Who knows if there was ever a 'Malika-e-Hindustan' called Jodha. Whether she was Akbar's wife or Jehangir's.
All we know is Akbar was a relatively benevolent Mughal emperor who married a few Rajput princesses. And picking up that thread Ashutosh Gowariker and scriptwriter Haidar Ali have spun a eyeball-popping epic love story.
Sure, it's long. It's melodramatic. It's totally filmi. But unlike Asoka, where I wanted to walk out of the theatre in the interval, Jodha Akbar holds your interest. And that is chiefly because of two reasons:
a) Hrithik Roshan: No idea what Akbar looked like but Hrithik carries the role on his sinewy shoulders with amazing strength and style. He is regal and yet human. No other actor could have done justice!
b) Aishwarya Rai: Extremely beautiful, graceful and also convincing (in her last few films it's evident - acting karni aa gayee hai). The role she plays is a little 'too good to be true'. I mean a princess who is an expert in sword fighting, who places two conditions before the Emperor of India prior to marrying him, and cooks better than the palace bawarchis.
Guess they had superwomen in the medeival ages as well...
And ultimately this is one of the underlying themes of the film: the Empowered Woman.(Do not read on, as there are some spoilers. However it's hardly a 'suspense' film so what does it matter :)
Starting from the name of the film where 'Jodhaa' precedes Akbar, the Rajput princess is shown to be a lady with a mind of her own. Of course, Akbar is depicted as far more noble than he must have been in reality. Would the 'Emperor of India' really say ok, I won't consummate this marriage until I have 'won your heart'?
And there's absolutely no mention of the famed harem of wives and concubines. It's as if Akbar is a modern day lover with modern day values. Chalo chhodo, picture hai. The idea that 'shaadi karke aapne mera fateh kiya hai, magar dil nahin jeeta' is interesting.
Then there is a scene where Jodhaa is standing at the window and a bare chested Akbar is doing sword practice. His body is absolutely magnificent and Jodhaa is obviously feeling the heat. The idea that a woman also needs to be 'turned on' is kind of radical. Not only for those times but even today, for many in our country!
The other recurring theme is Hindus and Muslims co-existing in peace. And especially in the context of the Muslim being 'ruler'. The reason Akbar agrees to marry Jodhaa is political - he thinks it will make him more accepted as 'Indian'. He also agrees to two conditions put by her prior to the marriage:
a) 'I will remain a Hindu and retain my rehan, sehan and other cultural traditions. I will not be forcibly converted.'
b) 'I will be allowed to have a small temple in my mahal in the Mughal palace'.
Again yeh real life mein nahin hua. The Rajput princess Akbar is known to have married was called Marium uz Zamani after she became his wife.
However in the context of the movie, it's all quite believable. The entire 'Akbar as tolerant emperor' is brought out through Jodhaa. There's none of the stuff we learnt in history books - Din e elahi, Tansen, Birbal etc.
The fact that Jodhaa 'feels married' only when Akbar applies sindoor to her forehead raises an important point: you can attempt to convert a person in the external sense but not from deep within. Hence you may as well let her be...
Lastly the photography, the sets, the costumes and the overall canvas painted by the creators of the film is compelling in its grandeur. You finally feel okay - Bollywood can do it all as well (or even better!) than Hollywood. The Azeem o Shaan Shehenshah song and the battle scenes have sooo many extras you wonder how hey must have managed it all!
And hence for the scale, the style and the sheer poetry of the film I give it 4.5 stars. By the way, in my book, that means the film is 90% perfect - despite the length and the Troy-inspired climax.
I can't understand the likes of Khalid Mohamed who has given it a rotten '2 star' rating in today's HT. You can almost see him smirking as he asks: "Is Jodhaa Akbar a romantic dopiaza or Mughal history biryani"?
Khalidbhai, it's just entertainment. Aap aisi picture bana ke dikhao, phir baat kariye!
The only problem is: when will Jodhaa Akbar hit multiplexes? Both Adlabs and Cinemax have boycotted it so far...
Update: Check out another interesting review of Jodhaa Akbar on Club JAM.