Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

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I love this line from Raja Sen’s review of Jodhaa Akbar on Rediff:

Aishwarya, pretty as ever, is not given much dialogue, a directing masterstroke.

Other than that, though, I have to part ways with him on this one. I’m climbing aboard the “All Hail Ashutosh Gowariker!” train.

I loved this film, even in the face of a clueless couple who brought their two toddlers to the theater and then let them run (literally) wild through the entire thing*. I myself generally have the attention span of a five-year-old, which is one reason I prefer to see movies at home on DVD. The Pause button is my friend.

BUT. The story, the action, and the sheer sumptuousness of everything was completely engrossing. I did not get bored as I feared; I did not even find Hrithik and Aishwarya irritating. There was so much eye candy—the jewels, the clothes, the sets and landscapes, and of course the lead pair themselves—that it was almost overwhelming. The story, replete with treachery, jealousy, love, misunderstanding, revenge and hope, had me on the edge of my seat. The action had me biting my nails. I can’t even imagine how Gowariker pulled it all together, although of course he had lots of help.

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I have never found Aishwarya or Hrithik** particularly competent actors (and still don’t), but they were not bad in their quieter moments and more intimate scenes. I did cringe a little when Hrithik had to give a long speech, or act angry (and my view on Aishwarya’s input is quoted above). He and Aishwarya were sweet together, though, and convincing as young strangers falling in love and getting acquainted (I loved their sword fight scene). The characters were well-written and three-dimensional, with strengths, flaws, hopes and dreams. I found myself really rooting for them.

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The rest of the cast was good support as well, particularly Ila Arun as Maham Anga, the Emperor’s foster mother; and Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Jodhaa’s father. Sujamal (Sonu Sood) was such a 1970’s Amitabh doppelgänger that it was startling, and I was completely distracted by that whenever he was on screen. As Carla said: if I looked exactly like a movie legend, I would probably find another line of work.

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And the music is wonderful, although I did have Lagaan flashbacks occasionally, particularly during “Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah.” But that’s not altogether a bad thing. Also as Carla also pointed out (she is full of insight and wisdom), the prodigious dancing talents of both Hrithik and Aishwarya have tragically gone to waste.

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I don’t understand the fuss being made over its historical accuracy (or inaccuracy) either. I guess no one making a fuss has actually seen the film. It never pretends to be anything other than what it is: Gowariker’s own interpretation of historical legend for the purpose of entertaining. It does Rajputs proud too, and if anything, the influence Hinduism has on the Emperor is shown as “tempering” his Muslim instincts. Pretty much all the really vile and treacherous acts in the story are committed by the Mughals! But the overriding theme is one that embraces diversity and encourages tolerance—how can that not be worth showing?

In short: if you have the option to see this in a theater, run—don’t walk—to see it there. If not, wait for the DVD and buy a 60″ screen in the meantime. All hail Ashutosh Gowariker!

*People like this are the main reason I prefer to see movies at home on DVD. Note to parents: making children under eight sit through anything this long is child abuse. Get a babysitter.

**In my opinion Hrithik is the Kevin Costner of Hindi movies: inexplicably lauded for his monotonous, wooden performances in really terrible films.

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22 Comments to “Jodhaa Akbar (2008)”

  1. Am I the only person who thinks Aish gets a bad rap on her acting? I thought she was quite good in earlier films like Kandukondain Kandukondain and Hum dil de Chuke Sanam, and even mediocre movies like Kuch Naa Kaho and Bride & Prejudice show that she can be a pretty good comedienne when she’s given the chance.

    As for Hrithik and his freakishly sculpted body, for some reason his movies keep showing up on my loved one’s Netflix queue. She must see something in his acting that I’m missing…

  2. I don’t think you are the only person…but I find her very cold and formal/stiff. She was okay in this as I said, probably because the role required her to be somewhat formal (and she didn’t talk a lot)…

    And many people rave about Hrithik’s acting ability. I don’t get that at all, but that’s what makes the world go around! :-)

    • One thing I noticed about Hrithik is that he *talks too fast*! Even if I were to put him on mute, it would be very obvious.

      If he would just correct this, I think he would make a fine actor.

