Films,  Reviews

Jodhaa Akbar: A regal romance rewritten

When you decide to see Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar do two things: One- don’t expect a historical narrative with accuracy in its depiction. And two- remember it is a fictitious tale. And then like any other die hard lover of Hindi cinema- enjoy the wonderful romance between Jodhaa and Akbar.

When Haider Ali (remembered best for his Nukkad appearances)  came up with this unusual twosome for a film script- he must have been really thinking hard. For when it is so tough for two people from two different religions to survive social pressures in an alliance in today’s modern era, wonder how two prominent people in that era would have done so. So the film is about a Mughal emperor and a Rajput princess who are wedded in a strategic alliance to prevent bloodshed.

Ashutosh Gowariker handles the emotions- anger, passion, pride, dignity- with the right amount of editing. The sequences are grand, so are the sets and the costumes. Both Hritik and Aishwarya look perfectly cut out for the role- regal, proud, dignified- and extremely made for each other. My favourite scene is the sword fight between the top protagonists, where Akbar’s bemused smile lends just the right touch of passion to the duel.

Intertwined in the simple tale is the dark politics of the era- conniving brothers-in-law with an eye on the throne, a jealous foster mother (brilliantly played by Ila Arun), disloyal courtiers and religious fanatics.  Shatrughan Sinha’s wife, Punam, makes a return as Akbar’s mother. The supporting parts played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Suhasini Mulay, Sonu Sood and Niktin Dheer are well written.

What I loved most, was the way Akbar comes across as a completely normal human being instead of being unnecessrily glorified- a young emperor’s coming of age, where he tries to throw off his baggage of influential advisors; a young lover learning his political lessons from something his bride incidentally tells him; his confessions about his lack of literacy; and his earnest ambition to do better than his ancestors, but differently.

AR Rahman’s music stays with you when you get out of the theatre. I have been humming ‘Khwaja mere khwaja’ and ‘Azeem-o-shaan shehenshah’ even since I returned. Haider Ali makes a cameo appearance in the Khwaja song. Kiiran Deohans’ cinematography is brilliant, so is Ashutosh’s eye for detail in executing difficult sequences with perfection. Amitabh Bachchan, as narrator provides the necessary background to the start of the movie. Gowariker has tried his best to assuage the angered Rajputs with a long introduction which tells about the haziness about Jodhaa’s recorded name in history. Indians have always been extremely poor historians anyway.

Ashutosh Gowariker packages the right bit of nationalism in a tale from the Mughal era. There are episodes that make you wonder why people can’t have tolerance for things that are different from themselves. And as I walked back from Trafalgar square, my eye caught a few lines inscribed below a statue which said: “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no bitterness nor hatred for anyone”. And then I thought of Raj Thackeray and all the warmth in my heart disappeared instantly.

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