By Vikas Mohan, MovieTalkies.com, 19 November 2005
As the name suggests, Taj Mahal is the tale of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan and his immortal love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The movie also brings to light the family intrigues and violence, which had preceded the coronation of Prince Khurram as Shahjehan.
Told in a flashback mode, Shahjehan (Kabir Bedi) narrates the story to Jahanara (Manisha Koirala), where he tells her how Emperor Jehangir has chosen Khurram as his successor, and Noorjehan’s daughter Ladli Begam who was in love with Khurram, had dreamt of becoming the future empress of India one day. But Khurram hadn’t reciprocated her feelings, as he was in love with Noorjehan’s niece. This had aggravated Noorjehan, who had tried her best to pull down Khurram, and promote Shahryar. But her plans had foiled, and Khurram had been crowned Emperor Shahjehan. And as Shahjehan grows old, there is again a battle of succession, as he (Shahjehan) wants Dara Shikoh to be his successor, but Aurangzeb who wins the battle, ascends the throne, ends up killing his brothers, and imprisoning his father.
Production values are fabulous. It is a gorgeously mounted film, projecting the glory of the Mughal period which is brought out very well through Chandravadan More’s lavish sets. Anna Singh’s costumes are very much befitting royalty, and where Gulrez Syed’s lyrics are poetic; Naushad’s music has his typical melodious nostalgic tone to it.
Performance-wise, Zulfikhar Syed comes across fair as the young Shahjehan. Sonya Jehan, as the young Mumtaz, looks charming but lacks sensitiveness in her portrayal. Kabir Bedi is regal and dignified as old Shahjehan, and Manisha Koirala shows her competence as Jahanara. Akbar Khan, as the producer, shows exemplary dedication and resourcefulness in mounting such a mammoth production, but sadly, his directorial abilities don’t parallel that.