Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jodha Akbar - Magnum oh-phut

If there is ever an award for 'Most over-rated movie of the year' then I am sure this movie will beat all other contenders hands down. I saw it three days ago and yet the headache has not subsided fully.
I am surprised why so many people are raving about the movie. Am even more surprised that 'learned' critics (Rajeev Masand on CNN-IBN is a case in point) have given it excellent rating like 4 out of 5 stars !! I honestly felt let down by the reviewers - but that's besides the point.
The film can at best be described as 'Saas bhi kabhi...' on big screen and with historical references. The plot itself is flimsy and I fail to understand why it takes FOUR hours to develop something to be left at the end in a half baked state anyway.
Before I go into overdrive with my angst about the movie, let me first give Hritik his due credit. He is the ONLY saving grace of the movie. Looks good, has acted well, but had no support whatsoever from either the story or the supporting cast or even the director. Ila Arun as Mahamanga is the only other character that appears 'live'. All others move in and out the frames as if in a trance.
The technical aspects of the movie are so pathetic that they should serve as an example for future movie makers as a lesson in "what mistakes to avoid while making a movie". Firstly, the editing. I can only presume that the editor went off to sleep in the studio and only woke up four hours later. So many sequences could have been crisp and to the point. Its so long winded that it appears like a TV soap. I almost thought one of the characters would turn around and say, "we will see you next week, same time, same channel. Till then goodbye." In the last few years, bollywood technicians have come out of stone age and are doing great value addition to make movies with excellent production qualities. Want to see an example? Go watch "Johnny Gaddar" - superb production. The cinematography of JA is so poor that one wonders how come the cameraman let go of such an opportunity to make a great period film. The lighting is often flat, no shadows, no depth to the field, several frames completely burnt out. I suppose the cameraman forgot to take his sunglasses off during the outdoor shoot so ended up with a wide aperture for all those shots !!! OK, much of it is in a desert but that does not mean you let the frames burn out like this.
There aren't much special effects in the movie but those that are there, are eminently avoidable. The elephant's leg stomping down inches away from the hapless man on the ground looks so painfully artificial that the elephant himself wont recognize it.
Costumes is another story. Neeta Lulla claims to have done much research and says that her choice to use primary colours is revolutionary. Ask any 4th standard student from India about which colours he/she associates with Rajasthan and the answer will be red and yellow. So what's so revolutionary in this? All other rajput women in the movie wear dresses that cover them from head to toe - not an inch of skin is visible. Absolutely authentic. But Jodha herself ? Thats another story. What did Neeta Lulla think ? That while all other women of those times had to completely cover themselves, the Mallika-e-Hindustan could display her cleavage to the entire population of the kingdom?
Whenever a period movie is made, there is much talk about its authenticity and accuracy. Some funny incidents come to mind - in Sippy's Mahabharat, some people claim to have spotted a soldier with his wristwatch on. Another forgot to take off his designer chappals ! But coming back to the point - JA has so many technical bloopers that they cannot be passed off as poetic license given to the director. Here's a look at some of them -
The cannons of those days were muzzle loading guns (breech loaders, where the projectile is loaded into the barrel from the rear were invented much later). So each cannon had to undergo a detailed and painfully lengthy procedure before firing. There are records that at the BEST efficient rates, these type of cannons could fire about 100 shots in a day. Given a 12 hour fighting period, that makes it one shot after every 7 minutes or so. In this movie, cannons are going off left, right and center like Diwali crackers. I think the oh-so-dramatic shot of the cannonball hurtling down the barrel is also rather inaccuate.
The royal palace has two macaws in a cage. Macaws? MACAWS? I thought they were only found in the Amazon rainforest. So how did they come from South America to Agra? I suppose Ashutosh Gowariker believes that they came flying beacuse they so much wanted to see Jodhabai! OK, lets concoct another story. S America was colonized by the Spanish. Portugal is next to Spain. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut on 24th December, 1524. So da Gama must have sent the macaws to Akbar as a wedding gift....... There are also rabbits adding the delicate touch to the Queen's garden, but I am not really sure India had rabbits in the 15th century. Hares yes, rabbits probably no.
The dialogues left me perplexed at times. Throughout the movie, Akbar speaks in absolutely chaste Urdu. Suddenly, out of the blue, he turns around and uses the phrase 'Desh ki ekta ke liye'.....????? Come again, what was that? When the recording was going on, was there an election speech going on nearby and the audio tracks got mixed ?
I feel sad that the music appears to have come from an overworked AR Rehman. So many touches are from his own earlier brilliant compositions.....
I can go on and on, but will stop here. The people who are protesting against the movie curently are using a flawed argument for protest, but come on, they are at least saving people from watching a rank bad movie. Period.

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