Saturday, March 8, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar – an unrealised dream

Despite of fierce negative reports of the film, I went to watch the film. It was really impossible to overlook a film by Ashutosh Gowariker, who is not only a good director but also is a brilliant human being.

My immediate reaction after watching the film was that all the reports about the film were not wrong, but sleeping overnight with the film, I found that it’s not all that bad a film.

The film is a story of greatest Mughal emperor Akbar who was a devout Muslim and his devout Hindu wife Jodhaabai. How these two extremes got married and how their union left an everlasting impression on our country?

In Indian Cinema, Emperor Akbar and Mughal Empire have been immortalised by K. Asif in the film Mughal-E-Azam, and it is really very difficult to break the magic spell cast by this film over the Indian audience and charm them. I’ll say Ashutosh tried his best to charm the audience but succeeded only half way in it.

There are some basic flaws in the narrative of the film. This film is about the circumstances in which Akbar was enthroned as the ruler of India and how he tried to spread and establish his kingdom. In this pursuit he accepts Jodhaabai as his wife. But since the marriage was a political decision, it has no emotional element in it. And so Jodhaa does not allow Akbar to consummate the relationship. To consummate the relationship, Akbar has to win her heart by his noble acts and this gradually turns him into a noble emperor and ultimately as the greatest emperor of India. But to narrate this simple plot, the film unnecessarily revolves around so many unnecessary details of the times of Emperor Akbar. It brings way too many characters in the film, out of which one hardly remembers apart from selected few. Due to this the main plot becomes very thin. There are very few scenes which really hold the audience. The Rajput lunch scene, the calligraphy scene, the pre marriage conditions scene, Jodhaa offering Aarti to Akbar scene are the few scenes which remain with me. And these are all those scenes which show the romantic moments between Jodhaa & Akbar. It’s not that I am a very romantic person of sort, but these scenes are really well crafted and acted as well.

Actually to me, the director showed the grandeur and pomp of the period by showing as many characters and war scenes. Due to this the main love story doesn’t get enough time to grow. Even the way Jodhaa returns back to Akbar is too frivolous. It just makes the entire crisis appears to be very childish. It would have been much better if we are shown more efforts of Akbar to woo Jodhaa and so changing his administration and policies.

Another setback of the film is the song picturisation. AR Rehman is the true hero of the film. But the way in which the songs are shot, leaves everyone feeling very frustrated. Khwaja is the only song picturised up to the level of the composition. Azeemoshan Shehanshah is a big let down even when it is the theme song of the film.

The producers have spent a lot on creating the period of the film, but I could not understand why all the outdoor scenes are shot in bright daylight. It just looks so not good. The night scenes are then too graceful and more real.

Most of the supporting artists are not as good as the main cast. They appear more of a caricature. The court announcer, the grain merchant, the common people are few examples of this. One should have seen the casting of film like Laqshya before casting for this film.

The war scenes are also a major weakness. The makers have tried to simulate the war scenes from loads of Hollywood films, but they could not match their production values. In many wide shots we see empty landscapes and feel unconvinced about it. The Computer Graphics are also not properly done. We can see the fake cannon balls in the war scenes.

The film is unnecessary too long. Considering the main plot of the film, the beginning 10 minutes and the climax of the film can be easily trimmed. This should have been done at the scripting stage. It’s really difficult to do so at the editing stage No producer will like to just remove the scenes which have utilised huge part of the film budget.

Now I come to the part where I think my sympathies are with the maker. It is in the choice of language of the film. K. P. Saxena is a big name in Hindi literature. Even his work in films like Lagaan and Swades is widely appreciated. But here in this film even he was not sure of the language to used for the dialogues. The language used in the film is very parliamentary and may be as per the time shown. But it makes most of the conversation too forced and unreal. Its may be because India as a country is going through a major socio-cultural transition and we are right now unsure of our day to day language itself. In such times, when we see a film using so heavy language makes us feel very uncomfortable.But at the same time I cannot say that using a contemporary language would have solved the problem. We Indians live very much in our past and memories. Anyway we would have compared this film with Mughal-E-Azam. And if we wouldn’t have found the language of the film similar to Mughal-E-Azam, we would have felt cheated. So it was a double edged sword for the maker in this case.

