Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar

Last Sunday, my room mates and I went to see the hindi film Jodhaa Akbar playing in Indianapolis. The film was entertaining, but leaves much to be desired. There was a sense of a missing style, the film was no different from Doordarshan serials based on history, except for a more sophisticated approach (the dialogue and acting was more restrained and realistic). Period Dramas are such excellent opportunities for film makers to put together beautifully made films, with gorgeous costumes and sets and stylish shots. The cinematography of the film was rather lacking in inspiration, and really made that connection for me with Doordarshan serials. The plot was not very complex, and the lack of a fresh storytelling style, made the film somewhat ordinary. The music didn't seem to fit with the film, especially with the songs. Synthesized sounds and heavy orchestration made them seem anachronistic.

The film brings Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khiladi to mind, another drama set in Mughal times. Ray, being the director he is, made a beautiful film. Especially with cinematography, the shots make beautiful use of light and the sets. I think the strength was also in the film's script, with only a handful of main characters for the audience to concentrate upon, we are left with an intimate understanding of the characters. I can't say that with Jodhaa Akbar, possibly because the lead roles are played by popular stars with whom it is difficult for the audience to leave out their real life personas, but also because the lead roles are portrayed as almost perfect people, in line with Bollywood tradition.

Jodhaa Akbar is promoted as a love story, the name itself evokes Romeo and Juliet. But, the climax which involves a conflict between Akbar and his brother-in-law, has nothing to do with their love. The final scene, in which Akbar asks Jodhaa to join him on the throne probably was intended to bring back to mind that the film is called Jodhaa Akbar. A stronger script would have highlighted the events in the film as being a test of their love. At the end of the first half before the interval, the only conflict in their love ends, and the second half is devoted mostly to tying loose ends. Maybe there wasn't enough information available about Jodhaa and Akbar's love to warrant making a film. The story of an intercultural marriage between a Muslim king and a Hindu princess I would think would surely have a lot of interesting episodes with culture clashes and ideology conflicts. By the way, I thought this blog by people who are married to people from other cultures, one of them an American woman married to a Telugu man, had some funny posts. From the posts, it is clear that there is plenty to talk about in an inter-cultural marriage. There are a few scenes that depict these conflicts, to give credit to the film, but if it was supposed to be a film about a love story, there had to be more.

Amitabh Bachchan narrates in the beginning of the film yet again. He did even in Ray's film, but Ashutosh Gowariker himself had used that device in Lagaan too. It is difficult to write the script in a manner that communicates the historical setting without resorting to narration, as the story will have to emerge through the scenes. That would also possibly make the film longer. Shatranj is 129 minutes, while Jodhaa is 213 minutes long. At that length, even with the song length subtracted, there was no reason why there couldn't have been more innovation by way of storytelling in Jodhaa. Jodhaa Akbar is possibly a shining film among its counterparts in Bollywood, but as good cinema it falls short.


mythalez said...

now thats a proper professional critique ... nice!
though it doesnt diminish my want to watch the movie :D

Aravind Krishna K said...

Good post, nothing to disagree with.. I would love to see a post on the much-hyped Happy Days as well !

Samira said...

Thats a nice analysis, an interesting perception on how well the love between jodha and akbar could have been portrayed with addition of intercultural wedding conflicts and tensions.. the movie left me "feel good" though... I felt peace listening to "manmohana" and "khwaja mere khwaja"