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Jodhaa AkbarYesterday I spent about 4 hours of my life watching the worst film made in the history of cinema – Jodhaa Akbar. Oh and by the way, the cabbage in question is Hrithik Roshan’s Akbar.

At the end of Jodhaa Akbar, all I know about Emperor Akbar is that he had a stick-on moustache, a fair amount of jewellery and that he was illiterate. He also had a twentieth-century hair stylist but never mind that. Jodhaa (double a for numerological reasons) I know a little more about. She was religious, had more jewellery than Akbar, used way too much glycerine to induce tears and spent all her time playing with rabbits and doves.

The problem with the film, as with most Bollywood films, is that the story is Desdemona while the execution is Othello – so much possibility but ultimately all you get is stupidity and murder. A story set in the violent world of medieval India where two people find love in a marriage of convenience, which helps unite a significant chunk of the country, could have been fascinating if it hadn’t been smothered under shoddy storytelling.

If you do remember your basic history (if you studied in the Indian education system), then you’ll realise it is filled with errors. And no, I’m not talking about the identity of Jodhaa which has been causing much heartache to the Rajput community with different princely families claiming their ancestor (not named Jodhaa which is the major bone of contention) married Akbar.

The historical Akbar was illiterate (Akbarnama is a biography, not an autobiography) but held forth with some of the brightest minds of his times. He loved music and fine art which is why I’m pretty sure that if someone presented him with the ghastly song and dance routine shown near the end of Jodhaa Akbar (with choreography that looked suspiciously like Lion King), he’d probably have beheaded the lot of them. He did indeed have a Hindu wife but he also had a Christian one and a hoard of Muslim and Persian ones. Consequently for the Hindu wife to become his primary wife, she’d have had to do more than play with rabbits and sing devotional songs to a tacky idol of Krishna. There’s a glorification of Hindu pride in Jodhaa Akbar that I’m a little uneasy about. It’s a sentiment that is rather out of place in a film that is about a man who did his best to rise above ritual and religious practice. The film almost seems to suggest Akbar’s greatness lay in him accepting Hinduism, rather than in him being secular. Now there’s revisionist history for you….

Gowariker spent an obscene amount of money on the sets and costumes of this film in order to make them authentic, we are told. With much care and meticulousness, he rebuilt Old Fort to look like the Red Fort. This is particularly odd since the Old Fort was built about 100 years before the Red Fort (built in 1639) and the two structures look nothing like each other. Guess who was awake during History classes? Not Mr. Gowariker, clearly. Plus, the fabrics and embroidery used in Neeta Lulla’s opulent costumes are not true to the times or the region but yes, they are pretty and the jewellery looks real. Miss Lulla is being flooded by offers to recreate the Jodhaa look for wedding trousseaux, which is why she did the film to begin with one suspects, so hallelujah.

Gowariker takes bits of historical trivia – like Akbar’s illiteracy, his closeness to his aunt Maham Angha who was a scheming control freak, his practice of walking incognito around his capital to pick up on popular mood – but he isn’t able to make a proper narrative. Hrithik flexes his muscles and flares his nostrils. He also strolls languidly past gauzy curtains like a ramp model and shows up shirtless in one scene, thus reducing a number of our film reviewers to quivering, hormonal pulp. If we could raise money to send them to a Chippendale show, perhaps we’d have more reasoned reviews.

If Gowariker was looking at Indian history the way Xena: The Warrior Princess looks at Greek mythology, then no one could raise a finger against him. However, this man claims to be serious and concerned with depicting history with some degree of fidelity. Gowariker would have us believe that a girl from one of the most misogynist communities in the country was allowed to have a private audience with the man her father has said she will marry before the wedding. Not just that, when she does meet Akbar, the Mughal Emperor no less, she tells him that if he doesn’t let her be a practicing Hindu, she will not marry him. I’d like to see a girl from a conservative Indian family try laying down the law about her arranged marriage today in the 21st century, let a alone the sixteenth.

On top of that Gowariker would have us believe that out of respect for her finer feelings, Akbar doesn’t sleep with her for months, waiting for her to fall in love with him. Right, that makes sense. Let’s have a marriage of convenience but let’s not consummate it. Stunning strategy. This is from an ancestor of Shahjahan who basically killed his wife by fucking her too much (she had 14 children in 19 years of marriage). In the course of the film, Akbar sends his un-devirgined bride back to her parents’ home and then show up to woo her back, as though it’s a Hindi movie. Oh wait, it is a Hindi movie (see post below for definition).

