Its a charming spin on an old bit of history. And I felt director Ashutosh Gowarikar has melded history and romance in interesting ways in his reportedly Rs. 40 crore opus. Filming a romance without the political intrigue surrounding it would make it irrelevant. Stitching together events from a time where history has obfuscated accuracy beyond repair wouldn't have stood up very well. And so the movie is given the structure of a larger than life romance and surrounded by interpreted events that propel the story forward - for the most part this approach sat well with me.
But Gowarikar seems to be working off a half-baked screenplay. His narrative, for example, takes its time zeroing in on the romance. Gowarikar often seems to be two different directors: he handles scenes in a closed set with aplomb. But put him outdoors and he seems to lose his imagination. Too often, he'll stick a camera in the sand, so to speak, and let a scene play out lamely. This makes scenes feel very choppy, inserted or acted in.
Let's say a scene calls for: "Sujamal overhears a plot to kill him". Is it really in order to show Sujamal dawdling along and suddenly stopping by a tent for no ostensible reason other than seeing a soldier enter it. And then proceed to listen in - in plain sight of everyone else? Scenes like this feel unfinished, even amateurish. Often I found myself thinking "put the camera on a track or a crane, for God's sake, and spend some time framing your picture"
Then there's the bit about not developing Jalaluddin and Jodhaa equally in character. While Jalaluddin's character is fleshed out as a benevolent emperor early on, Jodhaa doesn't get the same treatment from the writer. Instead her early scenes are used to explain alliances and political settings. At this point by not establishing his intent and developing his main characters in parallel Gowarikar had already lost me.
Yet as a romance, Jodhaa Akbar works really well thanks to its two leads. Hrithik and Aishwarya are both able to develop a mature, believable romance. Importantly, they cook up a crackling chemistry. Aishwarya Rai - who draws on her ability to organize serial expressions exquisitely - turns in a fine performance, save those sword fights where she is a bit too daavadol to be convincing.
A number of actors turn in some fine performances. Sure there are the Kulbushan Kharbandas and Raza Murads who are called on to perform their usual shtick and do so reliably.
But a couple of sharp hotshots also show up: Sonu Sood is able to convey an integrity that waffles under the weight of ambition and perceived injustice. And Nikitin Dheer portrays Jalaluddin's brother-in-law Sharifuddin, a menacing hulk who tends to dominate every scene he finds himself in.
Ila Arun plays Maham Anga, Jalaluddin's wet nurse, and you can see her visibly taking some chances to give her character much needed layers. Mostly she succeeds despite being called on to do some rote stuff.
It would be unfair to say Jodhaa Akbar isn't enjoyable - that it is. A.R. Rahman composes some rousing music. Gowarikar stages some scenes of pure brilliance - primary among them is one in which Jalaluddin wanders in on Jodhaa singing a bhajan, sees her in entirety for the first time and we see Hrithik uncoil his matinee-idol dreaminess as he strides through white curtains billowing freely in the breeze (analogy alert!).
Later yet, Gowarikar balances drama and romance beautifully in a sequence that involves a lavish Rajput feast. Finally, his depiction of the coronation of Jalaluddin to the people's Akbar is captured with a joyous shimmer in the song "Azeem-o-shaan shehenshah".
- Amrita saw missed opportunities but loved Ila Arun's turn
- Beth is happy to bask in the golden loveliness of the movie for now
- Jai's notes on a half-hearted stab
- The movie doesn't soar as much as stay airborne for small durations says Baradwaj Rangan
- Khalid Mohammad isn't impressed
- Memories of Dhoom 2 haunt greatbong during the viewing
- headmistress liked seeing the practicalities of a inter-cultural relationship among other things
- Yajnaseni reviews and addresses the controversies surrounding the film
- Amrita on why "Azeem-o-shaan" was crap in the movie
- The movie reminded Joules of reading Amar Chitra Katha
- Beth picks one absurd moment in the movie
- meena recalls Cleopatra and picks her favorite song in the movie
- The running length won't deter headmistress
- Mind Rush has some advice for Gowarikar
- Megan watches the movie, dies, goes to heaven and describes the ati-romantic moments in the film