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:

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