Written by Abhijat Joshi, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Swanand Kirkire.

Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra.


I am not a Bollywood fan, but Bollywood films are available on our local TV every Saturday afternoon and I usually check them out to see if there is anything worth watching. I have actually found one or two films that I liked. 

This Saturday, I watched Eklavya and found it interesting.  The film presents a challenge to the concept of dharma, which it defines as not being the product of reason but of feeling and intuition.  The story is told through the character Eklavya, a staunch upholder of dharma, who believes that it is his duty to protect the king.  He is prepared to give up his life in doing so.

When the king is ambushed and assassinated, Eklavya goes after the assassins and kills them.  When he discovers that the Prince ordered the king’s assassination, he comes to do his duty and slay the Prince.  But he is forced to admit that his duty goes against his inclination because the king was corrupt and the Prince’s action has rid the kingdom of a cruel tyrant.  He accepts what his intuition tells him and rejects dharma.

But the film ends on a weak note.  It seems a happy ending is obligatory and that undoes the thesis of the film.  The happiness at the end comes from doing the right thing, that is, treating subjects with respect and rejecting the caste system, but it also includes hiding the murders that Eklavya has committed.  Secrecy of this nature is what leads to corruption.  If Eklavya had confessed to the killings, would the people not have accepted it as he had accepted the Prince’s order of execution?  Would they not instinctively have felt that Eklavya had done the right thing?  Covering up the murders in the end, weakens the contention that dharma comes from instinctive feelings of what is right. 

 What I like about the film is its willingness to challenge traditional notions.  Traditions are human constructs that become outmoded with changing times.  When their usefulness in keeping communities together expires, they should be altered or discarded.  People, however, tend to think that traditions are infallible and unalterable but all traditions have sell-by dates and if we don’t recognise that and continue to use them after expiry dates, they will poison and destroy us.