s letter to her son funny, in which she says that “After all, the religion is that which seems right to the heart.”

    Ohh, how I am going to use that next time my mom starts cribbing about how me eating meat is against our religion. 🙂

  15. Ashish, I don’t think she says religion, she says dharma (=responsibility, duty ) Dharma is that which is born out of reason, [heart, mind…] which, I think, in and in itself is a great point…The movie had a great potential to be a masterpeice. The climax felt so rushed and unconvincing, that it looked like ‘dharma’ is born out of convinience.

  16. @ S Payne : Sharmila telling Saif that the palace guard is his real father… oh my!

    This left me thinking….. 🙂

    Tickling post GB. Not waiting for DVD now… Thanks saved me..

    Tarzan

  17. Is anyone tired of Amitabh? I am, for one. I have watched neither Eklavya nor Nishabh but I have been so disappointed with all the movies he has starred in recently that I doubt I’ll watch the two movies anytime soon. Amitabh was always larger than life (except in a few of his earlier movies) but the way he has been chewing up the scenary lately I’m extremely reluctant to watch his movies nowadays.

  18. Went for the movie to see Amitabh’s beard especially after hearing that VVC had to reject 45 beards to select the one in the movie . The beard is worth seeing unfortunately the movie is not . :). Kya Beard hein ? Awesome. Howcome GB missed out on the beard in the review? 😛

  19. I haven’t seen Missing Thumb but heard that it has some lines on Dalit empowerment by Sanjay Dutt, the kind never heard before in Hindi mainline cinema. Is that true? And is this why commies have gone batty and made this film tax free, as Bhopale informs?

  20. GB, please write something about APJ Abdul Kalam. Some slimy bastards, who do not allow comments on their blogs, are constantly writing stupid stuff about our president. Abe blogger: bhowk mat, kuchh karke dikha. desh ke liye nahi, to apne liye kar. Pah!

  21. mmmm, i chose to overlook the last 10 mins, and keep my thumbs up. I fell for the bleedingly beautiful shots 🙂
    And the 1 min or so in complete darkness is somthing of a first in hindi cinema, ain’t it?

  22. @Swati
    You are right! See the movie talks about the impregnataion by someone like a saint.[although it is revealed that the impregnation was by the guard]
    In Mahabharat, mothers of Pandu, Dhritarashtra and Vidur were impregnated by Valmiki.
    @Anonymous
    Agree. The movie could have been better, particularly the climax. It had a very unique plot that could have been better executed.

  23. @ Anonymous.

    She might have meant duty and responsibility, and isn’t that whats supposed to be religion? What a religion says, is supposed to be our duty and responsiblity, so when you say its the “dharma” of my heart, it basically means its the religion that my heart follows. Either ways it sounded funny because she justified her act by saying it felt like her duty to her heart. And which Saif uses as a reason too for killing his “dad” as it felt like a duty to his heart.
    So long story short, what I meant was I will tell my mom that it feels like a duty (dharma) for my heart to eat the meat. 🙂

  24. About the last 10 minutes of absolute drivel in the movie. I remember reading Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City’ (This is the chappie who wrote the script for Mission Kashmir). In the book he says that, apparantly, Vinod Chopra believes that the last 5-10 minutes in any Indian theatre is pointless because the lights come on and people start getting up. Hence the ‘message’ if any, is lost!!
    Nice to know that Indian film makers are incorporating ‘Just in Time’ techniques in film production.

  25. Arnab, good post and nice way of ending it. All the dark scenes reminded me of the Arty movies which believed that the less people see the better the movie is (other than the pace ofcourse).

  26. Your assertion that Ekalavya (The Royal Stud) “impregnates the queen… presumably also with his eyes closed” makes perfect sense sabdabhedically albeit being premised on the generation of a sonic cue (even throbs qualify) that must help him zero in; we already know that ahata nadas (struck audible notes while Eyes Wide Shut) like shlokas do not qualify in this respect, then was it an anahata nada (unstruck sound wave, hence too ethereal to be captured) or just the banal censor boad that kept VC from capturing in motion-picture the conceptual moment of the film – what do you think?

  27. @The Graduate: Boman was very very “strange”.

    @Rimi: Incidentally the costume part was what VVC got right here.

    @Lumpen::-)

    @Shiva: Emm which?

    @Srinivas: I did a mini review a long time ago…in a post called “best movies of 2005”. Yes that was when I saw it and I loved it.

    @Vinay: Well taking the software analogy, all that Eklavya was was well-indented code. That’s it.

    @KillGore: 5 years ! Aah well if most PhDs had their theses filmed, people would say “5 years for that !”

    @Bhopale: Tax free in Bengal and Kerala? Wont help the movie at all.

    @Nikhil: Thank you

    @HoliDevil: Happy belated Holi.

    @Suyog: Because it was art.

    @Puneet: Multiple thumbs?

    @S.Pyne: Yes sir. This thought did occur to me during the movie. However I let it pass in the review lest I be accused of …various things. But glad that you mentioned it 🙂

    @Sang.Froid: I agree that the camerawork was great..but alas the movie never once engaged me.

    @Aby: hmm

    @Abhishek: Honeymoon Travels…yes need to see it.

    @Gourav: Hmm

    @Swati: True.

    @Ashish: Some high-sounding stuff about “dharma” being a malleable concept.

    @Tarzan: 🙂

    @Sanjay: Or perhaps shoot them like deer

    @Soumya: True. The man has overexposed himself.

    @Nariyal Chutney: Yes that beard was good. I also felt that Boman’s beard was better.

    @Rani: Yes it has…and that angle is never really explored. We are told that Dalit’s heads used to be split open like coconuts in front of the palace as a good omen.

    @Hariprasad: Lets see.

    @Sudha: Yes possibly a first. 1 minute of total darkness. Of course for people who fell asleep inside 10 minutes, the period of darkness was more.

    @Gattu: 🙂

    @Arnie: Aaah so that explains the ending.

    @Asterix: One of the art movie cliches. And the whispered dialogues.

    @S Pyne: Maybe it was Nawab of Pataudi who had to step in to prevent it from being captured.

  28. nice review arnab .. the film is really worth watching .. but don’t u think that the ending was too commercial ? and that it should hv been different ?

  29. Hi GB,
    Picturisation of movie was excellent but surprise elements were quite obvious. I missed Jeevan and Prem Chopra(aka PhysioTheRapist) as Senapati and Mahamantri in Eklavya. Both of them could have taken film to Box Office success :).

  30. well… i feel the review has been done with quite accuracy… dont really knw y did VVC gifted a RR car to big B… was it some kinda tax reduction stunt??? And i am quite tired of Big B.. and the films he is doin these days.. reminds me of that stage of his career wen he did films like “BOOM” n all… !!

  31. Hi,

    Got to watch the film, don’t know if Suketu Mehta’s explanation of the film holds true but the film could have been way darker, and Saif should not have been given so little to act, when he has done a superb ‘Langda Tyagi’ in recent past. The last colour, pomp, show, accepting palace guard as father, give me a break. All this is for commercial reasons, wondering how this movie finally fared in the box office after all these compromises. Why couldn’t we have the future king killing the palace guard following his dharma as a king?

    One more thing that I sort of wanted to add to what that has already been said by others, did you guys notice how Sanjay Dutt relived his “Thanedaar” days, must have missed ‘Tamma Tamma’ and that ridiculous long hair of his.

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