Gowarikar transforms from cinematic artist to Master Visionary with Jodhaa-Akbar.
What causes Gowarikar's radical and quite stunning transformation is the authenticity that thrives beneath the man's imaginative sculptures and inventive portraits. For his uncanny and unbelievably entertaining storytelling skills have been put to a test rarely ever taken by other filmmakers. He is to explore a very real romance, to which there is very little known. The mission is dreadful for many reasons. For one, there is a very thin line between fact and fiction. One man's creative interjection is another man's blatant lie. And those who have been following the controversy leading up to the film's release will agree that Gowarikar has been walking this very line quite cautiously.
Painted within the 16th Century, Jodhaa-Akbar opens with the child Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Mohammad ruling his empire, done so on his behalf by the brutish chief Balram Khan. The wars are fought and won without hesitation and the Mughal Empire continues to expand its borders across the region. As the kingdom grows, so does young Jalaluddin Akbar (Hrithik Roshan), whose charming looks bleed into his merciful soul.
As the empire grows stronger and larger, many surrounding Rajput kingdoms begin to fear the Empire's reigns. As an offer of alliance, King Bharmal (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) of Amer proffers his daughter, Jodhaa, (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) to Akbar in marriage. However, Jodhaa is a dignified Hindu princess who will only accept the political marriage if her conditions are met: 1) She must be allowed to freely practice her religion, and 2) Akbar shall not lay a finger on her until she has consented.
Let's not be mistaken, Jodhaa-Akbar is a film which is whole-heartedly an epic portrayal of unbridled love, amidst the glorious tapestry that is the Mughal Empire. The historical accounts of how this country came to be are extremely accurate. Writers Haider Ali and Ashutosh Gowarikar have created a film three years in the making, extensive research was put into both Mughal and Raput history to create a film true to its core when it tries to document history. However, Jodhaa-Akbar is an imaginative tale more than anything else - a love story which does not hang in the balance of historical evidence and factual documentation. As Gowarikar has stated, the film has been envisioned to entertain with its epic tale of romance, and one man's pursuit to win-over the woman he loves.
Tremendous credit must be given to Ravi Dewan who, as an action director, has single-handedly brought this film up to international standards. From the roaring crowds and stunning battlefield scenes, to the titillating sword fights and the brilliant portrayal of Akbar's playful taming of a wild elephant. The task given to him was gargantuan, and the man passes with breath-taking accuracy.
Although it is quite easy to be ravished and astounded by the architectural opulence and lavish visual designs by Nitin Desai, never does this grandeur intrude the script or take focus away from the roots of the screenplay. The entire look and magnificence of the re-created Empire blend seamlessly into Gowarikar and Ali's story.
Performances are quite extraordinary to say the least. Hrithik Roshan as Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar seems to be the perfect cast. Everything from the majestic mannerisms, to the twinkle in his eye fit the documented character that was Akbar. His approach of reading all he could about the protagonist, and then throwing the books out and playing the role from within seems to have worked beautifully. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude were a must for such a role. The efforts given into the thrusting of the swords and the graceful elegance in his every step portray all that is royal. His shifty transformation from the innocent young emperor with a heart of gold into the self-confident and dignified Emperor is surreptitious and seamless. Yet, his performance would have seemed incomplete if it weren't for the princess presiding beside him.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is Jodhaa, simply put. As if no acting was present, Aishwarya has re-written Jodhaa's personality in the film and has made it her own. It is the emotional sequences in which she is able to grab on to your senses without letting go. Her self-dignified portrayal and out-going spirit balances aptly with Hrithik's Akbar, as the chemistry between them is almost as glorious as the art that surrounds them.
The supporting cast is regally built, yet never takes the limelight away from the spectacular lead pair. A.R. Rahman's music, especially the instrumentals of Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Jashn-E-Bahara, are creatively integrated into the screenplay. Special mention must be given to one of the most captivating sequences in the entire film - where Akbar is caught in a melodic trance upon listening to the ode of Khwaja Mere Khwaja.
Ashutosh Gowarikar has made an epic love-story, a genre he has never tried before. Jodhaa-Akbar, not without imperfections, is a film that enchants its viewers, while beautifying the hidden romance that took place between these two grand figures, etched in the pages of history. It's highly worthy of all the world's attention.
Aakash Gandhi is Managing Editor and Senior Writer for Planetbollywood.com. He also freelances for the Asian Variety Show at avstv.com.
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