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When Emperor Akbar fell in love

When Emperor Akbar fell in love
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First Published: Sat, Feb 23 2008. 12 03 AM IST

Hrithik Roshan: A light-eyed Akbar
Hrithik Roshan: A light-eyed Akbar
Updated: Sat, Feb 23 2008. 12 03 AM IST
I’ll never understand why we are so easily offended by creative licence.
So Akbar’s wife’s name wasn’t really Jodhaa. Big deal. The lady’s biggest claim to fame was that she gave birth to the next Mughal emperor Jahangir and, frankly, Ashutosh Gowariker’s historical marathon is more about Akbar than Jodhaa. Jodhaa meets Akbar more than 45 minutes into the film. That would be nearly interval in a multiplex movie.
A few minutes after their first on-screen meeting, it’s their wedding night. Akbar tries to touch Jodhaa’s hand, she resists, he leaves, presumably to spend the night with one of the less coy women in his harem.
Hrithik Roshan: A light-eyed Akbar
The real Akbar, says author Abraham Eraly (the husband is a fan so we have all his books), married early and often. According to Eraly’s books, Akbar’s harem housed seven legal wives and 300 or so women from many races and religions. Of course we don’t see any of these ladies in Gowariker’s film, which attempts a Romeoization of a sexually active man who probably didn’t believe in foreplay.
Akbar and Jodhaa finally come face-to-face (without veils or gauzy curtains) only 80 minutes into the movie. She allows him a touch—to apply sindoor.
The real action begins at nearly 90 minutes. She spies on him as he practises some fancy blade work without a shirt. Incidentally, I would recommend you watch Jodhaa Akbar just for this sequence. It makes you wonder why you even looked when Salman Khan took off his shirt.
Of course it’s all creative licence.
Eraly’s The Mughal Throne quotes Jahangir as saying his father was of “middling stature, but with a tendency to be tall, of wheat-complexion, rather inclining to dark than fair, black eyes and eyebrows, stout body… There was a fleshy wart, about the size of a small pea, on the left side of his nose, which appeared exceedingly beautiful.” Eraly quotes another expert as saying laughter did not become Akbar: “When he laughs, his face becomes almost distorted.”
Akbar was no Hrithik Roshan for sure.
It’s called creative licence. As Eraly, who spoke to me over the phone from Pondicherry, said: “Even if you’re thorough, there are many gaps in history.”
And if, as Roshan has said, the goal was to make Akbar accessible to young filmgoers, he had to be well-packaged.
Even if Akbar didn’t look like a Greek god, I think Gowariker and Roshan have managed to capture his essence. Eraly says Akbar spoke well, and loudly. He had a fiery temper and a dignified face, which reflected just a touch of melancholy and a suggestion of impatience. He was passionate about music. Eraly says he was open-minded; the most modern of all Mughal emperors. Persian scholar and Akbar’s biographer Abul Fazl had this to say about the emperor: “Sagacious, liberal and gentle, an angel in the form of a man.”
Now that could be Hrithik Roshan.
And yes, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Roshan share some electric moments in the film. If the politics of sindoor (she’s a new bride) and the reality of budgets (together they can cost anywhere from Rs8-12 crore to sign) don’t interfere, they could be Hindi cinema’s next great pair.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Feb 23 2008. 12 03 AM IST