Sunday, March 09, 2008

Court intrigues

Jodhaa Akbar rocked. It's almost 4 hours, and I have no idea which parts are historically inaccurate or not, but it's really, really good. The title character is the Hindu wife of Akbar the Great, the 16th century Mughal Emperor.

Half the movie was about the political/religious/regional unification of India under the Mughals, so a lot of the subplots addressed Hindu-Muslim friction and fragile political alliances. The other half was the love story between the Emperor and his wife. Hrithik Roshan, in his role as Jalalladin Akbar, was hilarious as a smitten young man --he totally mastered the glazed-eye look. (He also looked really good in the green shirt he wore for half the movie. And there's a blatantly gratuitous and excellent scene where he's practicing swordfighting alone in a courtyard, sans green shirt.) Aishwarya Rai, for her part, has been frequently hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world. And she even gets her own kick-ass swordfighting scene. Women who kick ass, well, kick ass, and doing so with swords is always better. (Of course, there were also the scenes to show that in addition to being an expert swordswoman, she could also cook! And sing! And be religious! And stay true to her own traditions! Like all women "should"!)

The battle scenes in particular were really good. It's surprisingly nonviolent, though, for an epic about an empire's expansion. The sheer numbers of extras for the armies and the panoramic shots are amazing -- there's an awesome scene at the beginning where the camera backs away from the armies right as each soldier meets an opponent.

I haven't studied the Mughal Empire since freshman year in high school, so I don't know how much of the movie was drawn from historical accounts or legends, or how much was a nationalistic swell. But The Scot, who last summer visited a lot of the places shown in the movie, seems to think it got the overall story right (though it was banned in Rajasthan, where most of it takes place). Even if it didn't, the movie itself is still great.

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