The first major Assamese release of 2022, Ekalavya, hit the big screens on January 7 after much hype and speculation. Directed by Alfred, Ekalavya is a tale of two warring brothers divided over each other’s priorities. Kamal Lochan plays Abhay, a young lad in love who can’t summon the confidence to ask Kavya, his dream girl, out fearing rejection and instead secretly dedicates poetry for her. Kavya on the other hand, appears to be aware of Abhay’s feelings for her, but she prefers to wait for him to get up the nerve to ask her out. As the film progresses, Abhay’s adopted brother takes the benefit of this doubt, which leads up to a story of love, hatred, and jealousy, and as well as that of a fateful night that transforms everyone’s life.
But because the premise is pretty straightforward, the writers aimed towards the narrative for some inventiveness. So, now with all the switching between the past and the present, its more justified to describe Ekalavya as the story of a common man who transforms into a ruthless outlaw in order to make up for being wrongfully convicted of a crime. This approach to tell the story is a bit dark and grimy. So far all fair and good only that it felt like the plot was not given much care when it came to layering it with a perspective of sacrifice. It’s there but it’s only to justify the title.
Also the narrative moves in so many different directions that it’s hard to intake the significance of what the director actually wanted us to show. It tries to establish too many things at once – Abhay’s loyalty to his master, his past, his future and Abhay himself. It’s not that you don’t understand it but it just doesn’t fittingly come together as a whole. Even the characters appear confused after a certain point as the writing loses up nearing conclusion to make the ending stylishly unconvincing. A character that was sent by Abhay to abduct his darling’s fiancé also abducts Kavya because he didn’t know what to do with her!
With the climax the makers attempted a role reversal in terms of Abhay’s guru-shishya relationship with his godfather, who had resurrected his life earlier. The guru doesn’t demand here but offers and this aspect of the movie can be appreciated. But the climax is the still the weakest link of the movie, leaving no closure or lasting impression. After a confession, Abhay’s brother simply vanishes because he was too unimportant for the family get-together at the end. If the creators presume that the audience is intelligent enough to answer their own questions, there is a conflict of interest in the making of this film.
The film has many lose ends as such. Again, we have no answer as to why Dhriti’s mother would trust someone who isn’t trusted by his own father. As much as we are shown in the film, it appears that more sequences were removed from in-between in order to reduce the run time. It’s bad if the audience can sense the gaps between the scenes, and it’s much worse if it’s not true. Ekalavya might have been more engaging if the direction and script had been handled better.
At parts, the film succeeds in working with its lighter tone. The film’s heart and soul is Abhay’s childhood, upbringing and the relationship with his father, but there isn’t enough of it. His college days, particularly his early romance is entertaining and can be felt, but at other times, the drama is too subtle for the story it tries to tell. It lacks the ability to convince and captivate. In what could have been a dramatic sequence, Abhya’s sidekick (who is interestingly named Vyas) abducts Kavya and brings her to him since he is desperate to meet her regardless of her wish. This sequence’s intensity and tension is definitely missing. Instead, a comic tone is forcefully pushed in. When audiences suspend their disbelief for a commercial entertainer, they deserve the stakes to go higher and the heightened emotion to take control of their reasoning. This is where Ratnakar (2019), another film with a modernised interpretation of a theme based on mythical relevance, succeeded. Ekalavya had the potential but the forceful comedy took a lot away from the film.
Kamal Lochan delivers a matured performance and suits the part of Abhay. He is rough and tough but also compassionate. However, there are a few instances where the directing fails to make use of his energy. Like when Abhay shows up at Kavya’s residence to confront her about her marriage. As a result, in many such instances, his performances appears to exist in a vacuum. The mentioned scene could have been more dramatic and intense. Nevertheless, Abhay gets a lion’s share in terms of characterisation.
But Roopchanda Sarma’s character (Kavya) is stereotypically crafted. While Abhay is an active participant in the drama, Kavya is just a bystander. But their chemistry is endearing and refreshingly honest, which should appeal to the majority of the people. Her performance is effective, and she conveys each emotion with confidence and control. Yet we would have probably felt more connected to Kavya if the writers had spent a little more time on her character development and gave her some actual ambitions of her own.
The cinematography is rich but with flaws and so is the editing. Without particularly establishing where the characters are, the locales and thereby the scenes changes in many places throughout the movie. The songs are pleasant and upbeat, Xadhu Eti is beautifully filmed but Boomerang Jibon pops up in the film randomly. Fortunately, the film never becomes boring.
The bottom line is – Ekalavya is watchable but there isn’t anything particularly special about it. Although some aspects of have to do with violence, it aspires to be a feel-good entertainer while trying not to be too shallow. So don’t give it too much thought. It accomplished its goal if you feel entertained and all good about watching it.