‘Eklvya’- The Mahabharat-ian Story and The Film

I don’t know how many of those going for seeing the movie ‘Eklvya’ know this saddest story of Mahabharat, that has a strong lesson about the capability one can attain through self study and practices, and that provides a good glimpse of the society and, that too of the shameful behaviour of the teacher of the time.

Eklvya was a tribal clan of those days. He dared to go to Dronacharya, the teacher of the princes of the Kuru clan, and begged him to teach archery. Dronacharya refused. Eklvya decided to go on his own. He created a statue of Dronacharya and started practicing the archery under the sight of the statue treating it as his guru (teacher).

And then one day Dronacharya happened to go from the same forest where Eklvya was mastering the art of archery. A dog with Dronacharya strayed and went near Eklvya, started barking and disturbing him. Eklvya used his arrows to fill the dog’s mouth and made him silent. The dog returned to Dronacharya with arrows in mouth. Every one was stunned, who could be the master archer who could fill a dog’s mouth without letting a drop of blood fall. The dog led Dronacharya and his group to Eklvya. Drona inquired Eklvya, who his teacher was. Eklvya reply humbly that it was Drona himself. And instead of appreciating his humility, Drona asked Eklvya to give him the thumb from his right hand as ‘guru dakshina’ and de-capacitated him forever.

Last Saturday, we went to watch Eklvya the movie of Big B. And his acting as Eklvya of the twenty-first century is one of the best that I have seen till date. I always wished that Big B got chance to portray some great classical characters such as Chanakya or Ashok, or Akbar. Amitabh was just superb. All of us liked the film.

In Sunday ‘Times of India’, I found a review of Shobhaa De in her special column. I couldn’t but agree and appreciate her views.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra has made India’s first ‘Greek Tragedy’. Paradoxical though this sounds, one can’t think of a more apt way to describe the gut-wrenching horror of it all, as the superbly-structured plot unfolds to reveal dark secrets about a princely family, dealing with the aftermath of the mysterious death of the rana’s wife.

Eklvya is a provocative film. It has the power to wake you up because it gets down to basics – the eternal Mahabharat-ian debate between dharma and adharma. Instead of moralising, the film boldly opens up a challenging dialogue that compels us to ask a few tough questions. Eklvya’s interpretation of dharma forces an unexpected resolution (it disappointed me).

It is really a tribute to the filmmaker’s courage in going ahead with a subject that travels well beyond known territory and goes into a long, oppressively unlit tunnel, leading to an even denser hell. A hell that perhaps, is present inside all our wicked hearts. Rarely has commercial cinema in our country taken such a tricky route, combining mythology with modern day machinations, sentiment with sadism, tradition with attitude. It explodes mediaeval beliefs while pointing out that they still persist in 21st century India – a sad fact of life, so evident in the way we deal with contemporary social issues.

In a way, Eklvya is an ageless epic, filled with pathos, betrayal, guilt, brutality and sacrifice. Polarities tear the protagonists apart, as an honour-bound royal guard believes he is fulfilling the duties of his forefathers, even if they involve pandering to the decadent demands of the impotent (possibly gay), rana, consumed by his own inadequacies, raging against fate, and wreaking revenge against the one person who can save his life. Whether or not Eklvya makes box office counters ring, it is a moving film.

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