[Statutory warning: I can’t promise that everything described here is an accurate reflection of what happens in Jodhaa Akbar. Parts of this review are as authentic a representation of the film as the film itself is of the Mughal era.]
It turns out that the controversy about historical authenticity in Jodha Akbar has been such a waste of everyone’s time. This film is really at its most authentic when it abandons all pretence that it was made for any reason other than to bring together Bollywood’s two most beautiful people (and a lot of shiny jewellery). Take the magnificently show-offish moment where a shirtless Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) displays his swordsmanship while Jodha (Aishwarya Rai) watches in womanly awe. The scene exists completely independent of context – it’s about Hrithik as the ultimate alpha-male preening like a peacock (an inordinately muscular peacock) for Aishwarya; it’s about sending vicarious thrills through star-struck moviegoers of both sexes. With just a minor alteration in setting and costume, it could easily have come out of Dhoom 2, a film that was a fine showcase for this same couple.
As it happens, this is one of the most assured scenes in Jodhaa Akbar. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the film makes a half-hearted stab at telling us about various things that may or may not have occurred in the mid-16th century. Yawn. Completely beside the point. Anyway, this is roughly what happens, or what I could make out as I drifted in and out of sleep:
(An unreliable summary)
The first few minutes give us the background on the many political intrigues of the time, in the stentorian but much-too-familiar voice of Amitabh Bachchan. (Like a stern father-in-law keeping a watchful eye on Aishwarya after that kiss in Dhoom 2, Bachchan’s presence looms large here: not only does he do these ponderous voiceovers but Sonu Sood, the actor who plays Jodha’s protective brother Sujamal, strongly resembles the young Amitabh – the moustached Amitabh of Reshma aur Shera, for example, or even Ganga ki Saugandh - from many angles.) Most of the historical information is tedious and complicated, though there’s a certain fun to be had in seeing the kings of Hindustan depicted as petulant little boys, sulking, whimpering and clinging to their thrones when faced with the prospect of being made vassals. (As the maharajah of Amer, Kulbhushan Kharbanda looks and sounds like he has serious breathing problems, and little wonder given the number of heavy necklaces weighing him down at all times.)
Meanwhile, on the Mughal side of things, there is Bairam Khan, a good old-fashioned medieval psychopath who uses his official status as guardian for the boy-prince Akbar to nurture a very personal fetish for lopping off enemy heads. Unfortunately for Bairam, the boy-prince soon grows up and dispenses with his services. To prove that he is worthy of ruling the country, Akbar then takes on a wild elephant in a scene that is reminiscent of Hrithik’s superhero-racing-the-horse in Krrish. But what really puts his courage to the test is when he agrees to wed the Hindu princess Jodha to complete a political alliance: her long list of demands includes the right to sing bhajans loudly in the next room while he is discussing matters of state with his viziers.
Sadly the marriage remains unconsummated because by the time J and A have finished removing all those layers of jewellery they are no longer horny and only wish to sleep. This puts the future of the Empire in jeopardy. Also, there are culture shocks that must be dealt with. The newlywed Jodha, wholly unaccustomed to the brutal ways of the Mughals, watches aghast as her husband has a traitor thrown to his death from the roof (cue bone-crunching sound) and then has him thrown off again when the job isn’t finished. (Aishwarya’s eyes widen: she never got to see such gory things in the Bachchan household except when Amar Singh and Shah Rukh came visiting at the same time.)
Anyway, after watching Akbar’s topless swashbuckling, Jodha decides that the way to a man’s eight-pack abs is through his stomach. So she takes over the royal kitchen and sets about preparing a large vegetarian meal for him with her own hands. However, things nearly go perilously wrong when she misinterprets an order for a “24-carrot salad” and slips some of her rubies and emeralds into the dish, causing the emperor’s courtiers to suffer from indigestion for days afterward. In a delicate and affecting scene, the crafty Ila Arun (playing Akbar’s wet-nurse) enters the kitchen grounds where countless heaps of vegetables are scattered about, and bursts into a rendition of “Mooli ke peeche kya hai”. This highly dramatic sequence ends with Jodha falling out of favour; however, after a timely reconciliation, our leads start making out on the floor of the chamber (as chronicled in a lost volume of the Akbarnama) before realising that they should move to the bed in the interests of royal decorum.
