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Jodhaa Akbar February 17, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Period films aren’t common in Hindi cinema and they don’t work well at the box office. That is primarily because movies like Subhash Ghai’s disastrous offering Kisna and the way-off-the-mark Asoka by Santosh Sivan are being dished out in the guise of landmark films. Finally, we have a notable entry in the historical genre in the form of Jodhaa Akbar. Director Ashutosh Gowariker (Swades, Lagaan) shows us that it can be done even if he takes too much time.

The film begins when a young teenager, Jalaluddin Mohammad (who will later be known as Akbar), is forced to take over the reigns of the kingdom due to the death of his father, Humayun. His next few years are spent waging wars under the guidance of Bairam Khan. When Jalal is old enough to take over, he resorts to more peaceful ways of expanding his control and uniting Hindustan under the Mughal rule. Meanwhile, the Rajput ruler of Amer, who is also against wars, decides to join his hands with Akbar, incurring the wrath of other Rajput rulers. Faced with a dilemma, he decides to marry his daughter, Jodhaa to Akbar. The rest of the film deals with the developing relationship between the two as well as the rule of Akbar during that period.

The writers (Haider Ali and Gowariker himself) effectively mix historical facts with fiction to create a watchable film. Though the film touches many aspects, both political and emotional, the writers manage to keep it uncomplicated. The visuals are extremely impressive. The production design by Nitin Desai is superlative and I loved the costumes, head gear and jewellery by Neeta Lulla. Cinematographer Kiran Deohans captures these beautiful visuals but Gowariker makes sure that they don’t become the focus in any of the scenes. A R Rahman, once again, delivers for Ashutosh. The songs are lovely (Jashn-E-Bahara is probably my favorite) and his background score is commendable (especially for the scenes involving Hrithik and Aish). Ashutosh films the nicely choreographed Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah and the romantic In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein numbers well and Manmohana is placed quite effectively but Khwaja Mere Khwaja does not warrant a place in the narrative.

Ashutosh, as always, casts well and both his lead actors have what it takes to look regal. Hrithik Roshan pulls off a tough role once again with ease. Some might feel that he doesn’t look like Akbar because of the preconceived images of Prithviraj Kapoor (Mughal-e-Azam) or Vikram Gokhale (Akbar-Birbal teleseries) but better sense should prevail. He doesn’t quite have the baritone of Amitabh Bachchan or even Raza Murad (who plays the prime minister in this film) but he does his best to make up for it with his earnest dialogue delivery. Aishwarya Rai is more beautiful here than in any of her recent films and this is as natural a performance as she has ever given in her career. She far exceeds my expectations. Kudos to Gowariker for bringing out the best in these two. As usual Ashutosh Gowariker collects an eclectic and less exposed cast for this film including Ila Arun (who manages to be quite scary as Maham Anga), Kulbhushan Kharbanda (who played a King in Lagaan as well) and Punam Sinha (presumably Shatrughan Sinha’s wife, who is very likable as Akbar’s mother) and it always helps to relate better to the characters. Sonu Sood gets to play a sympathetic role as Jodhaa’s cousin, Sujamal. A good opportunity for him to get better recognition and hopefully, more roles that can justice to his capability.

This isn’t quite the perfect film. The first hour of the film is somewhat languorously paced and doesn’t really pull you in despite the visual splendour. This section could have been shortened, considering the length of the film. The film holds strong appeal once Jodhaa and Akbar get together. The best parts of the film involve the interactions between these two characters. Gowariker creates some brilliant scenes here with subtle expressions and reactions from both his lead actors. In fact, Ashutosh’s impact is all over this film and he successfully pulls off another challenging film, even if isn’t a great one.

This film is clearly not for those who cannot sit through one that lasts over 200 minutes. Also, it isn’t for those who want simple entertainment and are likely to look at this as a history lesson. For the rest, this is recommended because one hardly gets to see such a well made historical in India.


1. Arun - February 17, 2008

At best one can categorize it as a “long movie with a historical theme”. Contained its own good share of inconsistencies but if you are one of those who cannot or do not want to spot such errors then it may be entertaining depending on your taste. The heights was the Sufi song (after Akbar’s marriage) ……… clean shaved men singing sa-re-ga-ma, ha ha ha (clean shave + absolutely nothing Sufi about it). And yeah, the costume and war scenes were much better in Mahabharat (1988, a successful Indian television series produced by B. R. Chopra and directed by Ravi Chopra). Personally, ARR performed extraordinarily below standard!!
Would have been an okay movie if it were less than 2 hrs.

2. Sai - February 17, 2008

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the war sequences myself but there is one particular shot that I really liked where the camera is pulling out as if it is avoiding the colliding soldiers.

