Kshatriya meaning Warriors is one of those JP Dutta films that were as epic in proportions as they were in treatment. There is a long list of such films that Dutta made including Ghulami, Batwara and the fantastic Hathyar where he took massive star casts and stories that were epic in their scopes and have innumerable subplots. Interestingly, he was able to make them into lucid and organically flowing films that were easily comprehensible and highly entertaining. Kshatriya marked the end of those epics for Dutta. His next film after Kshatriya was Border and then he turned to making Refugee (launching Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor), LOC Kargil (his Magnum Opus about the Kargil war) and then his worst film till date Umrao Jaan (starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan).
Kshatriya is the story of two warring royal Kshatriya Rajput families in Rajasthan namely Mirtagarh and Surjangarh. The Mirtagarh family is headed by Maharaja Bhavani Singh (Sunil Dutt), his wife Maheshwari Devi (Raakhee), his daughter Divya (Dolly Minhas) and younger brother Jaswant Singh (Vinod Khanna). Surjangarh’s family is headed by Prithvi Singh (Dharmendra), his wife Suman (Sumalatha), his brother Devendra Pratap Singh and Devendra’s son Vijay Pratap Singh.
Vijay falls in love with Divya but both families are against them marrying and Mirtagarh’s minister Ajay Singh (Prem Chopra) adds fuel to fire by getting Vijay killed even though Bhavani never wanted him dead. Divya commits suicide after hearing of Vijay’s death and Prithvi shoots and kills Bhavani in revenge. Jaswant Singh (Vinod Khanna) returns from England and kills Devendra in revenge and vows to kill Prithvi when he is released. Prithvi’s son Vinay (Sunny Deol) and Bhavani’s son Vikram (Sanjay Dutt) are sent to England as children to get away from the bloody feud between their families.
Twenty years later, Vinay and Vikram are the best of friends living in England. Vikram’s cousin and Jaswant’s daughter Neelima (Raveena Tandon) also lives in London. Vinay and Neelima fall in love and want to marry. This could signal the end of the Mirtagarh and Surjangarh feud. But destiny has other plans. The return of Vinay and Vikram to their respective families brings them face to face with the bloody feud that has been running in the family for generations.
While Vinay is against the bloodshed and wants to have peace between the families, Vikram, quite by chance, comes to know how his father was killed by Vinay’s father. He now wants Prithvi’s blood and that is something that Vinay can’t accept as he loves his father too dearly. Maters are further complicated when Neelima goes all out to have her relation with Vinay endorsed by her father Jaswant. To add to all that, we have the scheming Ajay Singh and Shakti Singh pouncing on every opportunity to fuel the rage between the two families.
Kshatriya is a film that doesn’t move but gallops at a pace that is sometimes hard to keep up with. The only time that the film gives us a breather is when we move to England where we are introduced to the young colts. The blossoming romance between Vinay and Neelima and Vikram and Tanvi (Divya Bharti) who happens to be the daughter of the police commissioner overseeing Mirtagarh and Surjangarh and who has been keeping a tab on the enmity of the two families. There are a few songs and dances here and there that hastens the pace a bit but sans that the film moves from one plot point to another at such an incredible pace that you can’t help but be enthralled by it.
The story is meaty. There are subplots galore involving love, friendship and of course hatred and revenge that happens to be the prime axis of this film. Each of these subplots makes sense and adds to the primary story seamlessly. None of the characters is undercooked or unnecessary. Take for instance a minor character like Madhu (Meenakshi Sheshadri). She falls in love with Jaswant without knowing that he is married. When the truth dawns on her, it is already too late. If that was not enough, her father is killed by the scheming duo of Shakti Singh and Ajay Singh and she is sold off to prostitution. Her character later is rescued by Jaswant Singh, after his wife is dead and his daughter has been placed out of his life for a while. Their romance blossoms again and Jaswant finds solace in her existence. Her character also plays a key part in the plot towards the end.
The two mothers played by Rakhee and Sumalatha are weak to start with but as the film progresses their concern and need to save their children from the feud turns them into audacious individuals who keep pressing on the point that they are mothers first and everything else later. The climax in which they take to hurt themselves to let their sons see through their action and its consequences on the others is a laudable addition to an already dramatic screenplay.
Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt are great in roles that were tailor-made for them. They are both physical and are not afraid to let loose their histrionic selves which in this film is necessary at many junctures. They look great in the action sequences. The fact that they start off as friends and gradually turn into bloodthirsty enemies only makes the impact of their respective acts that much more effective and dramatic. Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna are as good as they can be. They both feel like the guys that they are playing. I found Vinod Khanna’s act a tad bit more engrossing than Dharmendra’s. The fact that he has a meatier role with more range and emotions to play with helped his cause.
If there is a weak link in this film then it is the characters of Raveena Tandon and Divya Bharti. They are clingy, weak and dependent women who lose their way in a matter of minutes without their men to lie back on. Their characters are even more of a contrast when we see the mothers of the men metamorphing right in front of our eyes into authoritative figures. Neelima hates India and doesn’t want to come but changes her mind in a matter of minutes after falling for Vinay. Once in India, all she ever does is cry for help or just cry. Divya Bharti is no different. Transforming from a drug addict to one who has only one addiction, Vikram isn’t a good thing.
The action in this film made my jaw drop. Going by Bollywood standards, Kshatriya had some of the best envisioned and executed action sequences that are bound to linger long in the memory after they are over. The film’s mounting is sensational. The royal existence of the two families, their dreamlike quarters and the elaborate costumes only makes us that much more interested in their lives. Suffice is to say that the grandness and scale of this film contribute to its overall hook and is an important part of it all together.
For those who enjoy JP Dutta’s films, Khastriya is possibly his most entertaining and grand achievement in the genre mentioned above. It is entertaining, it is harrowing at junctures and above all whatever happens through its runtime makes complete sense. I loved this film and I believe that will be the case with anyone and everyone who sees this.
Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)