Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 15, 2008

Romancing the royals

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:17 pm

February 15, 2008

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Sonu Sood, Ila Arun, Nikitin Dheer

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

I’ve never felt this way about any other film, but sitting there in my seat watching Jodhaa Akbar, I felt privileged as a moviegoer. Privileged that such a film had been made, and privileged that it had been made in our times so we can form our own opinions of the film rather than adopt the opinions of previous generations, which we invariably must when looking at older classics.

A drama of epic proportions, Jodhaa Akbar is at its core an intimate love story that’s set against the spectacular sweep of the Mughal era. It’s about the romance that gradually blossoms between Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhaa, the Rajput princess with whom he enters into a marriage of alliance. It’s also the coming of age story of the greatest Mughal ruler, who goes from a reluctant warrior to a brave and honorable leader and wins over his people with his empathy and his secular outlook.

Magnificently directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, Jodhaa Akbar draws you into its drama just moments into the film, transporting you to the battlefield, to the emperor’s court, to Jodhaa’s private chamber, and most importantly, into the mind and heart of Mohammed Jalaluddin Akbar himself, where he grapples with betrayals and insecurities.

It’s the kind of film that doesn’t quite let go of your attention well after the end credits have rolled some three hours and 20 minutes later.

Much will be said about the film’s daunting length, and truth is, it could have been shorter. I can think of at least two subplots that could have been judiciously trimmed. But having said that, I honestly believe the length of Jodhaa Akbar doesn’t hurt. You are swept into the roller-coaster ride of Akbar’s political and personal growing-up journey, and it’s not often that the screenplay loses its pace.

The film’s best moments are the ones between the protagonist couple. Take that scene in which he catches her sight transfixed on his bare torso, or that sword fight between the couple that’s bubbling with sexual energy. Even that delicate scene in which he reveals to his wife an awkward truth about his education. Or then that moving scene in which he vindicates her honour by demanding to be served his lunch in the same plates she ate out of just moments ago in a tense situation.

Truth is, Jodhaa Akbar works like a dream when it focuses its energies on the relationship between the couple – their little spats, their mischievous moments, his heeding her advice, and the like. As a big, period epic, Jodhaa Akbar has enough drama to keep you engaged – palace intrigue, violent confrontations and impressive battle sequences.

The scenes that stand out for their sheer visceral impact can be ticked off a checklist – first that breathtaking scene in which the emperor tames a wild elephant, also the one in which he gives in to his rage and orders a cruel death to a traitor, and finally that one-on-one combat scene in the climax, inspired no doubt from Troy. These are moments all that stay with you long after you’ve left your seat.

There is ample evidence of the fact that Gowariker once again assembles the perfect team to realise his vision. Kiran Deohans’ cinematography is one of Jodhaa Akbar’s key strengths, and nowhere is that more apparent than the battle scenes which Deohans’ camera captures gloriously, making you feel like you’re right out there where the action is. The visual treatment for the film’s songs is another masterstroke, in particular the eye-watering manner with which he films the Khwaja mere khwaja number, and also the lavish indulgence of the Azeem-o-shaan-shahenshah song.

Then there’s Neeta Lulla’s costumes and Nitin Desai’s sets, both suitably ostentatious, but never once drawing attention away from the drama like they have previously in films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. Of course, Jodhaa Akbar benefits enormously from AR Rahman’s genius score, a collection of the finest, most haunting tunes you can remember recently, my favourites being the unforgettable Jashne Baharaa number and the one-of-a-kind Khwaja mere Khwaja track.

The soul of Jodhaa Akbar however, lies in the superlative acting. Supporting player Nikitin Dheer makes a lasting impression as Akbar’s rebellious brother-in-law, but the film of course belongs to the two leads. As Jodhaa, the sometimes-feisty-sometimes-graceful leading lady, Aishwarya Rai is wonderfully restrained and uses her eyes expertly to communicate so much, making this one of her finest outings on screen.

Hrithik Roshan, as Akbar, oozes confidence and delivers a career-best performance as the unflinching emperor. Not only does he transform physically to become the part, he gets under the emotional skin of the character and makes it his own. I cannot think of any other actor who could play this better.

Fact or fiction, Jodhaa Akbar is an engaging, involving movie-going experience, and puts Gowariker right up there on the very short list of India ‘s finest filmmakers. No prizes for guessing, I’m going with four out of five and two thumbs up for Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar, it’s a modern masterpiece that will be celebrated for years to come.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

1 Comment »

  1. it was one of best movie of Aish and Hrithik

    Comment by khush — August 8, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

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