If we consider various recent Hollywood period films like Gladiator or Braveheart, we can see that although there setting is periodic, but the dialogue language is as close to present times as it can be. If they would have also gone the Jodhaa Akbar way, just imagine the tone of Gladiator or Braveheart. Even in Lagaan in India, since there was no precedence for Lagaan, the filmmaker could easily use contemporary dialect in the period setting and sailed through.

At the acting front, the chemistry of Rithik and Aishwarya actually made the film worth watching for what so ever time. But both the actors are much underutilized. I’ll say the same for most of the other actors too. Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajesh Vivek, Suhasini Mulay, everyone is wasted. All of them are over powered by the grandeur of the set, jewellery and canvas.

The subject in itself is beautiful and very necessary for present times when we are not ready to accept each other on the basis of state and language. It would have surely brought a necessary perspective to all the confused souls. But unfortunately the intention remained just on the script. It could not take shape in celluloid.

Well dreamt Mr. Gowariker, but unfortunately it’s a dream which finally could not be realised.

Jodha-Akbar officail website:

What is Pratibimb?

Pratibimb is the Hindi word for mirror image.
It also happens to be the name of the films society me and my friends failed to run in our city Indore in the year 2002.
I am fortunate to refine my understanding of cinema in my tenure as a student in Film & TV Institute of India, Pune. Coming from Indore I was exposed to Hindi commercial films mostly. There were few instances of experiencing the other types of films of world and India only in good old days of Doordarshan.
But in the FTII, I got to see the wide range of world cinema. It included films from India as well. Those films which never get an opportunity to reach the wider audience because either they were made in languages other than Hindi or they didn't have bollywood stars in them. After watching those films I realise the real meaning of the world cinema and the real impact of it.
I wondered why these films cant reach to my friends in Indore and other places. After enquiring with many people I found that everyone thinks that these films are for classes and not for the masses.
I don't agree to this opinion, because I never think my friends who are businessman, teacher, an electrician and even a chemist are no less intelligent than any film student like me. Its just that they are never exposed to the other cinema. Even if they are willing to see the other cinema they are being prevented by so called film mafias to see these films.
The reason for this is very obvious. As they say the one who has always eaten a regular meal can never appreciate the finesses of an exotic gourmet dish. To make them appreciate the gourmet dish, they have to be exposed and taught nuances of the gourmet dish. That is my sole reason for starting a film society in Indore.
But in spite of this noble intention, our day to day realities did not permit my friends in Indore to run the film society in a regular manner. Also it was a time when DVDs were beginning to get popular and to organise for prints of the films was not an easy job. And I was also away In FTII for my studies and was unable to oversee the running of the society. So we were left with no other choice but to close the society.
But it did not kill my desire to share the beauty and pleasure of good cinema with my friends. So I decided to share my experiences of watching various films with all my friends. The way I've been benefited by reading the reviews of various films in the FTII, I believe all my friends who will read my opinion on various films will get an alternate point of view to ponder on and decide for themselves how good or bad a film they watched actually is.
These reviews are not regular critique of a film. I'd rather say that it is an appreciation. For me it is an effort to analise and understand as a filmmaker the efforts of fellow filmmaker to make a film. I firmly believe that at the onset nobody starts to make a bad film. But the entire film making process is so organic that anyone can go wrong at anytime. And during the making of the film, the filmmaker is often so engrossed in the process that certain errors just go unnoticed. Although in my postings, my language mostly will be of a critic, but I try my best to understand the situations in which the creative decision was taken and why is it working or not working in the film.
With this intention, I have been writing such reviews since last couple of years, but its easily thought than done. Due to various professional and personal commitments, it was really difficult to write. Also the number of films I watch is so high that it really becomes difficult to write on all the films. Also for my readers, it will be difficult the judge my comments if they've not watched the film themselves. So I'm restricting myself to mostly those films which are released normally in theaters.

Now with this blog I hope that this venture will be a regular affair. This blog is also an effort to understand how a normal viewer watches a film. So its my sincere request to all the visitors to this blog to bless me with all the bouquets and brickbats. They all are really welcome. Ultimately they will only add another dimension to our Pratibimb.