Finally on Thursday, I got a chance to see Jodha Akbar. And given all the controversy (inevitably) surrounding the movie, the fact that there was a proven director at the helm, not to mention my keen interest in historical and period movies, I went with somewhat high expectations. And that was possibly the reason that I had to return a dissapointed movie buff. Frankly put, and I still remain a Gowarikar fan, the movie is not a patch on the rivetting Lagaan and neither it is in the same league as a Swades, which atleast forced us to introspect about our country. Incidentally, true Gowarikar fans might remember the first movie that he directed, a murder mystery called Pehla Nasha (starring Dipak Tijori, Raveena Tandon and Pooja Bhatt). I would even venture out to say that Jodha Akbaar would probably rank somewhere alongwith Pehla Nasha in Gowarikar's oeuvre.
Now, you might ask, am I so dissapointed ? The reasons are quite a few. Fine, granted the visuals are stunning, sets are lavish and bring to life the Mughal and Rajput era of the 16th century, Hrithik looks the part as the Emperor, Aishwariya looks charming and does a fair job of acting and AR Rehman is pretty much in form with his music (Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Azeem-O-Shah-Shahenshah pull up the otherwise average score). However, glittering sets and handsome leading pairs cannot keep the viewers engrossed, certainly not for a period of 3.5 hours (I lost track of the no. of times I looked at my watch, especially during the first half). To sustain viewer interest, a movie requires that essential backbone: a story and a screenplay to accompany it. And I thought that the movie faltered in those crucial departments. Firstly, it is not a historical in the sense we understand it, which means it is neither a biography of a historical figure nor does it narrate any historical event. It is not much than a love story set in a historical context, not very different from the Titanic. And its not even that historians celebrate the love between the Rajput princess and the Mughal Emperor. In fact, they are not even certain that the eldest daughter of the king of Amer, Raja Barmal, was even called Jodhaa. We have never heard Jodha Akbar mentioned in the same breath as Mumtaj-ShahJehan or NoorJehan-Jahangir. Given this, one wonders whether there really was any historical substance to the Jodha-Akbar love story. At the end, the narrator (Amitabh's baritone now part of every other movie) says that the Jodha-Akbar love story is largely forgotten in history. To which, one might ask, why should it be remembered ? Now, having taken upon the task of potraying a love story made largely out of scattered historical information, Ashutosh needed to fill the movie with a lot of tender moments between Hrithik and Ash. But apart from a few (the sword fight between the two is excellent), the chemistry is not much on display. And some cinematic liberties seem far-fetched, most notably the anomaly that although Jodha is supposed to be Akbar's third wife, neither of his first two wives are even mentioned in the movie (Can someone fill in me here ?).
All in all, I am in no way suggesting that Jodha Akbar is even an average movie. It is, by all standards, a good effort and definitely worth watching once (in the theater of course !!!, the sets and visuals deserve nothing less than that). But given the Gowariker name, I think he should have done better.