Watching a movie on television is not usually my idea of an ideal way to spend a Sunday evening. But yesterday, I plonked myself down in front of the TV while the Guy kindly made dinner. Eklavya was just starting. (Let me digress here to say how rare it is to catch a movie when it’s starting. There are so many movies which I love and have watched more than once on TV and never managed to catch the beginning of. Also, with my attention span for television, I have rarely watched entire movies on TV in the last few years.)
Going back to Eklavya. The opening scene gripped me. The Guy, on the other hand, found it predictable and refused to sit and watch with me, preferring virtual conquests in The Age of Empires to sitting by my side… but that’s another story.
The cinematography was magnificent. You feel the grandeur of the fort, the darkness of the story, the passage of time as clouds sweep past the building… I had a feeling of vertigo with one shot of the upper part of a building with clouds moving swiftly over it, creating an illusion of the building floating in mid-air.
The story was all right, maybe even good. It certainly makes you want to find out what happens next (and I, unlike the Guy did not think it was predictable. But then I’m more of a sucker for dramatic stories).
Boman Irani, as usual, was terrific. His was a complex character, grandiose and evil, yet seeming vulnerable and short-sighted at times. I don’t think anyone else could have played it so convincingly.
Jackie Shroff reminded me so much of his role in Mission Kashmir that it put me off his performance totally. But yet I cannot point out one thing he did wrong. I liked Jimmy Shergil in a different role for him, in contrast to the nice-guy roles he so convincingly portrays. He established himself as the cool bad guy very effectively in his limited screen time. Saif was good. Again, I feel he has played such roles before (Being Cyrus came to mind when his dark side came to the fore, and he has played the rich young heir – though not prince – in Parineeta), but there is no flaw I could find in his acting.
Amitabh Bachchan was – well, as good as he usually is. That is, I found nothing new here, again. He seems to show off a bit – but that seems the filmmaker’s vanity, not his.
I loved Sanjay Dutt’s portrayal of an untouchable who worked his way up to becoming the DSP of the local police – I loved the arrogance, the earthiness, and the triumph in the character.
I see I haven’t mentioned the women. Perhaps because they seemed peripheral, like the spectators of a drama that unfolds before them. Both Vidya Balan and Raima Sen were convincing in their roles. I liked Raima’s portrayal of a mentally disturbed young woman. Call me dense, but in the first scene it took me a few moments to realise she was not quite right in the head – which tells me that the acting was measured and subdued.
One scene I did not enjoy was Eklavya showing his skill by throwing his knife (or dagger or sword or whatever) blindfolded at a dove and cutting off the bells tied to it. For one, I thought the scene was melodramatic. Also, as an animal lover, it sickened me. The guy’s aim might be impeccable, but what if the bird turns in flight and comes right in the way of the blade? The whole thing seemed implausible. And then it suddenly cut to a flashback of Eklavya’s mother giving him the knife and making him promise to do his duty… I was as unconvinced as Eklavya when he wonders why he recalled it then. And Mita Vasisht seems wasted in her few-second appearance as Eklavya’s mother.
Perhaps the fact that I can find little to comment on the actors reveals how much of himself the filmmaker stamped on the movie. There was no false note, no unconvincing portrayal. There was a lot of evil, but I find evil more convincing than good, and grey more real than black or white.
Yet, when I watched it through to the end, the movie – though interesting and well-made – seemed to fall short of great. Yet I cannot point out what was missing. Perhaps the fact that I could not sympathise with any of the characters (except perhaps the DSP, but he is peripheral to the story), who seem caught in a time warp and warped (bad pun, I know) by the little world they live in. Or maybe in spite of my cynical assertion that evil is more convincing than good, I am a romantic at heart and want an all-out idealist hero.