Meanwhile the political intrigues continue apace, but thankfully they are punctuated by some nice quiet moments between Akbar and Jodha – like the one where she bends down to touch his feet and he catches her mid-dive, in the manner of every traditional Indian husband in a Bollywood film (in other words: make sure the woman genuflects, but also make a token gesture that will show how modern-thinking you are). There are an equal number of scenes where the characters simply wander about languorously, admiring the gardens, reclining on bolsters, playing with rabbits and pigeons and looking a little bored, like they wish television had been invented.
Despite all the gloss, this is a static film, full of scenes that carry on long past their sell-by date. Ashutosh Gowrikar said in an interview that his movies are as long as the story requires them to be, but even someone who knows very little about the technical aspects of filmmaking will see that Jodhaa Akbar could easily have been shorter and more compact. (The number of reaction shots alone made me think that some bits could have been produced almost as competently by the Ekta Kapoor factory.) The battle scenes are indifferently put together and it's hard to work up much interest in which general's elephant is crushing which foot-soldier's head; I was immensely disappointed even by the final one-on-one combat, which I’d hoped would at least give the film a rousing ending. And when computer effects are pressed into service (as in the aerial shot of discharging cannons, with one of them shooting its flaming iron ball straight into the camera), the effect is still flat and uninspired.
Diamonds last forever; so does this film
I was forewarned that the only reason to watch Jodhaa Akbar was to feast one’s eyes on the extravagant jewellery adorning the persons of nearly every member of the cast. After seeing it, I have to agree that the experience was rather like four hours spent in a gold souk that has two large and handsome posters of Hrithik and Aishwarya on the walls, and some soulful A R Rahman music playing somewhere in the background. If you love jewellery that much, good for you – if not, you may feel that this film goes on for nearly as long as the Mughal Empire did.
in the stentorian but much-too-familiar voice of Amitabh Bachchan. (Like a stern father-in-law keeping a watchful eye on Aishwarya after that kiss in Dhoom 2ReplyDelete
(cue bone-crunching sound) and then has him thrown off again when the job isn’t finished. (Aishwarya’s eyes widen: she never got to see such gory things in the Bachchan household except when Amar Singh and Shah Rukh came visiting at the same time.)ReplyDelete
Okay, stop. My sides hurt
Now that's a film I'd have wanted to see: where A&J make out on the kitchen floor and father-in-law, stentorian but helpless on the other side of the screen makes useless threats. That VO would have been worth hearing.ReplyDelete
Heeehheee!!! I think I'm going to enjoy this film a lot less than I enjoyed your review.ReplyDelete
I thought this observation: "she bends down to touch his feet and he catches her mid-dive, in the manner of every traditional Indian husband in a Bollywood film (in other words: make sure the woman genuflects, but also make a token gesture that will show how modern-thinking you are)" could actually be a applied to so many desi customs...like the man insisting he doesn't believe in karwa chauth and other pujas and is only putting up with them because his wife insists, while beaming approvingly at said dutiful wife and puffing up like a peacock when she literally worships him.
