So it is my opinion that you should see this movie the next time you have four spare hours. It’s about the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great and his wife, the Rajput princess Jodhaa. And, while it suffers from the general problem of stories of true love that involve kings with harems (i.e. they are inherently ridiculous), it is nonetheless pretty terrific.

What’s so great about it? Well, it has pretty good production values, including a less fancy but also less irritating battle with war elephants than Alexander had, and also a billion amazing funny bejewelled hats. It is sweepingly gorgeous in general, and the Red Fort at Agra is stunning. The songs are pretty and not especially shoe-horned into the narrative; one of the most memorable is in fact a performance by Sufis. And Hrithik Roshan’s hair is just fantastic.

Perhaps what I most enjoy about Jodhaa Akbar is that, as with 300, everything that made you go, “Seriously? Pssh!” was in fact a recorded historical datum. Akbar throwing his vizier Adham Khan off a balcony twice because the first toss didn’t take? Recorded in the histories and in fact the subject of a print in the Victoria & Albert. Akbar unable to read his wife’s gorgeous calligraphy? It seems he never did learn to read (I know, as emperor that’s just asking to be embezzled, but oh well). Akbar’s rather overdone religious tolerance? Generally true, until he went crazy and started his own religion with himself at its head. (But that was in his old age, when the opium he used to mull his wine had gotten to him. Cf. Alexander, not the movie.) Akbar also (unfortunately not in the film) played polo at night with a ball that was on fire.

It’s a beautiful movie, and it makes sense, and my guess is you don’t know that much about Akbar the Great. This isn’t much of an introduction to the larger historical framework, but if it makes you curious, I’m all for it.

Notes and asides:

  • People are helpfully color-coded; the rebel Sharifuddin and his entire army wear evil black when Akbar wears gold.
  • In case the subtitles ever let you down, the soundtrack will always, always help you to know what’s going on, especially if it is extremely dramatic.
  • Aishwarya Rai sleeps in costumes that are Amidala levels of uncomfortable; the upside is that Hrithik Roshan has epic, epic bedhead.
  • If you liked the Wallace Collection, you’ll love this movie.

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Rating: Irrelevant. Some elephant battles.
Length: 213 min., but you don’t really mind
Score: 4/5. What it lacks in dialogue it makes up in compelling visuals and stories. And Hrithik Roshan’s hair.

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