Monday, May 19, 2008

Of Jodhaa Akbar

Powered by: Chakpak.comJodhaa Akbar

I know, I know it's late to be reviewing this, but I was only able to watch the movie over the weekend and since this was an eagerly awaited movie I just couldn't resist reviewing it.

Jodhaa Akbar (JB) is a 2008 historical epic starring Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. The premise of the movie is the romance between the sixteenth century Mughal emperor Akbar and the Rajput princess Hira Kunwari Sahiba who is referred to as Jodhaa in the movie. IMDB clocks this movie at 213 minutes which is pretty long even for a Bollywood movie. Ashutosh Gowariker whose earlier credits include the Academy Award nominated Lagaan and the critically acclaimed Swades directs this movie.

Watching JB is like watching Ridley Scott's Heaven on Earth; a movie that was painfully politically correct in its every stride. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it does make the movie more artificial rather than real. JB is also similar to Santosh Sivan's biopic Asoka. Asoka tried to theorize that it was love that turned a warrior blood thirsty king to a non violent Buddhist. It is the same sort of love, apparently, that turns Akbar into a wise and secular emperor.

Bollywood historical epics, in my opinion, have always been a joke. They never get the facts right and they always end up making a larger than life character out of real people. For instance did you know that Mangal Pandey was hanged in secret by the British because they did not want an uprising over his death ? Yet the movie makes a dramatic public execution that leads to a revolt and subsequently the War of 1857 at the same moment he dies. Rajkumar Santoshi's The Legend of Bhagath Singh with all its 15 years of research made a glaring mistake. Singh shot the wrong man in Lahore. DSP Saunders was not the target; Police chief Scott was. But of course the hero of the movie can't make mistakes.

JB however has a disclaimer right before the credits that state it is based on only one of the versions of historical record and that there are other versions. Gowariker himself has stated that most of the movie was his imagination, so I will forgive some of the inaccuracies I saw in the movie. Yes, I know, I'm weird that way.

This is Hrithik's movie all the way. He truly personifies the glamour, lavishness and fury of the Mughals. His Akbar is a very restrained performance and he is excellent while portraying the young emperor who is lovestruck and vulnerable. Aishwarya does a good job portraying Jodhaa but I just couldn't see her as a Rajput princess. The Rajput's were defiant and fiery and you see none of that in her. She even holds a sword like a clumsy drunk buffoon in one very embarrassing scene.

Cinematography is another strong point in this movie. Before special effects Hollywood was famous for its camera work (Ben Hur for example) and it seems Indian cinema has reached this stage. The camera makes epic the ancient battlefields of India and it also captures the elegance and magnitude of the Mughal and Rajput palaces. The elephant sequence and the climactic scenes are a gem to watch for.

Since it's directed by Ashutosh Gowariker you have to expect a lot which is exactly what I did but I have to say I was disappointed. There are some scenes in the movie which are just stunning like the execution of Akbar's elder brother and then there are some scenes which were unbelievably corny like the death of Jodhaa's brother. The film is long running at over 3 hours and it seems like Gowariker seems to have lost his way on certain days of shooting. If I were to draw the high points and low in chronological order of the movie it would look like this:

Jodhaa Akbar is a good movie and bold according to Bollywood standards but it loses some its pitch at various points. Also it's a bit long and this will take the interest out of any person who's not much into history. Watch it if you liked Lagaan and Swades, but give it a miss if you don't like historical epics and if you don't want to spend 3 hours on a movie.


Tabitha said...

hey dere...Nice blog
Thanks 4 stoppin by
cheers :)

Tom said...

I LOVE MOVIES! and I am always looking for new great movies to watch. Looks like I found my next foreign film.

Alex Mcone said...

@ tabitha - thank you for stopping by

@ tom - I hope you like it. And I bit my nails in anticipation.