I was struck by Hrithik's jarring, trendy sideburns and hair - all this historical verisimilitude and sets and clothes and they couldn't get him to stop being all GQ and actually look the part? Grow a paunch or something, maybe?
ohmigod this was so funny - i especially liked the picture of vegetables. I was actually thinking of getting off the over-work treadmill for a while to see this film but sounds like its stately pace might evoke extreme anxiety about deadlines. TV, though, has been invented after all so maybe I will wait...ReplyDelete
Come on, you are being unnecessarily harsh. Compared to the trash we are regularly dished out (I made the unfortunate mistake of watching Welcome in a theater when I was in India recently), JA is quite refreshing. But of course, I also agree with most of your hilarious observations. Heck, I was thinking of some of them as well while watching the movie.ReplyDelete
hey thanks for the review .. it was a good read. the film never appealed to me and your comments made me not to rethink whether to watch it or not!!!ReplyDelete
I was struck by Hrithik's jarring, trendy sideburns and hair...ReplyDelete
SP: Yes, the first time he removed his headgear I was like, "Whoa! Isn't that the hottie from Dhoom 2?" But I think we had to take it as a given that the historical verisimilitude in this film would be very selective.
Parotechnics: I should clarify that the vegetable picture is from Wikipedia. In the film, the veggies are piled up in giant vessels that look like they might belong to the 16th century. Historical verisimilitude is important when it comes to these little things.
Patrix: "unnecessarily harsh" might have been if I had trashed the film in a dead-serious review. I'm hoping this post adequately reflects that even though the film did hardly anything for me (I thought around 80 per cent of it was really dull), I got some unintended fun out of it.
Btw I've left out some of the more tasteless things that were going through my mind. Like the possibility that the wet-nurse was so aggrieved because she couldn't get the grown-up Hrithik to nuzzle at her breast...okay, I'll shut up now!
rotflmao! It's been a while since I came across a well done satirical review. It's so easy to get carried over. Err. You did, but still it's absolutely rocking.ReplyDelete
'By the time they remove all the jewellery they no longer feel horny'. This is a brilliant analysis of the whole film. I don't understand what the director was thinking when he decided to make this movie. Leave aside the factual accuracies and you feel the stupidity of the whole movie.ReplyDelete
1.The combat scenes are a Joke , it is as if the people in the 16th century had watched BR chopra's Mahabharat, for the scenes are hardly gory. Medieval battles were gory and brutal , however this does not seem to be the case with the film. If you leave the melodramatic scenes out of 'Gladiator' watch out for the action scenes in the movie and they have been depicted as realistically as possible. When a sword comes down to slash and cut human sinew it can hardly look aesthetic as what the director here tries to do. A case in point is 'Kingdom of heaven ' as well , which though had flaws in looking at the period of crusades,neverthless had praiseworthy battle scenes.
2.The polictical intrigue of the time has beem dealt with puerile urgency. The political ramifications of the time were much more complex and Akbar married a Rajput princess to save his expenditure on war against the fierce though numerically less substantial warriors.
3.Akbar was hardly a great warrior himself as depicted in the film.If you read and analyse Mughal history closely they followed the Mongol theory of combat , which meant that the king or the supreme commander has to remain at the back because he was considered extremely valuable.Also when Akbar was visited by European envoys in his court they give an account of a man Short in stature though wise and articulate. In fact apart from Babur who came from the harsh terrain of Kabul the rest of the Mughals were more administrators than warriors.
4.If the director had to make an epic romance than he could have dispensed off with the extra baggage that the film carries throughout.
I don't care! I loved Hrithik :)ReplyDelete
Not that i am a huge fan of movie but one must admit that a lot of artistic hard work has gone into it . screenplay might be loose or "boring" as you put it but you can't deny that its a cinematic masterpiece .far better than $45 Million shit like Curse of the Golden Flower .ReplyDelete
I enjoy reading your blog Jai , but sometime i wonder if you set out to make fun of Indian movies from the get go . give credit where its due . Satire is fun and we all have a sense of humor but that shouldn't blind us toward excellence ( attempt to attain excellence ) . its OK that you enjoy CineFan more than any hindi movie at PVR but still if you look closely you might find something good about a mainstream bollywood flick once in a while .
No Offense intended i hope you will take it as an opinion not as a judgment .
...but you can't deny that its a cinematic masterpieceReplyDelete
Prashant: Can't deny? Really?! Um, I think I can.
