According to the Mahabharata, Eklavya was a loyal student who gave his thumb as gurudakshina to a Dronacharya, despite the fact that Dronacharya never mentored him. This much is sufficient to understand his loyalty and faith. This movie too showcases loyalty and faith of the main character Eklavya, aptly played by Big B who pledges his loyalty to the royal family even in contemporary times. This one and half hour movie captures our attention because of its technicalities and performances. The story line is very thin but its handled well by the director Vidhu Vinod Chopra who has given us Parinda, Khamosh, 1942-A Love Story, Kareeb, Mission Kashmir … to name a few. The execution of the plot is what captivates us and that’s where he has excelled as in his earlier movies.
Eklavya(Big B) is the guard of a royal family whose fort is in Devigarh somewhere in Rajasthan. His family has been protecting the fort and the family for centuries together. Even Eklavya has spent his entire life serving the family and the fort even in contemporary India. Prince Harshavardhan (Saif Ali Khan) has been in England unable to cope up with the age old customs and traditions followed at his place. He has to come back to India when his mother Rani Suhasinidevi (Sharmila Tagore) passes away after her illness and the king Rana Jayawardhan (Boman Irani) calls for his son. Only people who seem to be happy with the prince’s return to home are Ekalavya, the prince’s sister Nandini (Raima Sen) and his childhood friend Rajjo(Vidya Balan) who is also the daughter of a driver (played by Parikshit Sahani) at the palace. The king’s brother Rana Jyotiwardhan(Jackie Shroff) and his son (played by Jimmy Shergill) are unhappy with their treatment from the king and they would have planned to blemish the king’s name by their plotting against him. Then there is a low caste crude police officer Pannalal Chohar(Sanjay Dutt) who is assigned to investigate these plots and we get to know that Pannalal is a supporter of Eklavya.
With the prince’s return, some truths are disclosed about his birth when he gets to know that he and his sister are not Rana Jayavardhan’s children and also that Eklavya is their real father. These truths shatter the king’s mind he plots to kill Eklavya with his brother’s help. In a surprising turn of events towards the interval, Rana himself is killed even as Eklavya helplessly tries to save him but eventually fails due to problem of his photo sensitive eyes. What follows is Eklavya’s search for the real killers and the turmoil he faces when he gets to know the truth. Eklavya is torn between his loyalty towards the family and his sentiments (these are better watched than told….).
Big B as Eklavya excels as usual. Watching him on-screen is a big treat. Saif Ali Khan again proves that he is a good actor after his performance in Omkara. Vidya Balan is cool and good looking. Sanjay Dutt is good and convincing as the police officer. Boman Irani also has done his best to give the right expressions for the right moment. Jackie Shroff is good as the bad man. But the surprise package of the movie is Jimmy Shergill who gets to show his real acting skills for the first time in his career. He does a very good job as the ruthless villain. Raima Sen is good in a sensible role after a long time. Sharmila Tagore is good as the Rani. Wish we get to see this enchanting actress more on screen. Pariskshit Sahni is good in his cameo role.
The background score is really good and music for the only song ‘Chanda Re’ by Shantanu Moitra is captivating with the real ‘lori’ mood. The visuals of the movie are too good wherein the fort and its various views in various seasons are captured very well by S. Natarajan Subramaniam, the cinematographer. Infact, every frame looks like a marvelous painting on the celluloid. Apt dialogues by Swanand Kirkire create good impact in many situations. Interiors of the palace (art by Nitin Desai) give the real rajput look to the movie.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra does his job very well – getting the best out of the huge star cast and managing the the script tightly by restricting the movie to max two hours and telling everything in style and grace. Some sequences are really executed and captured well.
- The ghungroo sequence -- a blindfolded Bachchan separating the ghungroo from the pigeon -awe-inspiring
- Minutes before the interval where Boman Irani is killed wherein there is the vast desert, a train running through it, the vintage car, the camels running helter-skelter, the sand, the sun, the old ruins – truly electrifying
- Jimmy Shergill’s death and aftermath, Jackie getting thrown towards a speeding train – hair raising
Negatives – yes it has! The lengthy dialogue sequences shot with low voice and no dubbing makes us not understand some parts. Vidya Balan forgiving Saif’s sin in a short time is a bit unconvincing. The pace of the story takes a beating during the start of second half but picks up once we get to know about Saif’s disclosure.
Mostly this movie will be liked by the classes rather than the masses since it hasn’t got the masala elements which the masses like.