Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Storyline: A Mughal Emperor learns love and governance from Hindu Princess Jodhaa
Bottomline: An old-fashioned big-budget prequel to Mughal-E-Azam
An epic, by definition, is all about gravity and magnitude.
No love story has ever made history without a high stakes conflict involving separation and pain or celebration of the power of love.
Romeo-Juliet, Laila-Majnu, Devdas-Paro or Jack-Rose, they all had their share of soaring highs that plummeted to the lowest of lows.
Admittedly, tragedies, by the nature of their genre, dictate the dramatic direction of the South-bound character graphs and are better equipped to make us feel the angst that love brings with it.
Yes, we do have to take into consideration that Ashutosh Gowariker has chosen to tell us a love-story that has actually worked despite the odds – religious differences – which in today’s context of frequent communal violence, seem quite huge.
At a middle-class level: Yes, surely.
But even today, has religion really posed to be that huge a hurdle in the higher rungs of the society? Ask the ruling Khans of the film industry. The lifestyles of the rich and the famous transcend cultural and religious boundaries. Ask Gauri, Reena, Kareena or Katrina, it is no big deal.
Class has a huge role to play in love stories. The differences between the rich and the poor are so deeply engrained in the psyche of our people that it is difficult for the collective conscious of a society to see the pangs of romance in the lives of a couple brought into matrimony by parental arrangement. Our only interest in the rich and famous is voyeuristic and not necessarily empathetic. We don’t really care.
It’s not like they had an affair or painted the town red with their romance or did anything even remotely scandalous. It’s not like one of them was kidnapped and the other sent on a long never-ending exile. It’s not that it was a love story that caused war or divided people.
Jodhaa-Akbar is a simple story of a married couple reconciling differences in an arranged marriage set-up, that too in a fairytale world, where the two dynasties need each other to flourish. Given that the political context and nature of the romance is not even remotely epic in scale to demand a 40-crore movie, it is commendable that Ashutosh succeeds to the extent he has in delivering a three and a half hour long movie to the multiplex-generation. Even if it reads more like a coffee-table book than one that will make it to the shelf for serious academic reference.
To his credit, Ashutosh and Haider Ali have scripted ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ as an insightful prequel to Mughal-E-Azam… Or what went into the making of Akbar. Now, the making only records incidents, obstacles and hurdles into what went into the production of a classic, it is not always a story that can stand by itself.
Here was an emperor who married a Hindu princess, a woman who still played a vital role in his life – a point illustrated when Jodhaabai (in Asif’s classic) demands of her king that he does not slay her son.
Now, why would a Muslim Emperor who married a Hindu princess not understand his son’s love for a courtesan and go to war with his own son?
Ashutosh and Haider Ali give us a few answers. Akbar did not fall in love with Jodhaa and then marry her. He fell in love after marrying her. Even as a young man, Akbar considered principles higher than family. Sample the scene where he does not object to Jodhaa publicly being asked to taste the food she’s cooked for him first to ensure it is safe. He lets his queen go through the awkwardness as required by the law of the land and then announces he would eat from the same plate as the Queen of Hindustan.
Thus, the legend of Akbar as a righteous king is further endorsed by Ashutosh who does not seem to be interested in detail as much as Asif was. Asif’s Akbar was a much more complex character who was torn between his love for the country, his wife, his son, his principles and the promises he had made.
Ashutosh’s Akbar is the eternal do-gooder, always adorned in shades of white, yellow and the brighter colours of the spectrum and the darker suits and armours are reserved for his cunning brother-in-law Shareefuddin.
Given this black-and-white approach to storytelling, Ashutosh could’ve further gone ahead with his artistic licence and dramatised incidents or created fictional twists to make us see the miracle of love and taken us on the rollercoaster of highs and lows.
For want of a serious conflict and drama (the greatest conflict in the film is a silly misunderstanding that lasts all of the interval block), Jodhaa Akbar ends up too shallow for a love story, the epic proportions purely limited to how Akbar grew up to learn how to love, understand and rule his people, thus setting the stage for Mughal-E-Azam.
Hrithik and Aishwarya do plenty to reprise their Dhoom:2 duels and yet it strangely seems to fit in here than there. Their chemistry and onscreen persona alone make Jodhaa Akbar worth your movie ticket.
Rahman’s background music that usually touches maximum in the Awesome-Meter when he scores for Ashutosh does seem to exaggerate mood quite a bit. It doesn’t help that the lyrics of Khwaja Mere Khwaja go off-sync and that the song picturisation often pales in comparison to the grandeur of the music.
The biggest disappointment of the film is Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s homework in the art department. We’re glad you didn’t label Agra Fort as Agra Qila in Hindi right above the gateway, Mr.Desai.
Kiiran Deohans’ cinematography (if we overlook the visual-effecting war sequences) and Tanishq’s jewellery-range make for a picture perfect glossy on canvas but Ashutosh’s overly romanticised, hyper-indulgent take on Jodhaa-Akbar has its moments of class that more than make up for its lack of depth.