No Offense intended i hope you will take it as an opinion not as a judgment
I could say the same thing about my post, no? Why is it so difficult to accept my opinion of the film for what it is, without imputing motives like "you set out to make fun of Indian movies from the word go"? If I chose to engage in that sort of lazy rationalisation to explain the opinions of people I disagree with, I could retort by saying "You think of any mainstream Bollywood film as a cinematic masterpiece".
Also, not sure why you're bringing Cinefan into this: I've written some very scathing reviews of arty films I've seen at Cinefan, even though it's possible to argue that one should be kinder towards low-profile, low-budget movies (a film like Jodha Akbar on the other hand will find its audience and make up its costs even if every critic on the planet trashed it).
"Part of the joy of getting older is becoming cynical and world-weary, and less tolerant of people who are uncomplicatedly sweet"ReplyDelete
would you still endorse this statement if I replace "People" with "some aspect of a movie" ?
"IF you look CLOSELY you MIGHT find SOMETHING good about a mainstream bollywood flick ONCE IN A WHILE"ReplyDelete
Prashant, don't you think YOU are are underrating the Indian movies :-)
Amazing! This is the funniest review I've read in a long, long time. And thanks for saving my bucks. You're a good man.ReplyDelete
Oh, and please note the retroactive 6-letter name superstition applied to JodhAA.ReplyDelete
Don't think the film's that bad but your review is really howlarious- the SRK-Amar Singh bit was priceless! http://cinemaparadiso.rediffiland.comReplyDelete
:) one of the best reviews i've read in a long time. always thought this film would be a snore fest..glad someone agrees with me!ReplyDelete
am slightly shocked at the glowing reviews rajeev masand gave this film on 'now showing' (cnn ibn, friday nights, 10:30).. i usually agree with his reviews.
I saw this within 24 hours of seeing Mithya. And what a contrast they are. Mithya has far less money in it, it's actors are nowhere near as beautiful. But it's worth at least thrice the admit price of this four-hour jewellery commercial.ReplyDelete
Shwet: I appreciate the points you've made, but I don't think there's much to be gained from dwelling on the film's many historical inaccuracies (Akbar's height, etc). Even with all those inaccuracies, it could have been a bloody good film if it had used the shell of the real-life story to examine issues of faith and tolerance, or even to present a moving love story. But I didn't think it quite managed to do any of those things, mainly because of a weak script, poor pacing and editing. Might blog about that more seriously in a future post.ReplyDelete
Came to your review via aspi's Drift. Loved your review! It's almost more entertaining that the movie!ReplyDelete
Take a bow, Jabberwock. In my opinion, this is your best post to date. Still rolling on the floor from gems such as 'Muli ke peeche kya hai' and the infinitely garlanded Kharbanda's breathing problems.ReplyDelete
And good point about Sood resembling the young mustached Bachchan. I thought he looked familiar but could not zone it down.
hehehehe ...I WILL go and watch this movie, and i WILL take a print out of this review along with me.ReplyDelete
And I thought I was the only one who thought the chappie Sonu Sood looked more like Bachchan than Abhishek does :-D
And oh, did you catch the clean-shaven whirling dervishes? Maybe they were too tired to whirl, and got the emperor to do it instead..
Can you believe I remembered "mooli ke peeche kya hai" in the middle of a, er, romantic moment and burst out laughing? (In my defence, we had been discussing your post a moment ago.)ReplyDelete
The one-on-one combat just fell so flat.. not to forget Kulbhushan Kharbanda's stressed and hopeful reaction to it.. I almost felt that he will let out a "Sanju gear badal" any minute!ReplyDelete
OMG!!!Stop!!!Stop!!! My stomach hurts laughing.ReplyDelete
Unmana: ouch. sorry for spoiling your romantic moment! This is why I always say this blog is best not read in bed.ReplyDelete
ArSENik: thanks. I think I have a special bond with Aishwarya's films (see also this post). About Sonu Sood and the young Amitabh, it's just one of those things: you might not notice the resemblance at all, but once you do you can't stop thinking about it. Watching some of his scenes, I felt like the film had entered a time-warp and gone back to 1972.
