A R Rahmans favourite track in Jodha Akbar

“I like everything,” AR Rahman stated when I asked him to identify his favourite track from this week’s release, Jodhaa Akbar. India’s biggest and best music composer provides the music for the Aishwarya Rai-Hrithik Roshan historical romance. The shy musical genius was unable to name a specific number as his favourite when I insisted. After a thoughtful pause, Rahman replied again: “I like everything.”

The ‘Mozart from Madras’ was in London this week to launch the original cast recording CD of his latest international project, the West End musical, The Lord of the Rings. This is his second London West End project after the successful Andrew Lloyd Webber production, Bombay Dreams. How does Rahman feel about his global success? “It’s nice to be recognised from brand Bollywood to international composer.”

Matthew Warchus, director of the Rings musical, is clearly pleased with the Elizabeth composer. He told me at the reception that he would “happily work with Rahman on anything” as he has “an extraordinary musical voice.” Varttina, the co-composer of the music, was less knowledgeable when I asked him if he liked any of Rahman’s Tamil music. “That question is too specific for me,” the Finn admitted.

Fans new to Rahmans’ work should seek out the classic Hindi soundtracks of Roja, Bombay, and Dil Se and, of course, the melodic Jodhaa Akbar, now!

It’s not a historical

The wait is over! The aforementioned Jodhaa Akbar, the year’s most anticipated film, is here. The period romance tells the love story between the Moghul emperor Akbar and his Rajasthani Hindu princess bride, Jodhaa. Oscar nominated director Ashutosh ‘Lagaan’ Gowarikar is keen to deny that his latest film is a historical film. “Let it be clear that it is not a historical film. It is a good story told in an interesting manner. I’d say eighty percent is my imagination.” Is Gowarikar being defensive because recent Bollywood historicals like The Rising and Taj Mahal crashed at the box-office?

The air-miles king

Does Shah Rukh Khan ever stop flying? The self-admitted hyperactive workaholic was in Berlin last weekend to attend a special sold out screening of his blockbuster, Om Shanti Om. He then nipped back to Mumbai in order to recite some poetry for the soundtrack of his director friend Samar Khan’s film, Shouriya. The King Khan is now zooming back to his favourite city London where he will be the star attraction at this weekend’s annual Zee TV Carnival. What a jetsetter!

Beauty queen angels

The latest Hollywood flick to get the Bollywood makeover will be Charlie’s Angels. It’s a possible casting coup as two former Miss Universes and a former Miss World, Sushmita Sen, Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra are rumoured to be playing the action angels. Produced by the DVD rip-off kings Abbas-Mustan, the film will be directed by flop director Rohit Jugraj. “Yes, it’s a Charlie’s Angels styled girls action flick,” the James director confirmed. This is not the first time Bollywood has adapted Charlie’s Angels. Remember the Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi and Shabana Azmi potboiler Ashanti, from the 1980s?

A holy makeover

Sex kitten Mallika Sherawat is back in the news with claims of a new international project. After her blink and you will miss it role in the Jackie Chan starrer The Myth, which flopped in India and failed to get a UK release, Sherawat will be seen in The Aquarian Gospel. The historical film is based on the early life of Jesus and Sherawat plays Saraswati, one of his loyal friends he meets in his travels in India. Fans of the scantily clad actress will be disappointed: she is fully clothed in the film.

Triple delight

Congratulations to Om Shanti Om director Farah Khan who gave birth to triplets at Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital on Monday. Two girls and boy were delivered by caesarean section. The proud parents, who look like twins, are in bliss. Hubby Shirish Kunder beamed: “I am feeling on top of the world now!” Suggested names for the two girls include Karen and Leela, whilst the boy will obviously be called Rahul.

Interview Courtesy: Times Online UK

Jodha Akbar just an okay film, says Rediff

In Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodhaa Akbar, there is a particularly outstanding song sequence that must be praised. The titular couple's wedding banns have just taken place, and a group of singers sit cross-legged to offer the lord tribute. Each of them sounding suspiciously like AR Rahman, the minstrels break into the touching Khwaja Mere Khwaja and take the track to an almost trance-like happiness, the two backup singers even looking nearly identical.

