Here’s a dekko of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya – The Royal Guard. Featuring Amitabh Bachchan as the central protagonist, alongside Sharmila Tagore, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Jackie Shroff and Boman Irani, this is Chopra’s first costume drama.
Shot almost entirely in Rajasthan, the costumes of the characters were designed by Raghavendra Rathore. It was his influence with the Jaipur royal family which helped Chopra get permission to shoot in their premises, in the Pink City.
Eklavya’s cottage was the only set created from scratch inside the fort. So authentic was Nitin Desai's set that hotel guests thought the cottage was an extension of the fort itself.
For an action sequence with 400 camels, Chopra thought of shooting it in Egypt for want of an appropriate location. Of course, that would have required transporting so many camels there. Moreover, the camels of the two countries are markedly different. Fortunately, he found the perfect location about 100 km from Bikaner. The camel capers did not end here, however. During filming, Amitabh Bachchan got kicked in the head by a camel. Thanks to the thick turban he had to wear, the actor did not suffer a major injury.
Eklavya's plot is based in contemporary India. The story is centred around a royal dynasty that no longer rules.
Yet, Eklavya [Amitabh Bachchan], their royal guard, lives in a time warp. He lives only to protect the fort, the dynasty and the king.
For nine generations, Eklavya’s family has protected Devigarh, a centuries old citadel in Rajasthan. Eklavya has spent his entire life serving the royals and closely guarding their secrets, but now he’s getting old and increasingly blind. His marksmanship is the stuff of legends, his unflinching loyalty inspires ballads.
Unable to cope with the suffocating customs of his land, the heir, Prince Harshwardhan [Saif Ali Khan], has stayed away in London. But the sudden demise of the queen, Rani Suhasinidevi [Sharmila Tagore], forces the Prince back to the kingdom he had left behind.
The Prince’s return brings a rush of joy into the moribund fort. His mentally-challenged twin sister, Princess Nandini [Raima Sen] and his childhood love Rajjo [Vidya Balan] are delighted to see him. But the joy of reunion is short-lived.
There is unrest in the kingdom: Farmers are being stripped of their lands. The king, Rana Jaywardhan [Boman Irani], influenced by his brother, Rana Jyotiwardhan [Jackie Shroff], supports the atrocities being forced upon the helpless peasants. Suddenly, the king receives a death threat over the phone. An irreverent police officer, Pannalal Chohar [Sanjay Dutt], is called in to investigate. But he might be too late.
The fragile peace of the land is suddenly shattered by a barrage of bullets. And amidst the mayhem, the safely guarded secrets of the fort are unveiled. What follows is a contemporary, edge-of-the-seat dramatic action thriller with a stellar cast – Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Boman Irani, Jackie Shroff, Jimmy Sheirgill, Raima Sen and Sharmila Tagore.
The film marks the return of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who directs after a hiatus of seven years.