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.
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.
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.
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.
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.