Saturday, March 15, 2008

Review: Jodha Akbar Review

Ok. Let me generalize here. Most of us are engineers who have always hated history classes (not me though). Most of us probably never cared about what happened in 1556 AD. Even when it comes to films, we prefer Matrix to Gladiator. But Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodha Akbar had a mix that most of us couldn’t resist. He was aiming for his hattrick ( after Lagaan and Swadesh) with the batsman ( the audience) being surrounded by close-in fielders like Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, AR Rahman, stunning Cinematography, and of course the historical characters Akbar and Jodha Bhai. I got out c Jalalludin Akbar b Ashutosh Gowarikar. Probably this result was predictable as the distributors of the film bet big and released it in AMC theaters here in Houston!

As far as history is concerned, Akbar ranks as the second best emperor India ever had (after Asoka the Great). He was obsessed with India and everything Indian. He called himself Hindustani though everyone else he knew called themselves Afghani or Persian. He had people like Birbal (his Military advisor), Todar Mal(Finance minister) and Tansen (Hindustani music composer) in his court who were a part of the famous Navratnas or the nine gems. He was of course the first Muslim king to marry a Hindu Rajput girl and form an alliance of mutual respect and trust with the Rajputhana.

Ashutosh Gowarikar has tried to highlight most of the secular actions of Akbar. The transition from Jalalludin, the child to Akbar, the emperor of India who took strong decisions on his own, some of which were considered to be blasphemous by many in his court, was beautifully portrayed in the film. Keeping in mind the fact that the director that only Akbarnama and a few other sources as references, it was tough for him to get all the variables in Akbar’s life. But unbelievably the director has made a masterpiece without going in for clich├ęd filmy screenplay.

Aishwarya did what was expected of her. She was totally hot as usual but she completely blended as a Rajput princess. But Hrithik just blew me off with his great acting. He effortlessly portrayed the role of an emperor who sometimes behaved like a ruthless monarch, sometimes like a lover and a flirt, sometimes like a benevolent king and sometimes like a confused child sharing his thoughts with his mother. If only he had that royal grace in his walk (like Prithviraj Kapoor in Mughal-e-Azam) and also looked 10 years older.

The cinematography was breathtaking, to say the least. AR Rahman just breathes life into the film. The spiritual content in Khwaja mere Khwaja was just awesome. The choreography was simple, beautiful and apt. But what I personally loved was the dialogues. On one side, we had Akbar speaking in Urdu with heavy usage of Arabic and Persian words and on the other side we had Jodha chirping away in pure Hindi. Of course the English subtitles spoiled the whole fun but hey … but I can’t claim to have understood every line that was being said.

But the same can’t be said about the war scenes though. Too much inspiration was drawn from LOTR and Troy. Sadly we have seen these films like a billion times. And why AR Rahman chose to go for a western BGM for the last fight scene is a mystery.

Was anything I was expecting to see missing in the film? Yes. I must say a few scenes with Birbal would have added to the message of the movie. And also I didn’t see any peacock in the whole movie which was something strange as I always thought they were raised in palaces to increase its scenic beauty. Ah … I think I am being a bit too harsh here. But Ashutosh Gowarikar has taken Bollywood to such great heights in this film that I think we can start asking such stupid questions and criticize the movie because it had no peacock.

P.S.

Gowarikar played it safe when he started the film with the disclaimer: “Jodha Bai, Queen of Hindustan and wife of the greatest of Mughal emperors, Akbar, may not have ever existed, claim some historians. Others claim that she was his daughter in law and not his wife.” But it was not safe enough as the film got banned in Rajasthan, UP, MP, and Haryana. Fortunately, we are in US where such unnecessary controversies can never arise.

Kranti Kumar V.

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