Eklavya The Royal Guard Hindi Movie
Vidhu Vinod Chopra always longed to make a film with Amitabh Bachchan and Eklavya was the outcome. But so smitten was Chopra with extracting the best from Bachchan that he quite overlooked other talents in the cast who gave their career best performances in his films – Sanjay Dutt (Munnabhai), Jackie Shroff (Parinda), Saif Ali Khan (Parineeta) and Vidya Balan (Parineeta). No, none of them are anything below good in the film but you had expected the best with all of them coming together.
Eklavya is designed as a thriller but comes out more as a drama. Chopra derives the age-old 'property inheritor' formula (the jaydaad ki ladaai) and smoothly camouflages it with a royal backdrop and dharma (duty) driven principles from Mahabharat. Eklavya is symbolic to a character of the same name from Mahabharat who cut off his thumb just to repay his teacher. With his interpretation of Eklavya, Chopra raises the question that like Eklavya should one follow dead traditions with changing times in the modern world.
Jaywardhan (Boman Irani) is the king of a royal dynasty. His brother Jyotiwardhan (Jackie Shroff) and nephew Udaywardhan (Jimmy Shergill) want to inherit the property that the king possesses. The king's son Harshwardhan (Saif Ali Khan) who has stayed all this while in London is the next heir and so the target. So basically all the wardhans are involved in a 'war' for 'dhan'. Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan) who happens to be the royal guard of the dynasty comes to Harshwardhan's rescue. But Eklavya has more reasons to support Harshwardhan...
The problem with Eklavya is that the royal secret that the guard wants to safely protect from the world is unveiled to the audiences in the opening reels itself. So there is not much of suspense left in the thriller. The thrill resurfaces only in the climax with a twist in the tale. The film offers what you expect but doesn't exceed your expectation or imagination.
Technically the film is brilliant with splendid camerawork by Binod Pradhan, fabulous art design by Nitin Desai and authentic costume designs by Raghvendra Rathore that recreates the royal Rajasthan aura. The pace is slow. Thankfully there is only one romantic track (between Saif-Vidya) and one song in the film. The film is crisply edited to a runtime of just around 100 minutes. The background score comprising of gayatri mantra is effective but tends to get repetitive after a point of time.
The conventional ends in the story are concealed with some impressively written and elegantly executed sequences in the screenplay. Especially three scenes in the film are its highlights. First is when Amitabh displays his traditional sword artistry in the water tank. Second is Jimmy Shergill's assassination where the screen completely black outs for literally two minutes but stills holds your attention for every single second. And the third one is the train sequence in the climax involving Jackie Shroff. The culmination of the plot where Eklavya bends the bygone laws is also smartly executed.
Eklavya essentially was designed for Amitabh Bachchan and he undoubtedly will walk away with all the accolades. In the first half of the film he just stands behind every character in the frame saying nothing. But your eyes are still focused on him – that's his screen presence. And his eyes with all the wrinkles beneath speak volumes. Check him out in that one scene where he cries when he fails in his duty and you know what acting is all about.
Unfortunately while everyone else in the cast is good enough, none of them rise above the script. Saif comes closest to Bachchan with his chiseled act. The supremely talented Boman Irani comes next who is just perfect with the mannerisms for his character. Jackie, Jimmy, Vidya and Raima are fairly good in their extended special appearances (well, one can't complain on the screen footage either with the crisp-n-crunch film runtime). Sadly Sanjay Dutt is wasted.
Eklavya is a good film. But we were expecti
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