Hrithik as the Incredible Hul… ooops, I mean Mughal emperor


Jodhaa Akbar (India, 2008)

Seen: Sunday, 14th December (cinema, special screening)
Runtime: 213′
Polish Distributor: Blink (should be out on DVD sometime next year)
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan (narrator)
Production House: UTV Motion Pictures, Ashutosh Gowariker Productions Pvt. Ltd.
Plot: Based on legends and historical accounts, the story of what may have transpired between Akbar, a 16th century Mughal Emperor and Jodhaa, a Rajput princess. Akbar, a Muslim, marries her in an arranged marriage, despite her being a Hindu and agrees to let her continue practising her own faith.

Short Clip from one of the Songs in the Film
If you’d rather see the trailer then it’s in my “film spotting” post :) I just thought I’d choose something different since I already posted the trailer.
The clip I chose is the last 2min. or so of a Sufi song (because it’s just part of the song, you’ll see youtube jumping to the bit I wanted to share rather than playing it from the beginning - it might look a bit disconcerting, but that’s what I *wanted* it to do *grin*). Sufism is an Islamic movement which is quite different to the rest of Islam in that its way to God is through music and dance, the intention being to attain a trance-like state and in this way totally surrender your heart to God.

You might wonder why on Earth I found this clip so interesting ;) Firstly, I guess I generally find the idea of Bollywoodizing Sufi song & dance quite interesting. But I also really like Hrithik in this. Usually when they get Hrithik to dance it’s all about his physique and super dance moves and so on. This dance scene is very simple - it’s the bare minimum of movement really and yet he gets a lot out of it. The angle he’s holding his head at, the way he’s holding his hands, his blank expression… It just works. I never really doubted his position as best male dancer in Bollywood, but he certainly proved to me that he has more variety in what he can do dance-wise than I believed :)

Impressions In Short
The film is pure patriotic propaganda, but it’s the kind of propaganda I quite like ;) I even find it rather refreshing cause the values supported are so different to what I’ve seen in American or Polish patriotic propaganda.
Aside from that, my other strong impressions are that if you poured some green paint over Hrithik then he would totally look like the Hulk - no computer effects needed ;) He clearly worked out like crazy for this film (and that’s saying something as he’s always had quite a lot of bulk :]).

Some Details
About half-way into the film I started wondering things like “if I was watching an American film with a historic theme and a lot of patriotism would I be enjoying it as much?” and of course the answer is no :] It’s quite weird how I tend to let India get away with such overt displays of patriotism. But I guess it’s because their brand of patriotism, when done “right”, is about embracing diversity and that’s something I really believe in. This was precisely the point of the film. In the film Akbar attains greatness because he embraces India’s diversity.
This was only my third film with Hrithik (I think he must be my most under-watched contemporary Bollywood hero ;-P) and uptil now I’ve felt he’s a one trick pony. In Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham I liked him, but I also felt the reason he worked in that part was mainly his physique and dancing skills. Take away that and he wouldn’t have had much to stand on - the acting was done well enough, but I felt a lot of his lines had much more potential then what he got out of them. In Lakshya, that’s exactly what happened - they *did* take the focus away from his physique and dancing and while I thought the film as a whole wasn’t particularly good, Hrithik just made it worse IMO :] So maybe that’s why I never felt that inclined to get back to Hrithik… I’m happy watching random dance scenes on youtube ;)
But this part *was* different. I would still say physique and dancing are some of his strongest points, but it was a difficult role in other ways too and he nailed it. He got all the laughs out of the lines he was supposed to (something that IMO wasn’t true in K3G or Lakshya) and he got the romance out properly too (again something that IMO wasn’t entirely true for the films I’d seen before). All this in a film where I think many Bollywood actors I prefer to Hrithik would have found it challenging - costume dramas have a kind of “fake layer” and it makes especially comedy and romance quite difficult I think. My mum felt he was a little out of character when doing the comedy and romance and I think she had a point, but then personally I couldn’t quite picture the lines done in character, so…
Oddly enough the only dancing he does in the film is the clip above. Then again maybe it’s not so odd :] This wasn’t a very dancey sort of film - none of Gowariker’s films are.
Physically this was a very demanding part (Hrithik sustained a knee injury during the shooting of this film) and I really wonder if any other Bollywood actor would have suited it. Usually when you have guys with that much bulk (when Hrithik took his shirt off, his shoulders looked about the size of Stallone’s in Rambo if not bigger :]), they get pretty heavy and even stiff in their movements. Hrithik can be bulky and remain quite graceful and I think this part needed both. Then again at times the bulk did seem a bit over the top. Especially when he was having one on one duels with people it looked a bit ridiculous - strength-wise there should have been no competition :] Just the weight of him in his armour would have been enough to overpower his opponents ;-P
And finally my last totally random comment on Hrithik ;) I think I found the part curious even more so because he has a mixed marriage in real life - he’s Hindu, but his wife is Muslim. It felt a bit like this film was a bit of a personal statement - mixed marriages are still somewhat taboo in India.
Aishwarya was really good too :) She’s quite a veteran of costume dramas and it showed. My mum commented that unlike Hrithik she managed to seem totally natural in the film, which I think is a big compliment cause it really isn’t easy in this sort of film.
Bachchan was just the narrator and he had only a few lines at the beginning and a few at the end. Still, he does have a very good voice ;)
Amazingly enough this is the first Ashutosh Gowariker film that I liked *grin*

Well, I liked it - so generally speaking yes ;-P
If you don’t like the conventional Bollywood formula, you shouldn’t be scared away - all the song & dance is incorporated into the flow of the film (and there’s only about 3 or so songs in 213 minutes anyway :]) and the romance is not the driving force of this film or at least not in the way it often is in Bollywood.
People who don’t like costume dramas probably won’t like it (although this is by no means a Jane Austen type one. There’s more drama and less romance in Jodhaa Akbar - it’s probably closer to Shakespeare or something like that in style).
People who don’t like Hrithik should not necessarily be put off. It’s definitely a very different part for him and I’m not surprised he got a lot of good reviews for this.
Special message to Kin *grin*: I don’t know for sure if you would have liked it, but I’m pretty sure you would have liked the costumes and most of the time Hrithik’s bulk is covered with nice 16th century costumes, so maybe you would have been able to stand him better than usual ;)
The one thing many people in India had a problem with is the film’s length - 213′ is a lot :] Me and my mum found we didn’t mind the length at all - there was no moment when we felt bored (though we were glad that they had a break during the intermission for once). But yeah, if you’re not accustomed to films that long that might be an issue.

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