Well, what more could one want. A lazy Sunday afternoon, which slowly, with overhanging clouds turns into a pleasant evening, bringing along with itself the first sweet smell of spring. Add to that a late lunch (plus a kettle full of tea) with close friends, and you have the perfect setting for a wonderful day.
'Nirma thali' at the next-door 'rajvadu' restaurant: Rs. 55
A kettle of tea: Rs. 18
Carefree Sunday afternoon, with A. R. Rehman singing 'Tere Bina' on iTunes: Priceless
Day before yesterday, I went to see 'Eklavya'. And contrary to what appears to be the popular opinion, I loved the film. The only review that echoed what I felt after seeing the film was this.
The film is definitely not for the masses, who may go rushing into the cinema halls drawn by the names of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt (and Vidya Balan, of course).
The cinematography of S Natarajan Subramaniam is, in one word, brilliant. The screen is resplendent in the royal colours of Rajasthan and the film is a visual treat. The scene just before the interval, where all that is visible is the dark silhouette of a dying Rana breathing his last in the arms of a royal bodyguard, with the sun setting symbolically in the background and throwing its last rays of glorious orange sunshine on the royal fort, is a classic...It leaves a deep impact as the lights of the cinema-hall slowly come to life.
The editing, by Raviranjan Maitra, is fantastic. Not one scene seems to be out of line. Scenes which apparently have very little or nothing to do with the story, come back later with a sweet after-effect; be it the explanation of what the young rajkumar was punished for early in the movie or the scarf that the maharani accidentally drops from the fort ramparts. Kudos to both, Raviranjan Maitra and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, for such crisp editing.
Amitabh Bachchan is par excellence. Not once do you see the typical expressions that you might associate with the Bachchan of Karan Johar films. Amitabh gets into the skin of the character and one is convinced that he indeed is Eklavya, an aging bodyguard who must guard not only the occupants of the palace but also their deepest secrets. Watch out for the scene when Eklavya is asked, nay, ordered to leave the fort and go back to his village. Bachchan is what he is because what he does in the scene; he emotes pain and shock without uttering a single syllable.
Saif Ali Khan was powerful in essaying his role of the prince. In a film where he could've easily been overshadowed by Bachchan's performance, all credits to him for putting in a memorable portrayal. This is the third time after the eponymous 'Being Cyrus' and Langda Tyagi of 'Omkara' that I realised that there is more to him than just the actor with a wonderful comic timing (be it Sameer of 'Dil Chahta Hai' or Karan Kapoor of 'Hum Tum').
Boman Irani shows why people say his best performance was not as 'J Dot Asthana' of 'Munna Bhai MBBS' but as the 75 year old Dhunjisha Batliwala in Rahul Da Cunha's play 'I'm not Bajirao'. Vidya Balan brings grace and, ahem, sexual chemistry to the film. Sanjay Dutt with his portrayal of the rustic DSP adds the much-needed humour from time to time. Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Shergill do well in their short roles.
And finally, the best part of the film, the story. The film, while harking back to the legend of Eklavya from The Mahabharata, keeps asking questions about 'dharma' and right and wrong. The film also offers an interesting answer in the form of the definition which the grand old man of The Mahabharata, Bhishma, gives for 'dharma'. Then again, the film provides good food-for-thought with issues such as 'the young son helping an aging father' and 'a son's duty towards both, his foster and biological parents'.
Armed with this script, a play would perhaps have been much, much more powerful. I was also reminded of a play titled 'Durgesh Nandan' (Son of the Fort) that I had seen many years ago in Calcutta.
Okay, perhaps there's just one other review that I agree with. And what strikes me the most about this review by the New York Times is that this film 'has a heart for the classics'.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra, take a bow.
My ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars
[Okay, okay... I give in, but this was a review that I found after writing the post. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Subhash K. Jha's review.]