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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jodha-Akbar - A Review

My feelings towards ‘Jodha Akbar’ was bordering on something of a pleasant confusion and a sense of dejectedness stemming out of unquenched expectations as the credits started rolling at the end of the film.

And it was this same feeling which occupied my mind as I made my way back to my home after coming out of the theater. A film which promised to deliver a cinematic spectacle of epic proportions had failed to deliver on its brief but, not without some consolation. The story revolves around the central theme of the blossoming of love between Jalaluddin Akbar and Jodhabai. The backdrop was provided by a mix of conspiracies, betrayals and blood-feuds that are so much part of power equations and empires from time immemorial. Only in this case there were hardly any attempts at intrigue or unpredictability in their unveiling. Akbar is portrayed as the righteous emperor coming to terms with the rigors of ruling a vast empire and facing enemies both within and beyond his dominions. Rajputana being the ‘iron fortress’ of defiance and pride poses the most formidable source of resistance to Mughal expansionist ambitions. As a strategy of alliance and appeasement Akbar marries the young princess of Amer, Jodhabai, to take a section of Rajputs in his confidence. The film tracks the graduation of feelings in Jodha starting from mild repulsion to acceptance and finally to complete submission in the Mughal emperor’s loving embrace. The sequences where little mind-games between the newly wed couple take precedence over the routine of matrimony is both absorbing and amusing. The rich decor and the overwhelming grandeur of the inside of the mahals are breathtakingly beautiful as are the scintillating spread of jewellery and costumes. The detailing of the backdrops merit accolades galore.

Hrithik Roshan as Akbar gives a good solid performance as the charismatic emperor and a passionate lover. He fits the royal-look requisite to the T and one cannot imagine anybody else in those regal robes strolling down the grand corridors of Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khas. His delivery of chaste Urdu is flawless most of the times which does its part in lending credibility to the character. It is good if he sticks to do one 'film of substance' at a time for he is good in his role here, exuding a royal nonchalance and a princely swagger to charm his audience.

Aishwarya Rai Bachhan looks every bit the budding flower that Rajput princesses are supposed to have been. Delicate yet resolute. Passionate yet reserved. The sword-fighting scene actually takes the cake for her. She looks genuine in battle-gear though there spreads a shade of blissful serenity on her face when donning the elaborately embroidered ghagras, singing bhajans in front of her private deity.

Ashutosh Gowarikar has kept to the title of the film, devoting the lion’s share of its run-time to the ‘love-story’ amidst the bedlam of treachery and treason cooking in the background. Though one wonders if it was in fact the inspiration borrowed from Jodha’s love that compelled Akbar to ease taxes and regulations on his subjects, in the process coming out a reformed man worthy of a woman’s love and devotion. If history is so twisted to cater to the tastes of the ‘general’ audience and financers I believe there wasn’t enough evidence of ‘creative liberties’ being taken by the talented director in the film. I am sure a racy item-number here and a little outsourcing of certain parts to one Ekta Kapoor and Karan Johar would have done marvels to the prospects of the film at the box-office. With irrelevant songs in “Azeem-o-Shaan....” and “khwaja mere khwaja...” being packed in the most unceremonious manner into Mughal ceremonies one begins to feel for the poor director torn between duty and desire. Though on a personal level I liked the battle sequences which are quite grand compared to anything made before in Indian Cinema it feels just to be miserly when granting points to this film because of its sheer disregard in highlighting the policy and politics of the Akbar-era, the most remarkable aspects of the great reign and the great ruler.

If history has been dumped most listlessly for this film it will soon have some company.


Bubbles of FireWhisky said...

so agree with you... it did seem like "the poor director was torn between duty and desire"... another thing that is ot working for it is its length...

MishtiZaa said...


Amazing Greys said...

i think reading your review along with the watching promos will do for me, rather than sit through 3&1/2 hrs watching the movie. They should give at least 3 intervals,& complimentary refreshments and pause the movie every time someone needs to go to the loo :P

ArSENik said...

I think the film was too broad. He should have stuck to the love story, which was the strength of the film anyway, and the war sequences and encounters with scheming relatives could just have been relayed through Amitabh's narration.

I agree with you in that Jodha's love humanized Akbar, so to speak, as can be seen not only through waiving off pilgrim taxes and taxes for drought stricken areas (really, what's with Gowarikar and lagaan and drought?), but also with his pardoning of his shaala (pun intended).

I thought the Khwaja song wasn't totally redundant, but as I said in the comments section of another blog, the picturization completely killed it, especially the awakening of Akbar's inner ballerina. The romantic songs were unnecessary.

Everyone agrees that the biggest thing to come out of this film is the reassurance to the industry of Hrithik's sincerity and fruits of labor. He overshadowed Aishwarya, who was good except maybe in a couple of very hammy emotional scenes. Not taking anything away from Hrithik, but maybe he stood out more in lieu of extreme tour de forces by Ila Arun and Kulbhushan Kharbanda among the known actors.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

# firewhisky - I think I reflected the 'aam aadmi's' sentiments on this film. Most seem to agree. :)

# mishtizaa- relative.

# A.G- If Mr. Gowarikar is reading this he will be suing me for the revenue he lost from your ticket.
And btb... you are too very 'aware' a consumer, I see. a whole lot of ? :D

# arsenik- Naming the film 'Jodhaa Akbar' precludes all avenues of portraying historical exactitude. And who would be interested in knowing how Akbar woos his wife for three long hours ? In that regard, I think, the 'scheming relatives' part was all right. Only that the more notable aspects of Akbar's rule was given the 'cut' miffed me a bit. No mention of Din-e-Ilahi, the Todarmal taxation scheme, Navratnas along with Birbal's witticisms. Surely some rich goldmines have not been explored in this cinematic endeavor. I only hope UTV and Asutosh ji isn't too crestfallen at the returns to ever attempt making a good film.

Royal Bengal Tigress said...

I loved the battle scenes- quite well done. And yes, complimentary refreshments would have been welcome!

dreamy said...

Well, this time, I agree with you :P

:: Clouds :: said...

One side-effect of Jodha-Akbar : My eight-year old brother has started calling me 'Mallika-e-Hindustan'.
I wonder why.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

# Tigress - Yes, popcorn and pepsi! :)

btb...I have linked ur blog to mine. U mind ?

# dreamy- Agreement becomes her. :)

# clouds- Well, heres an eight year old who ( like me of what seems like eons ago ) likes the grandiose of old -times.

LOve to him. :)

Bubbles of FireWhiskey said...

gt a new blog... :) chk it out wnever u cn

Poojo C. said...

How on earth do you write so well? Why are you an engineer? You should be a poet or a film critic or something.

On a negative note, I don't like your header picture of eyeballs. I scrolled up and down a few times, and they are making me queasy.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

# Poojo- Surprise! Surprise!!! A full-blown journalist telling me I write well!!! It feels nice. Always wanted to be a journalist and write expansive columns for the BIG newspapers.

and Engineer ?? Who wants to be that!
a poet or a film critic any day! :)

queasy!!???? Good! They are truly efficacious then. :D

Royal Bengal Tigress said...

I have linked your blog to mine! I have thought up a very clever name for it *expects appreciation*

Royal Bengal Tigress said...

Ahem *gets ready to show off literary knowledge* it's a phrase from "Julius Caesar" :) And yes, I will post SOON.