Monday, March 2, 2009

Jodha Akbar (2008) Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker or the Resurrection of Mughal/Rajput Glam

The city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan, birthplace of Miss Talibonita, was built by Jalaladin Mohammad Akbar. So in honor of Jalalabad's namesake, this blogpost about the imagined life of the Mughal Emperor Akbar via Bollywood.

Bollywood's beautiful film is based on the life of Jalaladin Mohammad Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India 16th century (contemporary of Queen Elizabeth) and his early years as emperor unifying India and new husband to the Rajput princess he marries, Jodha. Starring Hrithik Roshan as Akbar Pasha and Aishwarya Rai Bachan as Jodha.

The director Ashutosh Gowariker's earlier film Lagaan starring Aamir Khan was nominated for an Academy Award. This film also won its fair share of awards. It also stirred its own controversy. The Rajasthan area of India refused to screen this film because they felt that the Rajputs were shown in a negative light. There was quite an uproar and an attempt to ban the film, which was not approved by the courts. There is controversy over whether or not her name was Jodhaa or some Brit dude named her that in his historical text, but who really cares about the details of history, we go to films for their overall message and beauty not to be in history class.

Although the subtitles do not do the film justice, its available on "instant play" at (the best part about joining netflix).

The Rajput King of Amer offers his daughter, Jodhaa, to the Mughal Emperor Jalaludin (He is not named Akbar until later by his own people after he removes the tax that Hindus had to pay for pilgrimages). After some deliberation he accepts to make peace.



Married life is not so easy. The court threatens mutiny against the Emperor for marrying a Hindu wife. But Akbar is too cool for the court. He dismisses his court after hearing the Queen sing a religious song and opts for the intimacy of a Hindu religious ritual between husband and wife over the ritual of the court:

Miss Talibonita loves seeing the softer, more intimate sides of rulers (earlier in 2008, there was also the domestic life of Ghengiz Khan as you all remember).

Well, this is the age of feminism, so no love story is complete without a friendly sword match between newlyweds. In this clip, Akbar returns to apologize to his wife (he dismisses her from the palace for reasons you will find out when you watch the movie):

*warning* the subtitles are in such bad English its hilarious!!!

Then there is the turf-fight within women, Jodhaa fights with Elder Mother (Akbar's wetnurse and considered second mother) for the right to run the kitchen. Oh I can feel this battle resonating the most with new brides!

The movie had a beautiful message. A good leader is one that turns to building peace rather than war to bring unity. The Mughal Emperor Akbar was known for his humanism above all things. The lines in this film can be applied to our current time of extremism, intolerance, and wars that destroy civilian populations. Kings no longer get off their horses to come fight it out one on one. For these reasons, the film was timely. There is an emphasis on Sufism over extremism. Sharifuddin's army is dressed in what many jihadists would consider their colors: green and black. Sharifuddin is also a total jerk to his wife, and Akbar is loving and yielding to his wife. Akbar is shown praying at the shrine of Khwaja Chisti and doing this beautiful dance:

Watch this film, despite the odd translation (much of the poetry is lost) but its visually stunning and a beautiful story of love with lots of Mughal masculinity moments (taming a wild elephant shirtless, practice his sword moves shirtless, bathing and lounging around shirtless... he could have unified India with his physique alone!).