Monday, February 19, 2007

Visual Poetry

That's Eklavya, for you. One of the most intense and unconventional films to emerge out of the deep pockets of Bollywood. Films like this make you feel that there is room for diversity, hope for new boundaries to be crossed.

Eklavya is the harbinger of "coming of age" Indian cinema.

Unfortunately, its a movie, far too sonorous and deep in vertical simplicity, to be accepted by the 'masses'. Take for example, the audience at the theater where I watched the movie, predominantly techies and a few ABCD couples trying to get the dose of 'justification' Bollywood, reading subtitles in a realm where they laugh at the wrong moments and constantly cross-compare Hindi flicks to Hollywood. Depressing to say the least. If they really wanted a movie to laugh at, there's plenty of Govinda-Dhawan stock.

But Eklavya is far more meaningful than its first viewing represents. Its a film that battles with basic social morale and ethic foundations. Towards the backdrop of the gloomy world of royals, lost in abeyance in a now-democratic India - almost still reeling from the shock.

Picking such a backdrop for the movie, ensures an esoteric level of pseudo-mysticism to the movie. Almost like Anastasia or Zubeidaa - any movie to do with fallen royals always has a mystic and curious aura to it.

Vinod Chopra has begun to break conventions like no other. There are scenes that make you feel like you've never scene(sic) anything like this before. Especially out of Bollywood. The Amitabh-Sheirgill sequence where the lights go out - is handled almost Tarantino-like.

But if one has to truly enjoy and appreciate Eklavya - one should not expect any degree of traditional Bollywood. The movie is a ballad. A stage play on camera, if you will. Some may consider certain scenes to be slow and long-winding, but it is basically Vinod Chopra setting his stage. His story is simple. Doesn't have the usual thousand twists and turns. But it doesn't need them either. Because Eklavya's magic lies in its vertical simplicity.

If the trailers of Munnabhai Chale America and Talisman are anything to go by, this man is on a rampage to change the face of Bollywood. But its all good. How many weepies, shaadi-films, extra-marital films or family dramas can you actually watch. Oh, and don't miss the trailer of Cheeni Kum (Amitabh, Tabu - Balki, the ad guru, on the mantle and Illayaraja's music). Wow!

But even flawlessness has imperfection. Several downsides. Raima Sen is a pest. The ending leaves a lot to be desired.

The true hero of Eklavya? The camera. Sheer brilliance in terms of cinematography, lighting, sets and basic handling of the visuals. Especially the scene where a motion-less Amitabh holds a lifeless Boman Irani, to the backdrop of the sunset and desert, and shots of the fort with rolling clouds.

As Raja Sen puts it best, Eklavya is almost fluid.

Sheer visual poetry.

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