The men who made Eklavya possible
Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra may not have got commercial success with Eklavya but he received much critical acclaim for it. The film was India's official entry for Oscars in 2008.
Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Boman Irani, Jackie Shroff, Vidya Balan and Raima Sen, Eklavya was showcased at PVR theatre in Juhu, a western Mumbai suburb, to mark Chopra's completion of 30 years in Indian cinema.
In a post screening discussion, Bachchan, Chopra and other members of the team shared their experiences of working on Eklavya.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra on how his dream of working with Amitabh Bachchan was fulfilled.
Eklavya was written for Amitabh Bachchan. It was a 30-year dream to work with Mr Bachchan, which was finally fulfilled.
The finest moments that I spent on Eklavya were with him. I can proudly say that during the making of Eklavya, I discovered an actor of exceptional talent in Mr Bachchan.
The world may know him as a great actor but for me he is arguably the best human being this film industry has today.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Vidhu Vinod Chopra on the sets of Eklavya
Amitabh: Vidhu is is a perfectionist
Amitabh Bachchan on working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra in Eklavya
My oldest memory of Vidhu Vinod Chopra was when he graduated from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) and immediately came to meet me. I was shooting for (filmmaker) Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He had a book of sketches and he wanted me to see his short film Murder At Monkey Hill that he had made during his diploma.
After days of his pursuing me, I gave in to this incessant boy who has now become a fine gentleman, and saw it. It was just magnificent.
Since then, he has continuously been telling me that we should work together, but it took him 30 years to convince me and give me a voice-over role in Parineeta before he offered me Eklavya. This is the amount of respect he has for me!
I remember I was going to Rajasthan to shoot for Eklavya and I informed my wife Jaya (Bachchan) about it. She asked me 'How long is the schedule?' and I told her it was one month. She instantly replied, 'You will come back in three days. You don't know how much Vidhu abuses on the sets. I don't think your temperament will allow you to work with him.'
Incidentally, I had met Preity Zinta (who worked with Chopra in Mission Kashmir) a day before I left for shooting and she said that you are going to start working with one of the finest directors who takes care of even the smallest needs of his cast and crew.
He is a perfectionist and wants everything in place. He gives great attention to detail and is very passionate about his work. He will go to any lengths to get the exact shot as what is there in his mind.
One of the finest examples of this is when we were shooting for Eklavya in Rajasthan and apart from the cast and his assistants, he had asked the editor, music director, screenplay writer, dialogue writer and all other technicians to be present and watch every shot. In the evening, he would call for a meeting and ask for everyone's opinion.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Eklavya
Abhijat: Vidhu did not want to compromise with anything on Eklavya
Abhijat Joshi on writing the script of Eklavya and his association with Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
The difference between working with Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) and Vidhu Vinod Chopra is that Raju never laughs and Vidhu always makes everyone laugh. The irony is that Raju makes his audience laugh and Vidhu makes his audience cry.
It was an incredible experience working on Eklavya because at the same time, I was working on Lage Raho Munnabhai. It was very intense because we were so engrossed with our work that I would forget that.
Vidhu had warned me that he was not looking to make money with Eklavya and so he wanted Lage Raho Munnabhai to be a commercial success or else he would have kicked me out!
Vidhu was very clear that with Eklavya, he wanted no compromises. He wanted to work with Mr Bachchan for so many years and when he got the opportunity, he grabbed it with both hands.
I remember clearly when we started Eklavya, there was a poem by Baba Amte which not only spoke about Eklavya from the Mahabharata, but all the Eklavyas like Saint Gyaneshwar to Galileo and other legends, which was the genesis of the film. The kind of depth that Vidhu wanted in the film had actually terrified me at one point of time.
Vidhu is a stickler for detail and wants everything in place. He is very passionate about his work. He will go to any lengths to get the exact shot that is there in his mind.
Image: Vidya Balan and Saif Ali Khan in Eklavya
Nitin Desai: It is tough to work with Vidhu
Art director Nitin Desai shares his experience of working on Eklavya
Vidhu Vinod has always been an inspiration for everyone. For me, Eklavya had two of my godfathers -- Amitbah Bachchan and Vidhu Vinod Chopra. It was a challenge to work on the film but at the same time it was an enriching experience.
The location for the film was the biggest hurdle because it was a palace, which was converted into a hotel, in Rajasthan. Mr Bachchan's character has a small house in the veranda of the palace and that had to match with the palace.
I had to make sure that both Vidhu and Mr Bachchan liked it. On the first day of the shoot, the two of them were on the sets before anyone else and I was a little scared since they were examining everything. But finally everything went right.
What I like about Vidhu is that he gives a lot of opportunities to the young generation. It is tough to work with him because he likes things to be perfect and whatever is presented to him has to have logic behind it.
Image: Saif Ali Khan, Raima Sen and Vidya Balan in Eklavya
Shantanu: Eklavya was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life
Music composer Shantanu Moitra on the background score of the film.
I had finished working on Parineeta and the songs were well received. One day I visited Vidhu and saw the script of Eklavya lying on his table. I asked him about it and he told me if he had a couple of people then he would start making the film.
I thought it was a great opportunity to work and deliver another five or six songs and I agreed to be a part of it.
As the script progressed, I started telling Vidhu to add a song at some of the places. After one year I realised that there were no songs in the film (Laughs). But Vidhu gracefully asked me to accompany him for the shoot.
I did the background score for the film and 70 per cent of it was done before the film was shot. It was an incredible exercise in itself because I had to be completely in sync with what Vidhu was visualising.
Eklavya was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Eklavya