Saturday, January 3, 2009

Jodha Akbar

Over the holidays I watched for a second time, Ashutosh Gowarikar's epic drama based on the love story between Jallaluddin Mohammed Akbar, a Mughal emperor and Jodha Bai, a Hindu princess. Ashutosh, for the uninitiated is an acclaimed director from Bollywood who directed Lagaan, a movie that was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.

Ashutosh had a brilliant casting coup by bringing together Hrithik Roshan as Akbar and Aishwarya Rai as Jodha. Although the cast was the USP of the movie their collective beauty blinded me the first time I watched the movie from noticing the well researched story about the unusual alliance between a Hindu princess with the emperor of Hindustan.

Jallaluddin was a kid of thirteen when his father Humayun dies making him the emperor. It was also a time of great turmoil in India. The Moguls wanted to acquire and rule over as much land as possible while the disenfranchised Hindus were making all sorts of alliances. Jalal is thrust into battle since that young age. A certain brutality surrounds him, where he is expected to behead kings that he defeats in battle, where cousins and friends are after his life to take over the empire, where trusted muslim leaders are expecting him to not make friends with the hindus and where hindus trust him even less as they believe that he is not from their land. An alliance wedding with Jodha Bai, a Rajput princess gives him a different perspective. In the process of winning Jodha's heart, Akbar wins the hearts and minds of his subjects.

Ashutosh tries to pack a lot of history and detail in the three hour movie run. The mother who hands over a vial of poison to her daughter Jodha when she is getting married to the Mughal emperor, a defiant Jodha asking the emperor that she be allowed to bring her Hindu God in the palace, Akbar's relationship with his faith and God or Akbar never learning to read or write.

A lot of focus has been placed on Hrithik's character of Akbar and he is spot on. Although the first few scenes of him, you felt like you were watching a GQ spread, Hrithik's command on his diction and his acting capabilities eventually make you believe that he the emperor of Hindustan. Aishwarya on the other hand was not the best choice for Jodha. Though beautiful, her acting capabilities are limited and she seems to float through the role like she is a present day Rajput.

This review will not be complete if I did not mention the costume designer for the movie. Neeta Lulla did a fabulous job in designing both Jodha and Akbar's look.

Overall a watchable movie which could have been better if the director hadn't compromised by casting the most famous names in bollywood.

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