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March 5, 2008 > Movie Review: Jodha Akbar - a visual feast

Movie Review: Jodha Akbar - a visual feast

By Vidya Pradhan

It was one of those rare moments when I wished I was 20 years younger. Gorgeously dressed and splendidly coiffed, the absolutely sensational looking Hrithik Roshan completely steals the show as Jalaluddin Mohammad 'Akbar' in Ashutosh Gowarikar's magnum opus, Jodha Akbar.

With opulent sets, sparkling cinematography and well-mounted and well-shot battle scenes, Jodha Akbar is a feast for the eyes, a visual spectacle that dazzles in every scene, with a romantic pair that surely has to be the most beautiful in Bollywood.

The movie deals with a period in history when the Mughals ruled India. Originally a band of tribal warriors descended from Genghis Khan, the Mughals fell in love with the beauty of the land they invaded and the hospitality of the people. The Muslim warrior kings decided to settle down and become part of the culture rather than plunder and leave.

The third king in the Mughal dynasty, Jalaluddin Mohammad 'Akbar,' is widely regarded as the most benevolent and progressive. Akbar ruled from 1556 A. D. to 1605 A.D. and was known as a wise and fair monarch. Jodha Akbar deals with a singular event in his life, when circumstances led to the marriage of the Muslim king with a Hindu princess, an event that was strenuously protested by both families as well as the orthodoxy of both religions. There is some historical weight to this incident, though the name of the princess and the details of their marriage and subsequent courtship are mostly drawn from the imagination of the scriptwriter. A caveat at the beginning of the movie warns history buffs that this movie is 'inspired' from historical events.

Jodha Akbar intertwines the journey of the crown prince Jalal to manhood and empire building with the inter-religious romance of the young king and the Hindu princess of Amer. The script credits Jodha with a great deal of influence on shaping the policies and world view of the young prince, from his attitude towards other faiths to his compassionate interaction with his subjects. Whether true or not, it makes for a good storyline and the director faithfully hews to the solid screenplay.

Where the movie falls short is in its absurd length. At 3 hours and 45 minutes, Jodha Akbar is just too long. There is no singular event that holds your attention or necessitates lingering. Instead, many scenes go on just a tad longer than they should and some songs are a real intrusion. There are a couple of threads, one being an assassination attempt on the emperor and prolonged scenes of his recovery, which could have easily been cut with no impact on the overall plot. Scenes of a buff and toned Akbar fighting an elephant and doing swordplay are sure to quicken the heartbeats of women from the ages of 9 to 90, but they do nothing to advance the story.

One subplot that is interesting is the malevolence of Akbar's wet nurse, who has a commanding position in the king's court, toward the princess Jodha and her efforts to discredit the new wife. The inner workings of the harem make for intriguing viewing as do the bejeweled sets, shimmering under the lavish cinematography.

If you have a good size chunk of time to spare, do check out Jodha Akbar. The battle scenes are sure to impress even youngsters jaded by video games and the color and pageantry offer a glimpse into why India casts a spell on its visitors. And did I mention the eye candy that the movie's leads are?

Runtime: 3 hrs. 45 mins.

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