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11 thoughts on “Of cabbages and kings

  1. “the story is Desdemona while the execution is Othello”

    i love that 😀

    oh my. not much good to say about this one, huh? sounds like one of the movies where you wonder afterwards how a bunch of grown up people could spend so much time and money and eventually come up with such a load of crap …

    well, at least you could flex your rant muscle a little 😛

  2. Crap is always subjective. I know of at least two people who really enjoyed it. One of them is pregnant so maybe that it’s the hormones in her case, but the other is a man. And he isn’t gay, so it isn’t the sight of a shirtless Hrithik Roshan (he’s built like a Ken doll, literally) that is making him lose his judgement.

  3. Well so far i’ve mainly read, middle to bad reviews, and reviews which,of course, would not go into the historical question…
    I’m a bit sad to read that, cause i though Gowariker is a good director, liked Lagaan and Swades a lot… So what happen to that?

    “There’s a glorification of Hindu pride in Jodhaa Akbar that I’m a little uneasy about” and that is what worries me the most…

    I guess i’ll still watch it, in 4-6months, when it’s here in DVD, but at least i won’t have false hopes, which i would have had because of the director

  4. Hobbie, it was Gowariker that gave me hope… clearly misplaced hope. I don’t know what happens to these guys. They’re constantly hankering for big-budget movies but the moment they have the dosh, it goes totally awry because they seem to put more importance on the nitty gritty. I don’t know what happens… aside from taking four hours out of an audience’s life and leaving them grinding their teeth.

  5. Details are important, and usually it’s only possible to look after that when you have monney, but it should not be the only worry…
    As for waiting 4 to 6 months to see the movie…no need… It’s on You tube (the only thing missing are the sub ;-))
    So i had a good look at it and here are my feeling: Akbar looks like Krish has used the time machine:shock:!?!? Johdhaa is crap at fighting and acting (what happened to the Dhoom chemistry ???)… What the f&%k were the whirling dervish doing there, the Photography could have been better, fighting scenes were crap(even Bollywood has done better on that level) and AR Rahman seems to have recycle music from Guru and Asoka…this is all really worrying when you know how much money they spent on that film !?!?

    Of course because they were no sub i didn’t get all, but not only did the “HIndu pride” disturb me (but then it’s not the first movie where Gowariker goes on about that !)the religious aspect went bang to my mind and i didn’t like what i saw… I’m still wondering if Gowariker was trying to be moralistic: muslim and hindou can live together and all that…(go watch Bombay, cheaper movie to make and much more into the subject) But if it’s that, i felt some of the side messages were a bit contradicting… I had the feeling that Akbar tries to understand (or maybe i should say is forced to)hindu ways of living (food, way of praying…)but Jodhaa does not seem to reciprocate ? but once again, i can be to sure of that because i did not get the dialogues… also the monogamous feeling they gave to that story was kind of moralistic too…
    so here is my rant after watching Jodhaa Akbar on YouTube… Advantage, you can move forward many scenes and an almost 4hours movie become a 2hours one 😉

  6. You watched the WHOLE film on youtube? LOL! You’re right about Jodhaa doing nothing to understand the Muslim way of life and I don’t think you missed too much without subtitles – most people in the audience didn’t understand much of what was being said either. 😛

    The whirling dervishes were hilarious… particularly when Roshan started whirling with them. 😀 I think it was an attempt to hint at Akbar developing his own later on in life (the Din-i-Illahi cult) which was a combination of all the religions in India (Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroarastrianism and Jainism). Obviously it didn’t make any sense in the context of the film. And yes, the music was very unimpressive too. Way too much of an electronic sound.

  7. dearie dearie me…. sounds like one to avoid! i can cope with travesties of history if they are intentional – and preferably funny! – but something that sets itself up to be factual… :no: :no-way: :no-how:
    mind you, our ‘history’ gets similarly ravaged…. Robin Hood, King Arthur, Braveheart, the one where the Americans got the Enigma machine…. :sigh:

    loved the write up, though!!!

  8. Its real pity after spending so many cores the movie will never go down as classic and sad that its even less then a comic book.

  9. Jodhaa Akbar is the movie
    made by an amateur.
    The director spends too much
    time on ‘”stupid” issues.

    The directors makes movies for old
    folks.

    He does not know how to make movies for the
    youth market.

    His movie lost money. That is why he is unhappy.

  10. Mr. Gowariker stay away
    from Hollywood.

    We don’t want your
    old man approach to filmmaking.

    You make us sick.

    Never come to our country.

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