21 February 2008

JODHAA AKBAR - Not a disaster but very disappointing and overhyped Bollywood historical epic

Nobody in their right mind would have given up to £20 million to Ashutosh Gowariker to make a a historical epic genre film about the love story between an ancient Mughal emperor and a Rajput Princess unless of course two of Bollywood's most powerful stars were attached to the project; Hrithik Roshan and Ashwariya Rai. Though this film has been overhyped and is unable to justify the four hour long running time, Ashutosh Gowariker's reputation remains intact purely because his films 'Lagaan' and 'Swades' confirmed his status as one of India's finest cinematic auteurs. With Jodhaa Akbar, Gowariker finally falters and comes unstuck. The film has clearly been researched with great diligence and the production detail and design is immaculate, producing an aesthetically overwhelming visual experience. Nevertheless, the film has real problems with length and pacing - the screenplay is filled with empty speeches and hollow grandstanding, and very little occurs in terms of narrative momentum. The first two hours culminates in a melodramatic moment of false betrayal by the Rajput princess but it it such an obvious and clumsily handled sequence it seems as though Gowariker feels uncomfortable with the material and the actors. The real criticism with the film is that both actors have been miscast in the roles and neither of them have the acting credentials to carry off such mature and complex characters. Hrithik Roshan is the poster boy of Indian cinema and it is very difficult to accept him as emperor Akbar because he has never been accepted as a serious actor. Roshan does not have the gravitas nor the range to be able to portray Akbar in a three dimensional manner and thus the character becomes a superficial stereotype of the angry leader who is surrounded by people who wish to decieve and betray him. I could not help but wonder how different this film would have been if more credible and better actors had been cast in the lead roles. Jodhaa Akbar has opened to great commercial success and the film does have a very secular message at the heart of the film which has the potential of reaching a wide audience. Unfortunately, this is a film which has been undermined by Gowariker's faith in mainstream actors and a script that has been severly underwritten and is heavy on historical pronounciation.

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