One of the greatest motion pictures of our time, Jodhaa Akbar is a sixteenth century epic romance with heavy doses of electrifying drama and wide canvas battle sequences. Possibly the most ambitious and gutsy film to come out of Indian cinema in recent years, possibly decades, Jodhaa Akbar is unchartered cinema territory, breaking new ground in its filming and its mise-en-scene.
Ashutosh Gowariker takes on the mammoth task of making a prequel to Mughal-E-Azam, writing the possible love story between Emperor Akbar and Jodhabai, which starts as a marriage of alliance when King Bharmal of Amer gives his daughter's hand in marriage to Emperor Akbar. From the Battle of Panipat where the thirteen-year-old Jalaluddin was crowned to his conquests and his benevolent and just role that won him the title of 'Akbar,' meaning 'The Great,' the film traces the graph of the mighty emperor and his love for the defiant Rajput princess. While Mughal-E-Azam was Salim's love story, Jodhaa Akbar is Akbar's love story. No other comparisons can be made between these two films, and both are masterpieces in their own right, rich and wide in their stagings. But Jodhaa Akbar is a film for today, contemporary in its outlook, with the central love story flavoured with political conspiracies and palace intrigue, and a very important film that besides its dramatic entertainment also makes us realise the many shades of secularism and its importance.
Hrithik Roshan as Akbar is magnificent, giving a fantastic performance that has to be seen to be believed; his vocal intonations and commanding expressions, working every facial muscle in delivering his lines, makes you almost believe he is a Mughal. When he proclaims 'Yeh hamaara Mulk hai' or when he says 'Hamle ke liye tayyaar' or when he admonishes his religious adviser Saadir Adasi in his court for interfering in matters of governance, you realize what a fine actor Hrithik is. Gowariker may have taken his time to make this film, but the effort is all there on the screen. You see a mature Hrithik who not only delivers fine dialogue with great command, but Gowariker puts him through an elephant taming sequence, a sword duel with Jodhaa, battles, and a climactic combat with the main villain; making good use of the build and prowess of the star, the director makes this magnum opus as young and contemporary as possible and at the same time vividly detailed in time.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Jodhaa is so real and convincing as a Rajput princess that you feel she has never before looked so good in a role. Aided by the grand jewellery and costume finery, she shines as the princess who makes the greatest sacrifice for her people, consenting to a marriage of alliance with the Mughals. The grace of her swordplay coupled with some fine horse-riding makes you wonder what kind of preparation went behind this film. Kudos to Gowariker for making his stars every inch the character they are enacting, and more.
Besides the eponymous pair, every actor puts in a splendid performance, but worthy of mention above all supporting players is Ila Arun as Maham Anga, Akbar's mother-like figure and guide, who has been instrumental in bringing up the young Jalal and now guides him in his governance. Sonu Sood as Jodhaa's brother is also commendable, and Nikitin Dheer as Sharifuddin, Akbar's treacherous brother-in-law, is menacing and a worthy adversary to Hrithik's Akbar.
The cinematography by Kiiran Deohans is regal and sweeping, be it capturing the romance between the players or the action in the battle sequences; from the harsh sun-draped landscapes of Rajasthan to the torch and candlelit interiors of Agra fort, the lighting is impeccable, with all visuals aided by the rich production design of Nitin Desai. The costumes by Neeta Lulla and the jewellery by Tanishq add to the wondrous staging, creating imagery that speaks volumes. Momentum to the romance and the action on-screen is given by crisp editing by Ballu Saluja coupled with Rahman's magnificent background score, and the songs also work well with the screenplay. Khwaja mere Khwaja is divinely shot, and Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah is a song that is so grand in its picturisation that it makes you wonder how Gowariker and his choreographers Rekha and Chinni Prakash actually managed it! Hundreds and possibly thousand plus dancers create choreographed geometry that challenges all that has been done to-date in Indian cinema.
A great film that is undoubtedly Gowariker's labour of love, with every department standing by his vision and helping it come alive on celluloid. The spectacular scale coupled with the veteran director's sensitive and emotionally evolved direction, a rare combination in Indian cinema, makes this film unique. Jodhaa Akbar will rule cinemas!