Movie Review: Jodhaa Akbar
Jodhaa Akbar, Ashutosh Gowarikar's sixteenth century epic about the political marriage between a Rajput princess and a Mughal emperor, is a must-see if period romance peppered with a dash of violence is your cup of tea.
There are extravagant spectacles, pretty people in elaborately lovely costumes, stirring battle scenes, evocative music, and a lead pair who turn in their career-best performances. And for all its eye catching splendor, Jodhaa Akbar manages to shine most bright in the more intimate moments - be it between husband and wife or swordsmen squaring off against each other on the battlefield.
We begin with Amitabh Bachchan's voice giving us a little tour through the early Islamic history of Northern India, where the Mughals are the latest in a long line of invaders. With Nasiruddin Humayun's untimely death, a meaningless crown passes to his young son, a somewhat squeamish Jalaluddin Mohammad. His father's general, Bairam Khan (Yuri), takes it upon himself to serve his young liege lord's cause. By the time Jalal reaches glorious manhood in the well-muscled person of Hrithik Roshan, Bairam Khan manages to cobble together an empire for him to rule.
A newly masterful Jalal begins to take over the reins of control by sending the ambitious Bairam Khan off on a pilgrimage to Mecca (a polite way of saying "exile" as such a trip in the sixteenth century would take years) and expanding his empire. But the Rajputs, Hindu warriors of the northwest, refuse to bend knee. Jalal manages to subdue some of them but there are still too many holding out. This isn't a state of affairs that a man who wishes to call himself Emperor of all Hindustan can allow.
Enter Raja Bharmal (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) of the Rajput state of Amer. Circumstances have made it necessary for him to seek Imperial protection and he indicates that he is ready to swear allegiance to the Mughal crown - if the Emperor would take his daughter Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai) to wife.
Once the stars have aligned to put Jodhaa and Jalal in close proximity to each other - a process that roughly takes an hour - Jodhaa Akbar gladly puts its political pretensions aside and turns into a charming love story.
There are still a number of sword fights and a lot of talk about court/political intrigue, but the movie's heart isn't really in it. The only bit of intrigue Jodhaa Akbar is really invested in, is the one between its principal leads.
Apart from a bravura turn by Ila Arun as the jealously possessive Maham Anga, every character except Jodhaa and Jalal have about as much depth as a wading pool. The villains, including the hilariously portrayed Hemu (a Hindu king who captured Delhi for a brief period of time after Humayun's death) who looks like an escapee from a Ramsay Bros. film complete with greasy hair tossing, aren't just villainous but also rather stupid and given to showing their hand rather easily. And the "good guys" like Akbar's birth mother Hamida Banu (Punam Sinha) sort of glide about and make dutiful noises from time to time. The only bit of interesting dialogue afforded the talented Suhasini Mulay (Rani Padmavati, Jodhaa's mother) is when she offers her newly betrothed daughter some poison on the sly - "Death is surely better than suffering insult," she tells her shocked child.
As for Rai and Roshan, they haven't been this good in quite some time. Roshan, in particular, gives his overworked facial muscles a little time off and taps into that well of talent that stood him in good stead in movies like Lakshya. Rai proves once again that all she needs is a director who isn't awed by her physical perfection to turn in a performance that hits all the right notes.
However, I do think that the makers copped out on making a truly fantastic film by not allowing the more psychotic side of medieval royalty (witness the scene where Jalal has his injured foster brother dragged up the stairs just so he can have him thrown down once more) more screentime, but the tiny moments wherein Jalal and Jodhaa try their best to understand each other and begin to fall in love, make up for it.
So does it take liberties with historical facts? In several places. But as a movie, it works very well.
Movie Review: Jodhaa Akbar
- » Published on February 16, 2008
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Author: Amrita Rajan
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