Jodhaa Akbar – Movie Review
Jodha 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.