Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar - 4.5 stars

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.


  1. seems jodha akbar on now in adlabs now; tickets available online for huma (didn't check others)

    thanks for the review :)

  2. Yeah watched it too.. quiet liked.. inspite of it being a 4 hourly drama.. didnt really feel like my brains were being chewed.. kept me quiet engaged..

    Like you said not much of what we have read in history books is shown.. Todar mal is the only one of his 9 gems has been shown.. wonder where the rest were..

    Also the whole rajput community being so orthodox and hardcore.. Jodha seemed a little to new age and was surprisingly allowed to be so by her own parents as well as Akbar as well.. but its all good.. :-)

    It was an entertaining movie and ofcourse Hrithik was definitely more tolerable than my complete disgust over Shahrukh Khan playing King Ashoka - The Great.. phew all the picture you create in your mind as a child while reading about them can become a nightmare if u see a gay looking sharukh doing an asoka..

  3. Love historical movieplots, and the trailers of Jodha Akbar look promising. Now with your review, definitely on the "to watch" list. :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. A very nice review. As mention has been made of the ludicrous Khalid Mohamed review in the Hindustan Times, you might like to see the comments I had sent them." I think Mr. Khalid Mohamed has lost it. And this is a man who went ballistic praising a hammy potboiler like KKKG! There is nothing to be said about his hatchet job on Jodhaa Akbar, obviously the product of some personal animus, except to note that it is completely at odds with the reactions of whole of the rest of the cinema critics' fraternity, who are rarely united on anything. This is so especially as regards Hrithik's performance.
    I would also wish to point out, for Mr. Khalid Mohamed's edification, that if Gowarikar HAD included a mention of Din-e-Ilahi, then that WOULD have been an anachronism of the most glaring kind. The film stops when Akbar is 28, and Din-e-Ilahi did not come till the last part of Akbar's very long reign, from 1556-1605. Obviously Mr. Khalid Mohamed's grasp of history is not very solid either!"

    Shyamala B. Cowsik, Pune

  6. 2% history plus 98% filmy masala results in a movie called Jodha-Akbar.Tried my best to separate the movie from historical facts but could not.if i were not a student of history,i would have simply loved this movie.It was hard to believe the potrayal of Akbar as soo "secular" and "tolerant".He was a very shrewed king who played caste and religious politics way before the right wings of today.
    I was expecting a more realistic view and commentry about history from Ashutosh Gowarikar,not this .
    Any hu good job done by Hrithik and Aishwarya.....

  7. Just caught the movie .. and this review ...
    4 1/2 stars is generous .. it was a nice period 'love story' ... but it wasn't a 'great' story which can be watched multiple times ... whenever the movie touched upon the love story angle especially secenes involving both Hrithik and Ash it was brilliant !
    But a lot of sub plots were distracting especially since the aim to the movie seems to be to portray an unique love story between a Hindu princess and a Muslim emperor.

    Even i was wondering where Birbal was and yeah Tansen could have been used for a song or two :)!
    On the whole it was a nice movie and most of the reviewers seem to agree too ...

  8. Khalid Mohammed rated the film in the capacity of a film critic.

    When you launch personal attacks against celebrities ("acting karni aa gayi hai"), aapke readers aapko bolte hain - "Aap acting karke dikhao, phir baat karna?"

    How offensive you could be at times!

  9. I liked the movie a lot!!
    True, it does make you sit and the 3 hours plus running time is no pain at all.

  10. Hi Rashmi..just before commenting on the movie..i wud like to comment on u...I am a big fan of JAM..good work there..I have grown a bit older for JAM now..but good to know that u are doing good.

    Coming to Jodhaa Akbar, it is brillantly directed. Hrithik's duel with the elephant was simply a cinematic moment. Simply outstanding..I wud love to know how he shot it.

  11. Khalid Mohammed is the worst movie critic there ever could be. Throughout his reviews he seems to be concentrating far more on trying his hand at terrible turns of word and portmanteaus than reviewing the movie. And just nitpicking besides. After his reviews of Jab We Met and No Smoking, I have stopped reading reviews in HT.

  12. And Amit, I wish you were right - that Khalid Mohamed rates films in his capacity as a film critic. He seems to review them as a failed filmmaker (Fiza, Tehzeeb, Silsiilay) trying to make himself feel better.
    being on a personal agenda in a national newspaper is quite unacceptable.

  13. Hi :) I came across your blog accidently. Can't agree more with your opinion.
    Jodhaa Akbar is one of the best movies that I ever watched! Love that movie very much. Nobody can play Akbar better than Hrithik. He is born to play that role. I don't like Ash, but she is really good there. The costumes are amazing, very beautiful ... the songs are very beautiful. I think I will watch again this weekend :)

  14. 4.5 is a bit too exaggerated i feel..
    Hritik has performed great! - agreed
    ash wasn't that bad at acting- agreed
    but the movie just reminds u of dhoom-2, with stunt performing ash and hritik.
    for first 2 and a half hours, the movie is damn slow, its unnecessarily streched. finally it somehow manages to create interest in the last part (if u r patient enough to watch it till then).
    And yea, i appreciate some efforts of ashutosh govarikar, like the idea of not including birbal n all, i think thats wat he was aiming at, the story contained everything that ppl generally are unawared of! and thats wat his style is, take lagaan for example.
    There seems to be a lot of money spent on the sets and bringing that much crowd for battles, but its not that effectively used.
    The humorous part is, when a person kills 'khan baba' in his own mahal!
    and is just about to kill akbar with a sword!
    I don't think akbar would be that careless, to not have any guards inside his mahal!
    and whoa! that kiddish scene, of throwing that guy down TWICE frm the terrace until he's dead! lol..
    overall i don't think movie deserves anything more than 3 stars..
    but yea for those die hard romantics, it may be a good watch!
    But one thing i've realised after saawariya and jodha-akbar is that, don't go and watch a movie just bcoz its a big banner movie.

