Jodhaa Akbar

Bottom Line: Visually arresting romance that strays tediously into too many subplots.

CHENNAI, India -- "Jodhaa Akbar" is a sincere attempt to show that Islam is not all terror and religious fanaticism in its depiction of the 16th-century Mughal king, Akbar, who ruled over vast areas of India. He allowed Hindus to freely practice their faith, even founding a new one called Din-i- Illahi, which borrowed from many religions. Possibly his love for a Hindu Rajput princess, Jodhaa, was largely the reason for his tolerance. Director Ashutosh Gowariker and writer Haidar Ali focus in their film on the royal romance between Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) and Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai), which grew out of something as selfish and unfeeling as a political alliance between two vastly different States.

The film may win over audiences with a fancy for grand sets, rich costumes and beautiful people. The film works well enough as long as it stays with the lovers, but when it strays into battlefields or palace intrigue, it falters. Supporting characters are unwritten and battle scenes far too tame.

There is no clear record of Jodhaa being one of Akbar's innumerable wives, 200 according to one estimate. Some aver that she was his son, Jehangir's wife. Nevertheless, Ali's narrative highlights the gentle love affair between a Muslim king and his Hindu princess. She lays down two conditions before bowing down to the wish of her father, Raja Bharmal's (Kulbhushan Kharbanda): She will not be forced to convert and will have a small shrine of Lord Krishna in her private quarters. Akbar agrees.

The lovers are very good looking, but Rai and Roshan are not great actors. She is interesting in parts, particularly the emotional ones, but appears rather flat when playing the coy wife or sword fighting with her husband to prove her Rajput valour. Roshan often looks like a hero out to exhibit his muscles in scenes where he is trying to tame a wild elephant or practicing for a physical combat.

Gowariker and his cinematographer, Kiiran Deohans, fill the frames with color and finery that marked the fascinating periods of India's Mughal past. Famed Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman's score is bouncy, but his old touch seems to be missing.

UTV Motion Pictures presents an Ashutosh Gowariker Prods. production
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Writer: Haidar Ali
Producers: Ashutosh Gowariker, Ronnie Screwvala
Executive producer: Sunita A. Gowariker
Director of photography: Kiiran Deohans
Production designer: Nitin Chandrakant Desai
Music: A.R. Rahman
Co-producers: Zarina Mehta, Deven Khote
Costume designer: Neeta Lulla
Editor: Ballu Saluja
Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar: Hrithik Roshan
Jodhaa: Aishwarya Rai
Raja Bharmal: Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Rani Padmawati: Suhasini Mulay
Maham Anga: Ila Arun
Running time -- 213 minutes
No MPAA rating