About the dharma of Eklavya


It is tad bit late to write about Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s movie Eklavya, Since it is one of the well made movies of the year, I thought I should express my views on it on my blog. Vidhu belongs to that category of directors who know the language of celluloid very well and can very ably transform human emotions into picture perfect frames. Cinematography has been at its peak in all of his movies. Whether it is Parinda, 1942 – A love story, Kareeb, Mission Kashmir or his latest offering Eklavya, camera steals the show. This holds true even for the Munnabhai series and Parineeta – the films produced by his production company.

Eklavya is a dramatic thriller telling the story of a royal guard Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan) whose family has been protecting the dynasty of Devigarh for the nine generations. Guarding the family of Rana Jayavardhan (Boman Irani) is the dharma of Eklavya; and his dharma is the matter of supreme importance for him. Prince Harshavardhan (Saif Ali Khan) returns from London to the kingdom when the Queen mother Suhasini Devi (Sharmila Tagore) dies. His sister Nandini (Raima Sen) and his childhood love Rajjo (Vidya Balan) are very happy to see him back. As the funeral rituals come to an end, Rajjo hands over a secret letter written by the late Queen to the prince which reveals a secret of the royal family. Through the letter the prince learns that, after his parents got married, the the king’s impotency has left the family with no heir. To pray for heir, the Queen had been to the Ganges for a yagna (the holy ritual). The prince who was born later was believed to be the god-gift of the yagna. But the truth was different. The prince learns from the letter that Eklavya was the real father of Prince Harshavardhan and it was kept under secrecy as per the yagna dharma. Eklavya and the Queen had taken oath to keep this truth between them forever. For Eklavya keeping this promise was dharma. For the queen, revealing the truth to prince was a way of following dharma, as she felt that the prince has the right to know his real father.

The story takes twists and turns when Rana, king’s brother Jyothiwardhan (Jackie Shroff) , and his nephew Udaywardhan (Jimmy Shergil) hatch a conspiracy. They plan a big conspiracy to murder the royal guard, but eventually this plan leads to the killings of Jyothiwardhan and Udaywardhan. With all the villains dead the focus of the story shifts towards the main theme of the film –  the relationships and the concept of dharma. When Eklavya learns that the murder of Rana was a planned act by the prince, he decides to do his duty; that is to kill the prince – his own son. The prince says it was his dharma to murder Rana and Dharma who he knows are the murderers of his father, the king. The prince says dharma is originated from ones mind, soul and heart; not from a rule of scripts.

The story mainly revolves around the relationship between Eklavya and the prince. The royal family, which has lost all its powers post independence, is left with only sobriquets and palace.  Pannalal Chohaar (Sanjay Dutt) resembles that downtrodden class who have been oppressed by the royal family in Rana’s regime and are using democracy to claim dignity, We also see them avenging the royal family for their inhuman acts. In spite of his hatred towards the Ranas, Chohaar has a great deal of respect for Eklavya. This character comes across as a very contemporary, unlike Rana who we see living in the glorious past.

It is wonderful to see how beautifully this film talks about dharma and at the same time presents itself as an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Vidhu has taken utmost care in the developing the story which has its roots in mythology and unfolds in a contemporary set-up. The charactor of Eklavya is endearing.Jyothiwardhan and his son resemble the characters of Shakespearean plays with their viciousness. Amitabh is excellent as the protagonist, Saif brings a rare firmness to the character. It is a welcome change to see him in a film like this..

The Cinematography by Nataraja Subramanian is excellent. The cinematographer of Parineeta has gone few steps further in this film to create a mesmerising world. Music by Shantanu Moitra is good as always, reminds you of the good old time when film music was melodious. Editing by Raviraju is very brisk and effecient. The skillful editing, the cinematography and well choreographed action sequences make some of the scenes highlights of the film.

Vidhu, who was once nominated for the Academy awards for his short film An Encounter with the Faces, has once again given a beautiful film. Watch out for this man, he could be the one who will take Indian films to the international market.