  15. If Jodha-Akbar is made just for entertainment value, it’s ok. But I don’t think it’s made for entertainment value. Asuthosh wanted to show his directorial capability and tried to convince the audience about the love story between Jodha and Akbar? But educated audience must know the history and must be laughing the way Akbar’s kingdom is shown in the movie against the romantic background?

    Many times, the role of Jodha was forcibly inserted to justify the title ‘Jodha Akbar. One such occasion I would like to site when Akbar got wounded with an arrow. Jodha would be taking care of him. What about his other wives and Baandies (concubines)?

    The focus of the movie evolves more around Jodha-Akbar to justify the title of the movie with very little is shown about his mother, midwife, and other counselors.

    One thing I have observed is that nothing is shown about Akabr’s Muslim wives? No interaction of Jodha with Akbar’s wives? The reason for not showing Akbar’s previous wivies can be well understood and it rather shows the dexterity of script writer and director. Well done Asutosh for presenting the historic facts in a bad light. You wanted business, and you would succeed too as the collection at box office is whopping week by week.

    Film impacts our lives and gives a message. What kind of message we’ll give to our posterity with this distorted factual periodic movie? Should not our generation visualize Akbar as Hirtik and Jodha as Aishwarya in same as we visualize Akab as Prithivi Raj Kapoor and Salim as Dilip Kumar? Would not the generation ahead to us believe what they see in the movie than believing on real history of Akbar in Mughal period?

    I don’t object on historic films. Richard Attenborough has also made a film on Gandhi, this was convincing and have won awards too. It was purely a historic movie and I really appreciate this movie. But when it comes to Indian directors in making such a movie, most of them have failed so far. Almost all of them do think from commercial perspective whether a film they make will do business or not. If not, then who will produce if next time he dares making sumac a movie.

    In gist, iIf a periodic film is made with distorted facts to do business, time is not far away when our posterity would believe such a film as real and discard what’s written in the history book. Future really looks bloom, alas!

  16. Rashmi,

    Liked your review. Saw the movie, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I don't think it is the job of Ashutosh to make a documentary on Mughal era. His job is to make a film with great cinematic value, and your rating of 4.5 is entirely justified on that count alone.

    I saw a few comments here objecting to the mirepresentation of history. One comment was why no muslim wives are shown, there is no guarantee that they aren't. There are a lot of women in the Harem (Which is just women's quarters), you can't make out who is a wife and who isn't.

    Another is regarding Birbal, Tansen etc. The movie only shows early part of Akbar's rule. All these guys could've come later.

    And your comment regarding the conversion of Rajput princess, the movie doesn't say it didn't happen. It just says the condition was, there won't be forcible conversion. It is quite possible that she converted later, or for the purpose of being prudent,she adopted a muslim name.

    Some other comment regarding akbar being childish in throwing someone of the roof twice!! Have read a few accounts across internet that talks about pretty much the same thing. This isn't something Ashutosh made up...

    So, all in all - I would say Ashutosh was very balanced, and presented the movie with the view point of the Princess (Hence it is Jodhaa akbar - not just AKBAR).

  17. yeah, it is worth watching once. but it seems to be intolerable if watched again.

  18. I will stringly disagree with you.. I went to see the movie first day last show and will agree that the first half was quite good and was revelling in the sweetness of language, always loved the Urdu tongue but after that it was all down town for the movie.
    Agreed Hrithik & Aish were good but they would be good in any movie, whats to the credit of movie. The movie had zilch to show for in the name of story. It was pathetic at parts, Watching it I couldnt believe I am watching a movie from the director of Lagan & Swades.
    And the length of the movie, what to say about it, The interval came after 2 hours, by that time I started thinking whether there will be any or not.
    The thing is the movie was just ended like that, there was no conclusive end to the movie, nothing which told you that yes now it is the end, Instead it just finished just like that..
    I dunno how can you rate it 4.5...
    Had you giveb 3.5 or sumthing like that. It would have been fine with me but 4.5 :O
    And main thing is you havent given us any good things in the movie to justify your rating, with a 4.5 rating you should be having some strong points except the fact that the actor and actress are good.

    And ya I liked Asoka more than this flick..

  19. Maybe the movie is an allegory to Aishwarya's marriage with Abhishek :) :)

  20. I thought this film was brilliant. Apart from the staging, which is fabulous, the love story is extremely well developed and holds your attention throughout. THis is the first time I have seen Hritik Roshan in a movie and I don't think I want to see him in any other role, because he is so excellent in this film. His character as a gentle husband, yet brutal ruler (when he needs to be) is very engaging and he does not overact, although he could have easily done so.
    Another thing I liked about this movie was that the main characters don't burst into song at the drop of a hat and dance about like drunken marionettes. Instead, the movie is like a series of living paintings set to melodious and at times haunting music. The dialog is also very good.
    Anyone who sees this movie expecting a historically accurate account is exceedingly naive. For one thing, who would want to see a documentary for 3 and a half hours? Give poetic license its due and Ashutosh Gowarikar kudos for making an exquisite film. The only bad news for him, is how does he top this?

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