Spectacular is Jodha Akbar

LOS ANGELES: The film directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar of (Lagaan fame) and released by UTV Motion Pictures is what the media says, an epic release worldwide. Twenty six countries including India, the US Europe, Asia and the Middle East are showing the film across 1,500 screens worldwide.

This is the biggest release ever for an Indian film. The much anticipated costume drama film starring the top stars Aishwarya Rai and Hritihik Roshan is the fabled love story between the Muslim Emperor Akbar and the Hindu Rajput Princess Jodhaa.

That is one side of the story. On the other side we have in India, the panning of the critics, the protests, the tearing down of posters, the vandalism of cinema theaters, and the banning of the film in Rajasthan. Meanwhile, NRI groups are calling for the banning of the film and asking for a boycott. There is even a website boycottjodhaaakbar. (we do not want to promote this stuff though).

What is going on? Amidst all this panic and anger about flouting history, I would like to start my review with a note of frivolity. My experience in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. We arrived well in time and stood outside the theater as the doors were not open, I kept hearing someone say, "Stand in line against the wall, Stand in line against the wall."

And every time the voice kept coming nearer and suddenly I found our group was being asked to stand in line against a wall. Strip search? It was merely one of the distributors of the film asking us, to line up against a wall cordoned by a velvet rope.

And then it struck me that the poor man must have been controlling unmanageable Indian crowds, shoving and pushing at other screenings of many a film and this was his way of maintaining unruly mobs. We dissolved into laughter.

Anyway, it was time for us to get inside and the film began. The story is 450 years old. Political intrigues, conspiracies, loyalty, betrayals, trust, faith, religious conflicts, all of it culminating into a landscape for the senses. Within the first few minutes I knew this was going to be a brilliant film and Aishwarya Rai had not even made an appearance.

The film dazzled from the first shot, as we were lured into the history of the Rajput kingdoms, and listened to the tale of a marriage of political alliance by the Muslim ruler with a beauteous Hindu princess, and how this union brought harmony and peace between two hostile religious communities.

Akbar had been conquering realm after realm and wanted to rule over the whole of Hindustan and wisely decided that by marrying a princess from a Hindu kingdom there would be unity. Apart from that, there is the untold love story which critics are disputing about.

They say that Akbar's wife was not Jodhaa, and Jodhaa was the wife of his son Jehangir, while others insist that Akbar made an alliance with Jodhpur much later in his reign A research team from New Delhi, Aligarh, Lucknow and Agra worked on the film and, also according to the director had the blessings of the Royal Rajput family. Interestingly, in the historical documents, no mention is made of Akbar's wife but that was the custom of the time.

However the name Jodhaa first appears in the 18th and 19th historical writings. Three and a half hours long, the film could definitely have been edited. Technically, the editing was brilliant. The 10 million dollar film used 80 elephants, 100 horses and 55 camels in the nail biting, spectacular, battle scenes.

A R Rahman's music was both a primal and spiritual experience with the thrilling Khwaja mere Khwaja, a musical encounter of a divine kind. Javed Akhtar's lyrics represented myriad musical traditions. Hrithik Roshan brought intuition, subtlety and a stirring intimacy into his role transforming the alliance into a tender and poignant. love story.

His mellifluous Urdu diction made one almost swoon with delight. The star has a commanding presence, a fiery elegance, remarkable physical agility and an astonishing athleticism, whether he is tackling a bellowing elephant with his superb, oiled, muscular body, or battling an army on the scorching desert sands.

Aishwarya Rai was a wonderful surprise. I can never get past the Miss World image and the Loreal or is it Revlon products, but in this film, she came into her own. The glamour quotient is ignored. Every time she made her presence felt, there was a poetic lyricism but beneath it she was a woman of great integrity, courage and unflinching honesty. Akbar and Jodhaa were both deep and powerful characters as they cast a bewitching spell on each other without falling prey to clichés.

The story becomes extraordinary with Akbar speaking Urdu and Jodhaa, Hindi. The other compelling characters were finely drawn. Sonu Sood as Surajmull turns in a singular performance and Ila Arun as Akbar's stepmother is quietly menacing. Photography by Kiran Deohans was a stunning illustrative example of a visionary.

Neeta Lulla's costumes, she designed for the entire cast, from royalty to the commoner was at the heart of the film. Billowing, fragile curtains, opulent carpets, splendid lamps, brilliant colored canopies, bejeweled turbans and exquisite jewelry, made from rubies, kundan, jade, and gold, celebrated he richness and vitality of the era.

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