      As for Aishwariya- she’s okay. I just find it exasperating she’s given so many great roles despite having little to no finesse as a dramatic actress and boy does she shriek a lot! Her voice grates my nerves, although she sounds surprisingly pleasant when speaking english.

  3. Oh my God! “Aishwarya, pretty as ever, is not given much dialogue, a directing masterstroke”- I agree I agree- that is why she was acceptable in “The Last Legion”!!! And omg, Sonu sood is truly the early 70s Amitabh- its uncanny.

    So you figure we can have a bunch of Chaplinesque silent movies w/ hritik and Aishwariya- that seems to b the best way to go…:D

  4. I haven’t seen “The Last Legion” yet, although I will because Colin Firth is in it! (if I had to choose between Colin and Shammi I don’t know what I would do)…

    let us know how you like Jodhaa Akbar after you go :-)

  5. Good review. Absolutely agree with you about the movie worth a watch on the big screen.

    HR is a good actor – see Koi Mil Gaya.

    cheers

  6. Ooh, sorry. I have seen Koi Mil Gaya and thought it was just awful, and Hrithik equally bad. Glad we agree on JA though! :-)

  7. Hi,
    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but who should I decide is best: Gowariker probably, but the film is so loaded with the presence of its two main actors, that I’m not sure!
    cheers

  8. I look forward to reading your review when you do see it, Yves :-)

  9. Found your site from Beth’s – must add myself to the JA bandwagon. My initial crush on HR when he first started acting was crushed by my husband’s pointing out his nostril flaring made him look *Exactly* like a horse :-) but I found it in character here :-) Loved the intimate moments in the film, found most of the battle scenes fairly tedious, the elephant training scene silly, and LOVED the clothes and jewellery. HR’s sword training scene was much appreciated by my hormones. Favourite scenes are the ManMohana song scene where she is unveiled for the first time, and the lifting the ghunghat scene that you have a screencap of above…Gowarikar really does shine in personal scenes.

    M

  10. Welcome M and glad to have you aboard our bandwagon! I have had that same thought about Hrithik’s nostrils! although it doesn’t diminish my appreciation of his looks. He is very pretty.

  11. Hi. Is it possible if you could review the Bengali film Chokher Bali (2003)?

  12. I saw Chokher Bali when it first came out, and here’s what I said about it back then:

    If you like languid, slow, beautifully photographed period pieces you will like this movie. I don’t, particularly, and I found it too slow for my liking. That said, I don’t regret watching it; the performances were VERY good, the cinematography excellent and the story is still relevant today. But it was kind of like watching grass grow (a beautiful green lawn is a worthy end-product but…)

  13. …it’s not grass, it’s film…?

  14. Actually I have a theory about Aishwarya that she seems to emote better whenever she wears brown contact lenses ( hum dil de chuke sanam being the one exception to the rule). She’s pretty good in Kandukondein Kandukondein, Kucch na Kaho, Iruvar, Guru etc. I love your take on Writhik, though ( that’s what I call him because of his snakey dancing moves)

  15. Ha, Writhik. That’s a good one :-) She should have worn brown contacts in JA, since she had very dark brown eyes as a child!

  16. i need hair accessories worn by aish in jodha akbar

  17. I’ll jump on this JA wagon too – Loved it!

    Since I’m a sucker for period films I just adored this film. And can those two people be any more gorgeous? And I wouldn’t mind having the jewelry either, and many of the costumes as well.
    I do agree that both Hrithik and Aish are better in the subtler scenes, especially him. He tries waaay too hard to show us he’s “acting”. But there’s still time for him to improve…

    • I love Mughal period films. Am watching another one right now and loving it so far—Rustom Sohrab, from 1963. I’m not so sure Hrithik and Ash will ever improve as actors, but sometimes the pretty is enough :)

  18. Had to leave this comment, though I haven’t seen JA yet.

    Anybody cribbing about Hrithik not being a good actor should see Lakshya. He is really good in it, especially the scene where he calls up his dad (Boman Irani). I found this understated scene incredibly moving though about 70% of the credit for this goes to Boman.

    • Very well said. HR did a gr8 job in Lakshya. He is a very good actor and dances very well, looks don’t hurt either.
      JA was a beautiful movie and I don’t understand why some morons had objections -_-

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