Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Jodhaa Akbar

On Thursday night, February 21st, we went out to see the new film from India, “Jodhaa Akbar.” This historical romance is set in the reign of Jalaluddin Muhammad, Emperor of the Mughals, (called “Akbar” or “The Great”) and starts shortly after his accession to the throne following the death of his father, Nasiruddin Mohammed Humayun. In real life, Jalaluddin was thirteen when he inherited, but, as the movie announces at the very beginning, this is one of a number of “possible stories”—meaning that they are blithely taking liberties. Not a new thing for us westerners who have seen how many versions of King Arthur? (Or, perhaps more closely, Queen Elizabeth I—see review of “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”--). So the young Jalal seems to be more about ten years old when he first challenges his advisors’ ideas of the right way to run an empire. Actually, that being said, the film uses facts as a framework, and the depictions of the Second Battle of Panipat, which secured his throne, the later dismissal of the General and Regent Bairam Khan, the intrigues perpetrated by Jalal’s nurse, Maham Anga, and events surrounding the death of his foster-brother, Adham Khan, are basically in line with known history, although, of course “dramatized.”

When Jalal (played as an adult by Hrithik Roshan) becomes old enough to assert control, he does so, moderating his kingdom’s aggressive expansionist stance to start co-opting the notoriously stiff-necked and warlike Hindu Rajput kings who stand in his way instead of conquering and killing them. In the movie, the Rajput King of Amer (now Jaipur) tries to maneuver his way out of both a troublesome dynastic struggle and what he sees as ruinous war with the Mughals by offering his daughter, Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai, “Bride and Prejudice”) in marriage to Jalal. This is a controversial move since the other Rajput kings view it as cowardice and because the Mughals are Muslims. (The movie implies that this was a “first” although in fact there had been prior royal marriages between Hindu and Muslim rulers, and, indeed, Jalal eventually took several Hindu wives from Rajput princesses.) However, both in film and in fact, this alliance was a pivotal point in increasing the greatness of the Mughal Empire under Jalal.

The romantic portion of the film comes in depicting the somewhat stormy nature of the post-wedding courtship of Jalal and Jodhaa (they do not see or speak to one another until the wedding) as complicated by the jealousy of Maham Anga (Ila Arun), and the scheming of both Jodhaa’s well-meaning but hapless brother Sujamal (Sonu Sood), and Jalal’s ruthless and power-hungry brother-in-law. It is in the course of winning Jodhaa over that Jalal gets the idea that eventually earns him the love of all his people and the sobriquet “Akbar”.

Overall, this is one of the most visually beautiful movies we have seen in a long while: the clothing and fabrics, and the jewels are gorgeous. The photography of the fortresses, especially the Red Fort at Agra and Jaipur, is the best I have ever seen. And, it must be said, the principals are both beautiful as well--. There is also some good swordfighting, and an interesting artillery duel.

Highly recommended as a lovely movie, a good old-fashioned swashbuckling love story, and a (romanticized) insight into a place and period most Americans are ignorant of.

Read more on the fascinating Jalaluddin Muhammad here:
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