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Jodhaa Akbar – Movie Review

February 24, 2008

ja-poster.jpgJodha Akbar is a 16th century love story of a Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great and a Rajput (Hindu) princess Jodhaa. It is about a great Emperor who is tolerant towards a religion and culture which is not just alien to him, but is also the religion of the land he rules. Ofcourse, how much of this is actually true is anybody’s guess. Apparently, the director of the movie, Ashutosh Gowarikar (the same director who made the Oscar nominated Lagaan) has admitted that 70 percent of the movie is fiction, which means it is very loosely based on history. What seems to be true is that Akbar married a Rajput princess… beyond that historians don’t seem to agree on anything much. They don’t even agree that it was princess Jodha who married Akbar. However what is true is that Akbar the Great had a tolerant attitude towards religion and encouraged religious debate. This has been well documented.

In any case, the love story doesn’t ring true, not if one thinks of it in a historical perspective. Akbar married a Rajput princess to form a political alliance, and therefore one wonders whether there was true love between the two. There probably wasn’t, knowing he had more than 300 other wives – it is believed though that more than one of these wives was Hindu. Interestingly, Akbar’s son Jehangir, who succeeded him, was the son of a Hindu mother, and while some say it was Jodha Bai, some say it was another Hindu princess.

The movie itself is amazing in scope…and manages to switch between the battlefield and court politics to the love scenes very smoothly. It casts thousands of characters…soldiers and ordinary people…and everyone in authentic costumes. The battlefield scenes, with elephants and costumes are impressive, although I wish they had been less gory.

The movie could have been shorter…whew, 3 hours and 20 minutes! I wanted at least two intervals so I could buy more popcorn and coke. But I enjoyed the movie despite that. Perhaps one of the reasons is that I like both the lead actors, Hritik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. The chemistry between them was great and they acted and looked good. Hritik was grandly arrogant, having mastered the mannerisms of a king pretty well. About Aishwarya, well I feel she is a director’s actress. She is hopeless in some movies, very average in most, but in some movies, she is quite alright. Good even. Like this one. Even though all she had to play was the role of a loving wife, she did with an expressive (not plastic) face and as for her beauty, that fitted her role, that of a woman whose heart Akbar goes out of his way to win.

I quite liked the idea that Jodha was shown as a spirited girl who lays down ‘conditions’ before her marriage. And throughout the movie she is shown as someone who considers her self-respect to be of prime importance and this seems to attract Akbar all the more. This reminded me of the 60’s film Mughal-e-Azam, which happens to be one of my favorite moves of all time. It’s another great epic love story, about the forbidden love between Emperor Akbar’s son Salim (who becomes Emperor Jehangir) and the courtesan Anarkali. Salim’s love and respect for Anarkali shoots up when she defies Emperor Akbar and proclaims her love for his son openly in court. You can hear that wonderful song here. I think these are great values, that when women show courage, it’s seen as courage, not willfulness or defiance.

This movie is a must-see, not because it is great cinema, but because it’s good, pathbreaking Indian cinema. I love historical films and I am tired of seeing films only about European history. We don’t get too many many good historical films. Ashoka was terrible. The only Indian-made historical epic which I have liked and seen is Mangal Pandey and it was excellent. This film falls somewhere inbetween.

Historical films are important…they bring our past to life, and Jodha Akbar has done it with panache and style. True, the film could have done with tighter editing, and some more believability…but the music was good. Read Ruhi’s music review here.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2008 11:26 pm

    Nita, glad to know that you liked the movie and I really thought that you would :) I’m not a big fan of Ash (okay, I dislike her), but I really liked her in this movie. She was almost perfect. Kudos to Ashutosh Gowarikar for taming her plastic side.

  2. Keshav permalink
    February 25, 2008 5:50 am

    Controversy aside, it was a terrible movie.

    Honestly, I thought Ashoka was better in terms of storytelling simply because he seems to have lead a more interesting life (at least, if we compare the two movies).

    The court politics were short and shallow and the battle scenes were absolutely painful to watch (coming from someone whose favorite movie is Gladiator).

    Now – the love story.

    This was actually, by far, the best aspect of the movie but those other things ruined otherwise great characters (A proud Jodha was amazing even if it made Ash look out of place simply because she probably doesn’t act that way in real life i.e. she seems more traditional).

    The songs were too complex to be remembered lyrically and the music was forgettable, despite the fact that I loved the Krishna song that was played throughout. However, you’d never hear me hum it simply because it just doesn’t stick in your head.

    Mangal Pandey was okay.

    In general I feel, however, patriotic films in India are usually the best genre of Bollywood.

  3. February 25, 2008 8:10 am

    hey,
    i too found the film large in canvass and worked very well but the length.
    http://viralshah.blogspot.com/2008/02/jodha-akbar-review.html

  4. February 25, 2008 8:52 am

    Ruhi you said it very aptly:
    //Kudos to Ashutosh Gowarikar for taming her plastic side.// !! :D

    Keshav, when we compare our movie to Hollywood when it comes to technological aspects, our movies will be even laughable, I agree. I loved Gladiator, and it is one of my favorite movies and I am a big fan of Russel Crowe. In fact my favorite movie of all time in Hollywood is Beautiful Mind. (Also as Good as it Gets). If you compare the battle scenes in Gladiator to those in Jodha Akbar, the latter seem amateurish. But I guess I was comparing Jodhaa Akbar’s battle scenes to other Indian movies and I have not seen anything like it before. Maybe one day we will have the money and technology to match Hollywood. That we have the capability I don’t doubt.

    Neo, thanks. Will check it out.

  5. Juhi permalink
    February 25, 2008 2:21 pm

    Hrithik has done his best.Aishwariya is looking great in Jodha Akbar.Overall a worth movie to watch.

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    February 26, 2008 5:43 am

    Hi!

    I have not seen the film and don’t intend to, either. But here’s something I found more interesting than reviews:

    http://greatbong.net/2008/02/21/akbar-nama/#more-507

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    February 26, 2008 6:14 am

    …and here’s more from the same blog:

    http://greatbong.net/2008/02/18/jodhaa-akbar-the-review/

  8. February 26, 2008 7:47 am

    Vivek, that guy certainly has a great sense of humour. :) I have seen his blog earlier. It’s an excellent blog, although not my type of thing.

    P.S. Also the scene the blogger liked the most in the movie is one I thought was the most stupid scene, the one where Jodha serves Akbar food in court, food which is cooked by her. There is no way that the queen would ever have done that and that too in front of all the courtiers. There is no way she would have gone into the kitchen with so many bawarchis there either. On the other hand the scene that he found stupid was the way akbar treated jodha, with respect. I think this quality any man can have and so can ancients. Now whether Akbar had it or not is another issue.

  9. ishaan permalink
    March 2, 2008 2:56 pm

    a total shit and timewaste (jodha akbar)

  10. Ravi permalink
    March 2, 2008 9:21 pm

    Vivek

    I just checked the link you have provide. That was awesome. You have taken a good decision not to watch J-A. Smart choice. The movie sucks big time. A.R.Rehman at his worst, terrible cinematography and awful screenplay. This movies doesn’t match gowarikar’s standards. If any body watches this movie Im pretty sure they are gonna repent to lose 4hrs of their valuable life time.

  11. Ravi permalink
    March 2, 2008 9:42 pm

    Keshav,

    I agree with you regarding ashoka way better than J-A. Ashoka was technically sound with good sound and visual effects besides it’s fantastic Art direction and superb background score. I didn’t know much about the love story in J-A because I m not into that genre of films. I always look for quality and how good it looks. I m not pleased by J-K as a good movie but aishwarya looks good though.

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