Film: "Jodhaa-Akbar"; Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Sonu Sood, Ila Arun, Niketan Dheer; Director: Ashutosh Gowariker; Rating: *** 1/2There is Hrithik Roshan as Akbar, in full regalia, watching a traditional sufi qawwalli when he suddenly goes into a spiritual trance and joins the qawwalls for a dance to divinity.
This historic moment that takes us beyond the dynasties of Mughal history, couldn’t have been possible without Hrithik’s amazing capacity to infiltrate the portals of divinity through dance movements.
As we traverse the simply stunning spectacle of Ashutosh Gowariker’s historical epic, often wonder-eyed and open-mouthed, we end up looking at Akbar as interpreted by Hrithik rather than as what the Mughal legend might have been.
The body language of the sword-wielding poet-warrior reminds us of Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" and Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai" rather than Prithviraj Kapoor who played Akbar in K. Asif’s undying classic "Mughal-e-Azam" with such imposing imperiousness.
In terms of the creative and visual terrain covered in the three-hour, 20-minute journey, Gowariker’s vision subsumes a reined-in wealth of ideas and images into an opulent but aesthetic tale of love, romance, war, hatred and secularism.
The director transports us into an era when brother battled brother in bitter rage. But love blossomed in the heart of a secular Muslim emperor who married a fiercely individualistic Rajput princess and allowed her space to be her own person.
The narrative patterns Akbar’s chequered life of love and wars through the various characters who influence his mind and heart. To begin with, we see the young Akbar being moulded into a violent person, brimming with ideas of revenge and acquisition by his senapati-mentor Bairam Khan.
In a frightening burst of vengeful brutality, we see Akbar ordering his soldiers to throw a stubborn adversary head-first to death.
But all said and done, Gowariker’s Akbar is a man who’d rather live in peace than wallow in war. Alas, Akbar lived in violent battle-friendly times.
Then there’s the complex relationship that Akbar shares with his foster mother, played by Ila Arun. But the friction between the foster mother and Akbar’s new bride could be straight out of Indra Kumar’s "Beta"!
Gowariker also purposely brings in kitschy elements from commercial cinema to provide a kind of warm accessibility to his historic tale.
The filming of the durbar song "Azeem-o-shaan shahenshah" is the last word in spectacle. Breathtaking is the word that often comes to mind in this tale of vibrant valour and vitality.
Never before have we seen battle sequences so spectacular and energetic in Hindi cinema. Take the opening sequence where the battle lines close ranks in such passionate movements that the audience almost feels trampled in the middle.
Kiran Deohans’ swift but sublime cinematography is of international calibre, at par with "Gladiator" or "Braveheart". A.R. Rahman’s music is a bit of a letdown though. Veering between authenticity and listener-friendliness, it’s a bit of a mellow mishmash signifying none of those enchanting echoes of Jodha and Akbar’s ever-lasting romanticism.
The love story occupies the pride of place in "Jodhaa-Akbar". The sudden marital alliance between the benign king and the free-spirited Rajput princess, their post-marriage courtship, the misunderstanding that cuts through their growing fondness, and the final and irreversible reconciliation, are portrayed with exquisite fluidity.
Not once does the director allow the inherent opulence of his theme to overpower the love that grows between them.
Hrithik’s pleading, poetic eyes in a warrior’s face define the historic romance as much as Aishwarya’s swan-like grace and passionate individualism. After "Dhoom 2", this pair surely whips up a Mughlai feast of passion and romance.
Watch "Jodhaa-Akbar" as a splendidly spiced-up slice of history. Or just savour the chemistry between the warrior and the princess, with hundreds of junior artistes, elephants, rabbits and parrots accompanying the couple’s journey from secularism to eternity.