Hey..Amazing review..haven't read anything so funny for a long time..have mentioned u here ..ReplyDelete
Super satire as always ! Did anyone else notice how blithely our filmmakers give up on continuity ? As in Umrao Jaan, here too the young Aishwarya is black eyed but grows up into a hazel eyed princess. Ditto Hrithik. Couldn’t they have given either set of actors a pair of contacts each? And would it be sacrilege to expect J-A to be dark eyed? I’ve noticed that our fascination with light eyes is such that even from the time of Sarika, no actor has been asked to change eye colour to suit the character unless you count on AB getting murderously blue-grey in Satte pe Satta.ReplyDelete
A charitable viewer was musing during intermission that Hrithik's highlighted hair was par for those times - they did have mehndi in those days too right ;-)
Very well reviewed and written.ReplyDelete
Ahem, did I say I was in bed? :PReplyDelete
Overall I enjoyed the movie, but your take on it is absolutely hilarious. Though I have to agree with you about the war scenes - a complete let down.ReplyDelete
This is a funny review. To me it was a simple Mills and Boons story. The political aspects of the movie could have been handled far better or could have been kept out entirely. Your review doesn't justify the awesome costumes in the movie- I could watch the movie again to drool over them. I never had a problem with the langorous pace of the movie as I grew up in a village where there was no TV.ReplyDelete
Hilarious, although I loved the movie. I thought I would find it tedious, but I didn't. It is essentially a bodice-ripper set in the Mughal era and I don't think there's really any effort to make it a movie about history. If there was I too missed it. But I do love jewellery that much, and it was sumptuous :-PReplyDelete
really terrible movie ... no facts, no plot, shots loosely put together just for the heck of it ... for instance rajput rulers being portrayed as spineless thaali ka baigans pleading to one and all ... not being able to make up their mind whom to support or get support from ...ReplyDelete
comment from one of my friends during the movie ... it should have been called "how akbar got laid" ...
Just got back from Antwerp, having watched this movie in a movie hall full of Gujju NRIs watching with the seriousness a historical movie deserves while wife and I were snickering throughout. On the drive back I remarked to her that you would most probably have given the movie due treatment, and you did not disappoint - we were in splits for most of your review. To add a few more aspects we found hilarious: the tendency of Akbar to banish people to Mecca; the Khwaja song with the group wearing absurd headgear (perhaps there was a surplus of goods in the pottery market?) and making silly sideways jerking movements (a new fashion in bollywood choreography?); the stance of Hrithik with his sword, which resembled a pose from a Jackie Chan movie (perhaps something the Mughals learned from the Mongols who picked it up from some Chinese in central Asia?)ReplyDelete
Your comment “..even though the film did hardly anything for me (I thought around 80 per cent of it was really dull), I got some unintended fun out of it.” is precisely how we look at this experience.
Here's an article on the film y'all might be interested in - it points out the historical inaccuracy of making Jodha vegetarian and imbuing vegetarianism with moral significance:ReplyDelete
Parmanu: yes, just remembered the Coneheads hats worn by the dervishes. If I had been actively taking notes during the film, this post would have gone on forever.ReplyDelete
This is the funniest review of the movie that I've read! I like ur sense of humor.ReplyDelete
haha ! v funny.ReplyDelete
But I loved the movie, sat through happily.
Only thing that really intrigued me was the vote of thanks to Shatrughan Sinha.
