February 23, 2008


I have a simple philosophy; if you have a headache, don’t get your feet massaged. The problem with Jodhaa-Akbar is that the lack of a feasible story makes it doubly difficult for an uninspiring screenplay to hold the interest. The purpose of any cinematic adventure simply rests on the narrative prowess of the storyteller and no amount of detailing to period or costumes and locations can really overcome a missing story. Lagaan was blessed with an intriguing albeit audacious storyline and Swades, no matter what one feels was one of the better films I’ve seen.

Jodhaa-Akbar is laced with all the mistakes and pitfalls a scriptwriting books warns us about. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to show the audience something and then make the characters find out what the audiences already knew. Jodhaa-Akbar repeats this glaring folly on half-a-dozen occasions.

I didn’t dread the long duration for everyone knows that this being an Ashutosh Gowarikar film would be longer than Akbar’s reign over India. Blessed with a very nicely cast lead duo, the film’s secondary characters all ham their way to death. My biggest issue with the film is that if it were pitched as a love story and not a historical love saga as suggested by everything connected with the film, why not explore the love a little more? The fact that a Rajput princess weds the Emperor of India and as it’s a marriage of political alliance more than anything, the princess wants the King to woo her. Akbar tries to do this with amazing regularity only broken by attacks on his kingdom, rebellions and other insipid matters of the state.

If this were truly a love story, shouldn’t the film get over when Jodhaa has been ‘won’ over by Akbar? The climax of the film is an ode to testosterone where the future of India is to be decided by the fate of a fight between Akbar and his brother-in-law. The two huge armies watch the men get on with it and why do they do so? Well, ‘Zile-e-Ilahi’ thinks he can save bloodshed and lives if they fight one on one!

Made on a scale that makes Lagaan look like modest, Jodhaa-Akbar is at best a weary effort in which the non-conviction of the script and the filmmaker transcend all the grandeur offered by the production designer. Barring Hrithik Roshan and Asihwarya Rai Bachchan and their chemistry there is nothing worth mentioning about the film. The music is below average; the lyrics plebian and choreography resemble a school stage show. The Khwaja song has some really metrosexual looking men indulging in synchronized PT like dance steps and stop only when the emperor joins in; maybe he knew if he didn’t they wouldn’t halt!

No one remembers Ashutosh Gowarikar’s first two films and there is a reason. Blessed with a great sense of narrating a story, Mr. Gowarikar is a good filmmaker. If people still consider Lagaan to be a great film, there is a reason for it. Swades made us believe that Shah Rukh Khan still has an actor hidden behind the superstar but Jodhaa-Akbar would make you think that maybe its time Mr. Gowarikar get out of his labyrinth of comfort and do something that truly challenges him.

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