Ashutosh Gowariker, director of the Academy Award-nominated LAGAAN (2001), wraps a plea for Muslim-Hindu unity in the kind of movie Hollywood just doesn't make anymore: An epic 16th-century romance awash in jewels, swordplay and elephants.
1555: Jalaluddin Mohammad becomes leader of the Mughal nation at age 13, but his guardian, General Bairam Khan (Yuri), holds the real power. The boy king's first act as ruler is meant to be the decapitation of defeated, half-dead Raja Hemu (Shehzor Ali), but he refuses and Khan steps in instead. Jalaluddin (Hrithik Roshan) takes the reins when he comes of age, and proves an unusual warrior king: Repulsed by wanton brutality and political corruption, tolerant of all religions and willing to strike alliances with local leaders rather than seize their kingdoms by force. Raja Bharmal (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) of Amer -- whose Rajput subjects are famed for battlefield courage and chivalry -- brokers one such deal with Jalaluddin, sealed with the emperor's agreement to marry Bharmal's fiercely proud and independent-minded daughter, Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai).
Jodhaa is obedient but cold to her new husband, even though he defies his own clerics to fulfill her prenuptial demand that she be allowed to maintain a shrine to the Hindu god Krishna in her quarters at the Mughal fort in Agra. With their marriage unconsummated -- in addition to all his other fine qualities, Jalaluddin is a gentleman -- Jodhaa is at a disadvantage in the snake pit of court politics. Though she finds a surprising ally in Jalaluddin's widowed mother, Mallika Hamida Banu (Punam S. Sinha), she also has an implacable enemy: Maham Anga (Ila Arun), the wet nurse who virtually raised Jalaluddin. She occupies a powerful position in his court and has used it to further the ambitions of her own cruel, dissolute son, Adham Khan (Shaji Choudhary). Maham isn't about to allow some Hindu upstart to erode her influence and steps up her efforts to undermine her when it becomes apparent that Jalaluddin and Jodhaa are beginning to warm to one another. Meanwhile, Jodhaa's brother, Sujamal (Sonu Sood), whom their father passed over as successor, is recruiting allies to help him seize his birthright, while nobleman Sharifuddin Hussain (Nikitin Dheer) is plotting to depose his king and TAKE control of the Mughal empire.
The pearls! The silks! The golden earrings and grape-sized gemstones… and that's just the men. Gowariker's three-and-a-half hour epic is sheer, sumptuous spectacle: Armies rush towards each other across desert sands, dervishes spin gracefully at Jodhaa and Jalaluddin's wedding, battle elephants stomp heads, velvet-tasseled horses kick up a spray of stinging dirt with their sharp hooves, white-clad Rajput warriors practice their swordsmanship, blades flashing in the sun. The film opened to controversy over its accuracy (never the strength of historical epics); there was a Hindu queen among Jalaluddin's many wives, but "Jodhaa" was actually the name of his daughter-in-law. Popular misappropriation of the name apparently dates back to an earlier historical romance, MUGHAL-E-AZAM (1960), and in Rajastan -- where the Mughal-Indian alliance brokered with the marriage of Raja Bharmal's daughter is a matter of considerable local pride, JODHAA AKBAR was met with such resistance that it never opened. It did, however, set a new record for Hindu-language releases in the US, playing more than 100 theaters.
Whatever its deficiencies as history, JODHAA AKBAR is the kind of grand historical epic Hollywood doesn't make anymore, filled with pomp, intrigue, swordplay, heartache and elephants -- lots of elephants. While the lavish musical production numbers for which Bollywood is famous are absent, there are music-driven montages and a handful of dance sequences that arise logically from the action, including the dreamy dervish number and a series of large-scale celebratory routines feting Jalaluddin's decision to repeal an unpopular tax on religious pilgrims. As to leads Roshan (KOI… MIL GAYA) and Rai, they're the kind of stars who once glittered in the MGM heavens and look out of this world in rubies and ropes of pearls.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: NR
- Review: Ashutosh Gowariker, director of the Academy Award-nominated LAGAAN (2001), wraps a plea for Muslim-Hindu unity in the kind of movie Hollywood just doesn't make anymore: An epic 16th-century romance awash in jewels, swordplay and elephants. 1555: Jal… (more)