Ashutosh Gowariker’s epic period movie Jodhaa Akbar is set to hit screens on 15th February 2008. Gowariker who earlier directed Amir Khan in Lagaan to universal praise and Shahrukh Khan in Swades to critical acclaim is now encumbered by the burden of history. Not only he has ventured into a highly sensitive territory (Muslim King & Hindu Princess) but he has to battle history and Bollywood legacy to portray them as lovers. The movie has been marketed as a love story and it is no coincidence that it is being released right around Valentine’s Day.
Akbar As Lover
Any movie on Akbar draws instant comparison with K Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam where Akbar is shown as a proud and principled emperor who cannot see his son Salim falling for a lowly courtesan, Anarkali.
Sample this exchange between Akbar, Salim and Anarkali after a particularly audacious song and dance sequence:
Akbar (to Anarkali): ye terii beKhauf muhabbat, ye raqs, ye dilchasp andaaz-e-bayaaN, yaqiinan hamaare inaam kii mustaheq hai.
Anarkali: zah-e-nasiib, kaniiz ko zill-e-ilaahii kii faraaKh-dilii se yahii ummiid thii
Akbar: daaroGhaa-e-zindaan, is bebaak lauNDii ko le jaao aur qaidkhaane ke andheroN meN garq kar do
Anarkali looks at Salim, smiles, turns back, pushes off the jailor who tries to hold his hand, thinks, turns back towards Akbar and salutes him three times.
(IMHO just this wordless exchange is worth watching the entire movie but let me not have my fascination with Mughal-e-Azam get better of me. We are talking about Jodhaa Akbar here).
After Anarkali leaves, Akbar orders taKhliyaa meaning privacy. Salim stays back.
Akbar (to Salim): tumhaarii maujuudgii hamaarii naa-farmaanii kii daliil hai.
Salim: Anarkali qaid kar lii gayii aur maiN chup rahaa.
Akbar: aur tum kar bhii kyaa sakte the.
Salim: ek aziim-o-shaan shahenshaah ke saamne ko’ii kar bhii kyaa saktaa hai magar aaj zill-e-ilaahii ko apne zulm aur mere zabt kii ek had muqarrar karnii hogii.
Akbar: agar tumhaarii aarzuu ek kaniiz hai, ek baaNdii hai to saarii zindagii isii tarah zabt karnaa hogaa.
Two famous love stories have come out from the Mughal household and Akbar is not a hero in either one. Salim-Anarkali, most probably fictitious and Shahjahan-Mumtaz Mahal, over-hyped but true nevertheless. Granted a lot of Mughal-e-Azam fans would not be around to make comparisons but Akbar-Jodha love story might still be new to many. Jodha Bai has been portrayed as a loving mother and a dutiful wife in Mughal-e-Azam but a strong-willed princess in Jodhaa Akbar. It will be really interesting to see Gowariker’s portrayal of Akbar and Jodhaa as lovers. If he is able to pull it off – even with some historical inaccuracies – it will be some achievement.
The Myth Of Jodha Bai
A lot of popular history regarding Akbar, Jodha Bai and Salim seems to have been derived from the movie Mughal-e-Azam. The movie itself was based on Imteyaz Ali’s drama, Anarkali. There is no conclusive historical record of either Anarkali or Jodha Bai as shown in the movie. Akbar did marry a Rajput princess from Aamer but her name was not Jodha Bai. And Anarkali might have existed as a courtesan in Lahore but hardly lived the life as that of Salim’s beloved.
“In the Akbarnama, there is a mention of Akbar marrying a Rajput princess of Amer but her name is not Jodhaa,” says historian and director of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, Imtiaz Ahmad in Patna. She is referred to as Mariam Zamani (Mary of the Age). This is a title and not a name. It further says that Mariam Zamani is a title referred to the lady who gave birth to Prince Salim, who became Emperor Jehangir. But the name Jodha is not mentioned anywhere. [Rediff.com]
In this respect, Gowariker has to walk a very fine line. He has to be historically accurate as well as remain faithful to Mughal-e-Azam and Anarkali movies. If there is a disconcert between the two then he has to be authentic and credible.
Then there are Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai who are great looking actors but haven’t really shone in the acting department except for a couple of movies. It will be a test for both and of course Gowariker, who has to prove that mass acceptance of Lagaan was no fluke. The promos of Jodhaa Akbar look promising, songs good and sets grand. I am looking forward to the movie and hope that it lives up to the hype.