Hrithik Roshan, playing the Emperor of Hindustan, watches this with first bemusement and then, curiousity. Wordlessly, he leaves his throne and joins the dervishes as they whirl, gracefully entering into the trance with feckless fervour. It is a strong, well-performed scene, telling a tale and insightfully revealing a character by a mere gesture, a showing of mood.

If only... if only the entire film was made with such restraint.

Don't get me wrong, Jodhaa Akbar is not a bad film at all. It's just not great and -- despite the daunting three and a half hour length -- it could well have been. Heck, Spartacus was longer and Mughal-E-Azam only a trifle shorter, and both 1960 releases hit immortality. Historicals, it can almost be said, deserve an extra hour of running time.

That doesn't mean, however, that we thus go overboard the tragic way Ashutosh does. He is a fine director, no question, and while there is no scene in this film that makes you cringe, there is much waste. This film works when treated as a simple, compelling romance between an unlikely wedded couple, but outside of it, Gowariker falls prey to all the big-budget trappings.

'These are my sets, see how they glisten,' the director seems to croon as he shows off big rooms and elaborate costumes. Again, there is no fundamental problem with this, provided the action within has some substance, or at least style. But the royal intrigue is predictable, the characters obvious and underwritten.

In contrast to the well-handled moments between Jodhaa and Akbar, the rest of the film seems contrived and weighed down -- both by a pressing need to live up to scale as well as the director's undeniable soap-opera sensibilities. (The latter is exhibited best in the close-ups and the abruptly cacophonic background score.) Hence the romance works, but the history, well, seems to be getting laboriously in the way.

I'm not even going to touch on fact and fiction. The best historicals have little to do with the truth, and let's just give a filmmaker benefit of doubt and the license to have his own interpretation of a period with varied chronicles. But palace intrigue and dramatic conspiracy can be cinematic and entertaining without having to be simplistic and even banal. There is no air of urgency, and no surprise as the antagonists -- from rivals to elephants -- obediently fall over, on cue.

And the falling is, unfortunately, sloppy. The director can handle romance and emotional conversations well, as we are well aware, and war is just not his forte. Soldiers charge at each other visibly trying to hold back, and while I'm sure hundreds or thousands of extras are impossible to control, the battle sequences are amateurish to an embarrassing extreme. They might have worked if shown in fits and spurts, swords thrust strongly in rapidly edited montages set to a peaking score, but here we are shown long and tiresome battle sequences -- scenes where we see extras twirling weapons and jabbing the air pointlessly. Tsk.

Still, the romance. The film has a good and solid heart, and the story, of a conquering, defiant young king -- this one really was meant to be princeling for a while longer -- taking a bride for strategic reasons and then falling helplessly in love with her unbridled spirit, is a winner. The movie is a treat in the inventive scenes where Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) stands up to Akbar, the Rajput princess in no way ready to yield without a fight. Literally.

Their chemistry is palpable, and the two undoubtedly pretty protagonists do well to keep the heat alive through their every on-screen interaction. Jodhaa makes Akbar wait an exasperatingly long time, and Gowariker makes this gradual evolution of their relationship work, their love building only alongside their increasing respect for one another.

Roshan proves to be a very good Akbar. There are times when his inflection seems too modern, but the actor gives the performance his all, slipping into the skin of the character and staying there. He has the right air of cocksure arrogance and bearing, also managing to convey the Emperor's sharpness. Gowariker tosses him a topless sword-practice scene graphic enough to be labeled gratuitous, and not just does the actor take it in his stride impressively well, but even makes it charming in the way he smirks for his queen. Hrithik is an increasingly remarkable blend of tremendous screen presence and acting conviction, and seems to be getting better with each film.

Aishwarya, pretty as ever, is not given much dialogue, a directing masterstroke. The actress looks stunning -- and is photographed very well indeed -- and while her sentimental scenes and tear-filled speeches are often flinch-worthy (inspiring sympathy for the Emperor persistently trying to woo her), she does rather well when she's feisty and combative. Her parries, accompanied by near Seles-ic grunts, are practiced hard and look more real than the king's, as if she'd gleefully cut through chainmail vests if she could. Her eyes are a mega asset here, and the director uses them perfectly, taking them from subdued pain to injured pride, all the way to roaring warrior-girl killer eyes, flashing in glorious isolation while the rest of her startling face is covered.

