Eklavya: The Royal Guard (Vidhu Vinod Chopra, 2007)
Sometimes, especially now that in this social-networking-centric age, and especially in the Bolly-blogosphere, we seem to discuss and analyse Bollywood movies to a ridiculous degree – before they have even hit theatres (let alone before I get to see them, MONTHS later on dvd) it’s nice to come to viewing a film with absolutely no expectations whatsoever.
Which is how I approached Eklavya. I cannot tell you what a refreshing experience it is to know nothing – NOTHING – about a film before viewing it. I didn’t know whether it had been received well on its release. I didn’t know what the story was, not even vaguely, because the only trailers I had seen were brief, and hinted at precisely zip. It was refreshing, because my mind was a blank slate, free of the external noise of conflicting opinions, met and unmet expectations, dizzying praise and damning criticism.
I don’t know, maybe that’s how everyone else always reviews things, but not me. Usually I know a lot about what I’m watching before I ever hit ‘play’. That can be intimidating.
All I knew was that it featured Big B with some scary looking facial hair, Vidya Balan and Saif Ali Khan, and (the reason I bought it in the first place) my pimping sad-eyed gangster movie boyfriend, Sanju Baba. AS A POLICEMAN. That, my friends, was enough to sell me on it.
And I loved it. Yet again, it appears I am swimming against the prevailing tide of popular opinion** because from what I can gather, Eklavya was something of a highly anticipated, yet ultimately disappointing film for a lot of people, coming as it did from a hugely esteemed producer/director and following the success of both Omkara and the Munna Bhai films. Plus the script allegedly took 5 years to write. Yeah...no pressure.
Set in a citadel in a hill station in Rajasthan, Eklavya: The Royal Guard tells the tragic tale of the royal family of Devigarh, and how the death of the Queen (Sharmila Tagore) and the revelation of a long kept family secret threaten to shatter the dynasty. (Okay – it’s quite a lot more deliciously scandalous than that, but I’m hardly gonna wreck the film for you am I?)
Charged with protecting the King (Boman Irani) and the Prince (Saif Ali Khan) is Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan), an aging Royal Guard whose eyesight is failing, and whose sense of duty to the Royal Family is unwavering. But with deception and conspiracy lurking in every corner of the citadel, can Eklavya fulfil his duty?
I LIKED IT AND HERE IS WHY:
This film is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous to look at. And clocking in at around 2 hours, is economical for a Bollywood film. If you can’t fit a full-length Bollywood film into your schedule, Eklavya is a good pick.
Honestly, sometimes it’s so easy to forget that Amitabh Bachchan is actually a super-megastar for a very good reason. He is absolutely HEARTBREAKING in this film. He says volumes with his eyes alone, and doesn’t ham it up, and it’s just hard to not be mesmerized by him.
I actually also really enjoyed Saifu’s performance in this film. It would be a tough ask, going up against some amazing actors (Sanju Baba, Boman Irani, Amitabh Bachchan…) but Saif is one of those actors who I always forget can actually really act, and act really well, when he’s in the right film. I am guilty of constantly underestimating the man.
Though it does veer a bit too much towards soap-opera melodrama near the end, for the most part, I love the meaty themes and kind of larger than life, epic Shakespearian feel to the whole film, even though it’s set in the present day. You can watch it for pure melodramatic soapy entertainment if you wish; or if you prefer substance, there’s deeper questions of ethics and relationships, honour, duty and dharma you can delve into. I like the psychological stuff.
** I seem to be swimming against the tide of popular opinion a lot these days. SIGH. Sometimes it can wear you down, you know, this reviewing thing. All I can offer is MY OPINION. An opinion, by definition, cannot be right or wrong. But you try telling that to the people who think that opinion = fact. FACT: an opinion does not and never will equal “fact”, not on this blog, and I think I’m pretty good at differentiating between the two. You can agree or disagree with my opinions, but our points of view are equally valid.