About the dharma of Eklavya

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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.

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Talath Mahmood: King of gazals

Talat sketch

One of my lecturers used to say that the soul of vintage music can only be felt when you close your eyes while listening to it; as melody doesn’t require any celluloid visuals to prove its worth. You will realise this when you listen to the songs of Talat Mahmood. His songs can create a new world inside you. As you listen to his songs, the melodious voice takes you into a magical world, where you get to see different people with different emotions. You may see an emotionally wounded lover, a teenage fun loving guy, a depressed drunkard, a painter or a romantic prince.The voice of Talat Mahmood is very unique for the fact that it gently grows inside you. I think no other singer can sing light romantic songs, sad songs and gazals the way Talat saab did. His expressive style and emotional nuances are hardly found in any other singer.

‘bechain nazar betaab jigar, ye dil hai kisi ka diwana haye diwana’

This light romantic song says the feelings of a lover boy with utter simplicity and Talat conveys the lyrics in much more simple way yet touching our hearts. There are hundreds of such master peices sung by Talat.

‘mera qaraar le jaa mujhe beqaraar karjaa dam bhar tho pyaar kar jaa’

‘ye hawa ye raat ye chaandni’

‘ankhon me masthi sharaab ki kaali zulfo me aanhe shabaab ki’

and

‘mein dil hu ek armaan bharaa tu aake mujhe pehchaan zaraa’

Songs like these represent the same mood yet retaining its uniqueness. Talat has worked with many eminent music directors. Naushad, S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Shankar Jaikishan and O P Nayyar to name few of them.
I find a very strong relation between Talat saab’s songs and the beautiful evenings. His songs are enjoyed better in the evening. Perhaps, this is why he has sung many songs on the theme ‘shaam’.

‘shaam-e-gham ki kasam’

‘phir wohi shaam wohi gham wohi thanhaayi hai’

When it comes to Urdu lyrics, who else can sing the poetic lines of Ghalib – with that kind of passion – other than Talat Mahmood?

‘dil-e-naadaan tuje hua kya hai?’

I love the duets talat sang with Shamshad begam, Suraiyya, Lata Mangaeshkar, Asha Bhosale and Geeta Dutt. They are too melodious and will haunt you forever.

‘milte hi aankhe dil hua diwaana kisi ka’

‘mohabbath me eise zamaane bhi aaye’

‘samaa ke dil me hamaare zara khayaal rahe’

‘chaahe naina churaao chaahe daaman bachaao pyaar hoke rahega’

‘pyaar par bas to nahi hai’

‘itna na mujhse tu pyaar badaa’

I can’t think of any songs by other singers which can match up to the caliber of these romantic songs. Romantic songs come out very beautifully in the velvet voice of Talat.

talat - orchestra

The one genre of songs which Talat Mahmood was famous for was the sad songs.

‘hai sab se madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur me gaathe hai’

‘andhe jahaan ke andhe raasthe jaaye tho jaaye kahaan?’

‘aansu samajh ke kyo na mujhe aankh se tune gira diya’

‘ei dil mujhe eisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho’

‘ei game dil kya karu Ai vahshate dil kya karu’

‘ei mere dil kahi aur chal gham ki duniya se dil bhar gaya’

‘chal diya karvan lut gaye hum yahaan’

‘dekh li teri khudaayi bas mera dil bhar gaya’

He has sung folk-based songs also. I wonder the way he balances the variety of light romantic, folk and gazals and manages to carry the ‘trade mark of talat’. In urdu songs he emphasises the royal richness of zaban-e-urdu and in folk songs he maintains the utter simplicity of rural life.

‘chali kaun si des gujariyaa tu sajh dhaj ke’

‘jaa jaa re sub na jaa re kahee de sajanwa se’

Talat was born in Lucknow in 1924. He began his music career at the age of 16. Initially he used to sing gazals of Galib, Mir and Jigar for AIR. HMV was the first recording company to recognise his singing talent. HMV did the honours of bringing out his first gazal album. This made him a star and he was soon welcomed in Bombay film industry. His first few songs made him the king of film romantic songs and rest is a history as we know today. He passed away in 1998. But his songs and his memories will be always cherished by his fans all over the world.