To nobody's surprise, Gowariker populates his film with a great supporting cast. Nikitin Dheer, Pramod Moutho and Visshwa Badola deserve to be singled out, as does the one and only Raza Murad -- if only for that magnificent voice. Sonu Sood, as the queen's brother, is given a powerful role, but he plays it with such old-school grandeur that it almost seems spoofy. Punam Sinha and Manava Naik do very strongly, while Ila Arun hams it up bigtime.

All in all, it's an okay film. There is a very nice love story somewhere under all the blockbustery bluster, and its characters work brilliantly together. The rest of the film is naive and simplistic, but Gowariker's enough of a craftsman to get his detailing right, his performances restrained and make sure even the melodrama has panache. There is skill here, but it is killed by a devastating lack of economy.

To paraphrase screenwriting guru Syd Field, a scene should be entered as late as possible and exited as early. Gowariker does the complete opposite, lingering on inexplicably as he eavesdrops on his characters in attempts to brood to build mood.

While his intent is great, this movie -- coming after his last film, the well-intentioned but drastically overlong Swades -- shows that perhaps Gowariker -- a fine handler of actors and emotions -- isn't best suited toward cinema as an art form. A killer six or 12 episode big-budget television miniseries perhaps? Like a Tamas, maybe? I have a feeling he'd be super there.

Review Courtesy: Rediff.com

Jodha Akbar - Film Review

Jodhaa Akbar movie review by Taran Adarsh

Let's get one thing straight: You haven't watched anything so opulent, so magnificent like this in a long, long time on the Hindi screen. It's not just body beautiful, but there's soul as well.
It requires courage, prowess, patience, aptitude, knowledge, passion and of course, loads of currency to attempt a movie like JODHAA AKBAR. But more than anything else, it requires your firm belief in the subject, the belief to attempt a historical when historicals are considered an absolute no-no in the industry, the belief to spend almost Rs. 40 crores in a film that could go either ways.

Only when you're convinced yourself can you convince millions of moviegoers. And convinced you are after watching JODHAA AKBAR, a film of epic proportions.
Now let's clear a few misconceptions pertaining to the film…

  • It's blasphemous to compare MUGHAL-E-AZAM and JODHAA AKBAR. While MUGHAL-E-AZAM was primarily about the legendary romance between Salim and Anarkali, a subject that has been attempted quite a few times on the Hindi screen before, JODHAA AKBAR is about the relationship that the young Akbar shared with Jodhaa.
  • A lot has been said and written about its length [3.20 hours]. Does the viewer of today have the patience to watch a really lengthy film in today's times? But once into JODHAA AKBAR, the sequence of events, the drama, the romance, the war… every aspect keeps you mesmerized. Oh yes, the length does pinch you at one crucial point [second hour, which is relatively shorter], when a song breaks out. Otherwise, the 3 + hours are very well spent.
  • When you watch historicals like MUGHAL-E-AZAM and RAZIA SULTAN, the usage of chaste Urdu is difficult to comprehend at times. Not here! The language is simplified - Akbar speaks in Urdu, Jodhaa in Hindi - and it's easy to decipher.

As a cinematic experience, it would be wrong to compare JODHAA AKBAR to any of Ashutosh Gowariker's previous endeavors. Why, it would be erroneous to compare the film with any film ever made before in this genre. This one stands out and stands out the tallest.
To sum up, JODHAA AKBAR leaves you spellbound, enthralled, entranced and awestruck. Ashutosh Gowariker makes the legendary characters come alive on screen. Take a bow, Ashu!
Set in the sixteenth century, JODHAA AKBAR is a love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa. Little did Akbar [Hrithik Roshan] know that when he married Jodhaa [Aishwarya Rai Bachchan], he would be embarking upon a new journey -- the journey of true love.

 The daughter of King Bharmal of Amer [Kulbhushan Kharbanda], Jodhaa resented being reduced to a mere political pawn in this marriage of alliance, and Akbar's biggest challenge now did not merely lie in winning battles, but in winning the love of this defiant princess.
One of the prime reasons why JODHAA AKBAR works is because the present-day viewer is unaware of the romance between Akbar and Jodhaa. Sure, we all know of Akbar as a great emperor, but the love story makes for a refreshing subject. And the execution of a number of sequences makes JODHAA AKBAR extremely special.

