One is perhaps starting to expect too much from director Ashutosh Gowariker after such masterpieces like Lagaan and Swades. But he seems to raise the bar with his historic magnum-opus, Jodhaa Akbar. The ever-selective Hrithik Roshan stars as the benevolent Akbar, the Mughal emperor, who falls in love with gracious Jodhaa, the Hindu Rajput princess, played effortlessly by Aishwarya Rai. Although the 16th-century love story upon which it's based might be long forgotten, this endearing treatment sears into the memory through sheer size and scale alone.
Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar is a righteous and tolerant emperor, ruler of the Mughal Empire. So tolerant in fact that he accepts a Hindu Rajput princess as his wife under an alliance that gradually blossoms into true love. The obvious implications of the Hindu/Muslim reconciliation abound, but the sting in all this comes in the form of Maham Anga (Ila Arun), a shrewd and manipulative woman and aunt to Akbar, who plans to eradicate competition from anyone else he holds dear. She concocts a devious plan that challenges Jodhaa's integrity and results in her being cast out. At the same time, a political storm is brewing elsewhere, as other armies challenge Akbar's honourable rule. But can he conquer hearts as well as minds like the outspoken Jodhaa had once questioned?
"EVERYTHING IS BIG AND GRAND"
Extensive though it is, Jodhaa Akbar cannot be discussed using small talk. Everything in the film is big and grand: the palaces, the armies and most importantly, the love story. It hits at the heartstrings and somehow has enough energy to sustain itself through the bloated script that perhaps should've been chopped. Ravishing Rai is convincing enough but its Roshan's majestic performance as the love-struck warrior that packs the punch; it's his film from start to finish. Don't let the running time put you off watching this unashamedly epic tale.
Jodhaa Akbar is out in the UK on 14th Feb 2008.