Avdi: that might well have been for contributing his wife to the film (Mrs Sinha played Akbar's biological mother). The same way the opening credits thanked Mr Bachchan (for his voice and his daughter-in-law).ReplyDelete
hehe at least bachchan had to a little more than say 'YES'ReplyDelete
now i dont regret not seeing it....ReplyDelete
Awesome review - you had me at "Mooli ke peeche" :)
This was my 1st read on your blog - am going to rummage now for more goodies :)
Have been reliving the torture...I remember giggling irreverently throughout, much to the consternation of the serious minded...ReplyDelete
your "mooli ke peechhe" and the breathing problems of KK are priceless
It is indeed quite surprising to read your review. What is disturbing is that there is no longer any difference between you and an average .com reviewer or Nikhat Kazmi/Khaled Mohammad.ReplyDelete
Let's not forget that this is a good film that has numerous flaws. If you are going to talk about the flaws, at least say why they are flaws and do not forget to mention the positive points as well.
I agree that Hrithik was biggest disappointment of the film; the man looked straight out of Dhoom 2 and looks like he is still learning urdu since Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.
Aishwarya deserves a mention (despite my utter hatred for her and disregard for her acting skills that, with the sole exception of Guru, are quite conspicuous by their absence) and so does Nikitin Dheer.
But then who am I to argue when your extremely biased review speaks all your mind. Along with the commentators, it shows the paralysis of film studies, understanding and writing in India.
Let's not forget that this is a good film that has numerous flaws.ReplyDelete
Aishwarya deserves a mention...
MM: these are your views, not mine; personally, I find it perfectly easy to "forget" that this is a good film and to not mention Aishwarya at all. If the mere fact of disagreeing with your views relegates me to the same company as the noble reviewers you mention, so be it.
If you are going to talk about the flaws, at least say why they are flaws and do not forget to mention the positive points as well.
Oh, I've done just this in the more austere, official review I wrote for Tehelka - you can see that here. But I felt no such obligation for this informal blog post - decided instead to crack a few jokes about a largely crappy film that bored the life out of me.
who am I to argue when your extremely biased review speaks all your mind
So basically you want a review (an extremely unbiased one, of course!) that speaks your mind, and nothing else will do, right? Fess up now, dude - that's really the nub of the matter, isn't it?
I did not know it was that easy to annoy Jai Arjun! Ha ha.ReplyDelete
In response to your response, I would say my favourite line - I'll smile at that, for reasons more than one.
Hey blogger! Just found your blog today and I think I'm in love.... If you're as beautiful as your writing, I'd ask you to give me a call!! heheheheheReplyDelete
Hey...where the heck was Birbal? to keep the humour part alive.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed the movie though!
RS - Canada
You're ruthless... i think 'sleepily' is the best way to watch the film yawn! jodha akbarReplyDelete
Why do I get the impression that the review is more about how smart you can be.ReplyDelete
I did enjoy the caricatured style of it though. Unreliable it definitely is, because I enjoyed the film extremely!!
One of the many reasons being that I got a respite from all those 'phorren' locales, and instead got to see some desert scenes. Glad the money was pumped locally than to see it thrown away in far off lands.
Well done Jodha Akbar - economically and artistically.
Why do I get the impression that the review is more about how smart you can be.ReplyDelete
Anon: No idea. Maybe because your perspective on the film was different from mine and now you're trying hard to somehow rationalise this instead of just accepting that we might have different opinions? Or maybe you really did feel that way about the review!
Btw, the review IS largely about how smart I can be, and I think I've made that adequately clear. But the starting point for this approach was that I genuinely disliked the film and didn't think it was worth my while to do a serious review - thought it would be much better to salvage something from the experience by doing a smart-alecky piece that other people who didn't like the film (and hopefully, some people who did) would enjoy reading.
Btw, the review IS largely about how smart I can be,ReplyDelete
See, I 'was' right. :)
I love you!! Marry me!ReplyDelete
"There are an equal number of scenes where the characters simply wander about languorously, admiring the gardens, reclining on bolsters, playing with rabbits and pigeons and looking a little bored, like they wish television had been invented."ReplyDelete
OMG I just DIED laughing... just discovered your blog...been reading feverishly for the last three hours...