Some instances:
* The war sequence at the very outset. You realize the scale and magnitude of the film at the very beginning.
* Hrithik taming an out-of-control elephant. It's hair-raising.
* The two pre-conditions set by Jodhaa, before her marriage to Akbar. Very interesting.
* The confrontation between Ila Arun and Ash at the kitchen, when Ash decides to make the meal herself.
* The immediate sequence, when Ash is asked to taste the food herself by Ila before she's about to serve the food to the Emperor and his associates. Once done, Hrithik demanding that he be served the meal from the same platter that Jodhaa had used.
* The intermission point, which sows the seeds of a misunderstanding between Hrithik and Ash.
* Post-interval, Hrithik returning to Amer to get Ash back to Agra and the welcome ceremony by his mother-in-law [Suhasini Mulay].
* The sword fight the very next morning, between Hrithik and Ash.
* The 'Azeem-o-Shaan Shahenshah' track, when the entire kingdom hails Hrithik.
* The fight in the climax [reminds you of the fight between Brad Pitt and Eric Bana in TROY].

Amazing moments indeed…
Ashutosh Gowariker knows that historicals have to be simplified while narrating on celluloid so that the moviegoer is able to grasp and comprehend the plotline and the sequence of events. Thankfully, JODHAA AKBAR is not in the least difficult to decipher. Gowariker's handling of the subject deserves the highest praise, for it's not everyday that you come across a film like JODHAA AKBAR.

A.R. Rahman's music is not the type that you take to instantly, but yes, it gels beautifully with the mood of the film. 'Azeem-o-Shaan Shahenshah' and 'Jashn-e-Bahara' are the best tracks in terms of tune. In terms of choreography, 'Azeem-o-Shaan Shahenshah' is awe-inspiring, while the execution of 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' is outstanding. Rahman's background score is simply extra-ordinary.

There's no room for dullness in Haider Ali and Gowariker's screenplay. The writing is tight, the drama keeps you hooked and the romantic track is wonderful. The film also talks of secularism, an issue so vital in today's times. K.P. Saxena's dialogues are amazing. At places, soaked in acid. The writer comes up with several gems, yet again. Kiran Deohans' cinematography matches international standards. The movement of camera at various places, especially in the battlefield, is breath-taking. Also, the D.O.P. captures the grandeur to the fullest. The production design [Nitin Chandrakant Desai] is, again, awesome. Recreating the bygone era requires not just money, but also the vision and Desai proves his supremacy yet again.

Be it the war sequences or the sword fights or general action, Ravi Dewan's contribution to the film is incredible. Especially noteworthy is the fight between Hrithik and Nikitin Dheer in the climax. It's simply outstanding! Editing [Ballu Saluja] is perfect, although the romantic song between Hrithik and Ash can be shortened in the second hour. The costumes [Neeta Lulla] as also the jewelry also deserve special mention.

JODHAA AKBAR also works because of the right casting. It's difficult to imagine anyone else in the role of Emperor Akbar. Hrithik seems born to play this role and he enacts it with such precision, such flourish, such confidence that it leaves you asking for more. A mind-boggling performance without doubt!
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is superb. Oh yes, she looks ethereal -- a compliment she has heard a trillion times before. What's new in that? But watch her emote in this film. You realize the amazing talent that has hitherto not been tapped by any movie maker. A flawless performance indeed!

JODHAA AKBAR has a host of characters, but the ones whom you carry home, besides Hrithik and Ash, are Sonu Sood [excellent], Nikitin Dheer [fantastic], Ila Arun [electrifying; her finest work so far], Punam S. Sinha [graceful], Kulbhushan Kharbanda [perfect], Raza Murad [effective] and Rajesh Vivek [good]. Amitabh Bachchan's rich barritone voice adds lustre to the magnum opus.
On the whole, JODHAA AKBAR is, without a shred of doubt, a brilliant film in all respects. This historical has all it takes to prove the first blockbuster of 2008. Very strongly recommended!

Courtesy: http://www.rahmanism.com/2008/02/jodhaa-akbar-movie-released-today.html