Rahman’s music takes some time to grow as always.

I can’t really comment whether the dancers in Khwaja Mere Khwaja were Sufi enough or not but Rahman does mention the “Rumistic, Sufi kind of dance” in a recent interview. Judging by the response of the audience, they did not really relate to Akbar getting in touch with his spiritual side in the song.

I wouldn’t claim that I am well-versed with history but a simple check on Wikipedia confirms a lot of the incidents and characters (including the eunuch) in the film. The romance is obviously fictional because it isn’t recorded. As far as the name goes, it could be Hira Kunwari or Jodha or something else. Since, there seems to be no consensus, Ashutosh is justified in using the more famous moniker and his disclaimer at the beginning should satisfy most people. Ashutosh has never claimed that the film is historically accurate but he seems to have done his research well. Since it takes an unimaginable amount of pain to make such a film paying close attention to detail, I would choose to overlook any minor inconsistencies that can always crop up in such an endeavor but if there are any interesting ones, I would love to hear them.

3. Shujath - March 3, 2008

Despite having loved Aushotosh’s previous venture Swades, I was a bit disappointed when he announced Jodhaa Akbar…..because neither the theme nor the choice of lead pair (Hrithik mostly) appealed to me. After watching this I thought I wasn’t too wrong.

I’d heap praise for the effort which has gone in to the making of the film rather than the outcome. The biggest achievement of Jodhaa Akbar according to me is that inspite of being 3hrs 20 mins long (and not being too interesting either) it doesn’t make you impatient. I’d blame Ashutosh only for his choice of plot…..nothing else. Even thinking about its historical significance is being too harsh on the film. This lack of historical burden could have been taken advantage of by probably weaving a more interesting story but that has not happened. Honestly, I was laughing at quite a few sequences which weren’t supposed to be funny at all.

Hrithik put in a lot of effort to get into the role but though he seems to have gotten his body language right mosty it is his dialogue delivery which didn’t work. His voice and more importantly diction isn’t appropriate for a role like this. Aishwarya is surprisingly good. But most impressive are the supporting cast – especially the new faces (Poonam Sinha, the maid in the Harem, the guy who plays Sharifuddin….to mention a few)- couldn’t make out the names from the credits.

What works perfectly as usual for Ashutosh is A.R Rahman. From the promos I found the “Jashn-e-Bahara” the most crowd pleasing, but its instrumental theme which is used in quite a few places is too good. “Azeem-o-Shaan” is wonderfully choreographed which gives the majestic song its due. “Khwaja” is a song which sounds great only when heard but doesn’t have the intended impact when filmed (similar thing can be observed about Rahman’s brilliant Qawwali “Noor-Un-Ala” from Meenaxi). “In Lamhon” is also a beauty which I missed in the promos.

In terms of the look, there seems to have been a lot of research done. Apart from the costumes and jewellery, the lack of excessive opulence of the courts/residences contrary to popular imagination is very much consistent from the history I’ve read about this period. When it comes to war sequences I guess one has in mind the extraordinarily filmed scenes from Hollywood period/fantasy flicks which make the ones in this flick look below standard. But I found them justified.

Jodhaa Akbar is a directorial triumph but it’s not a film which would stay too long in my mind and I wouldn’t definitely consider it to be a classic as most critics/viewers seem to think.

4. shakirhyd - March 14, 2008

Not surprisingly, it has been coming down the charts. Too long a film, but Hrithik’s performance was earnest as usual. Not a commercial movie for my liking.

5. geetwala - December 18, 2008

I saw the movie and in spite of its historical inconsistencies it was still good. Now I’m a big Hrithik fan, so seeing him in this was a real treat. Aish was subtly wonderful and hit her role on the nail. The two were a good pair together. The other new faces suceeded in nailing their roles too, i.e., Sharufuddin and Jodhaa’s brother.

The music works and do do the songs. Re: not sounding sufi enough. That’s up for grabs.

6. Rbmurphy - March 12, 2009

This is the first Indian film I have ever been so taken with, not that I have watched many indian films being french/chinese. I was not familiar with the history or the characters other than the name of the esteemed Jalal-ud-din Mohammed Akbar and few mentions of his belief. I don’t know what is historically missing but I enjoyed the movie so much I did not notice the time but had the opportunity to enjoy the dress, the jewelry, the sensitivity the culture and the actors. Hrithik is fabulous and Aish was wonderful. At a time like what we are currently living through there should be more men like Akbar in leadership roles in the world. Thank you for a superb film, I am still thinking about it two weeks after I have seen it. A profound experience. In my humble opinion. Thank you…

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