Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jodha Akbar

Akbar as a cinematic character has so much potential that the smartest thing a director could do is take one aspect of his complex life and through that navigate the immense material available to play with. When I first read the premise of Jodha Akbar it seemed like a brilliant choice from that angle. What a splendid idea to take a young Jalaluddin Mohammad, before he became Akbar with the backdrop of a romance as the plot!

A historical, many feel suffers from a known climax. I do not think that is always necessarily true. The audience imagination and interest could still be captured with the way we approach that climax and with the way a known historical event could be reinterpreted. Jodha Akbar, however, suffers from an indecision about what the climax of the movie is. In a romance, you would typically have a wedding or a declaration of love. In a historical such as this it could be along with the usual romance climax, a pivotal war, it could be a coronation. All these are there in the movie but in bits and pieces and all over the place. The movie meanders sometimes towards one ending and sometimes towards the other. He gets awarded the title Akbar with a song thrown in and then there is the declaration of love with another song thrown in and then there is some battle with a not so strong antagonist, thankfully without another song and then he makes a speech about tolerance and then Amitabh reminds us Jodha and Akbar are one of the greatest lovers of all time. This did not seem like a natural progression towards an ending to me. It was more of a few visual treats put together in random order.

Akbar became a king at the age of thirteen. Most of the dramatically interesting events happened early on in his life. His powerful regents, his politically motivated marriages, the decisive violence with which he dealt with some of his enemies and the contradictory benevolence he showed a few other. These are not fully explored in the movie. Why do we suffer from shallow characters when it comes to historicals. Why do we always have Achilleses, Alexanders and Akbars all one dimensional?

The reason why Jodha Akbar could be a rich love story is really the politics, religions and the personalities involved. Does the movie exploit it? Yes, in some simplistic level. We see glimpses of Akbar's piety - the moving 'qwaja mere qwaja' though the twirl was a bit overdone, when he prays before accepting the wedding proposal, her religious concerns - she wants a temple inside the mughal fort, the other scheming rajput kings, Soojamal, the scene when Akbar orders for the death of his cousin etc. But throughout I had this feeling of disappointment.

It is not as if Gowariker doesn't dwell or linger on something that he wants to say. Best example is the very lovely romantic scene when Akbar sees his wife's face first time unveiled. If only similar amount of screen time were given to develop more complex characters. Was that lengthy scene with Akbar practicing with his sword necessary? Er.. scratch that, what am I saying, it was necessary :) All the scenes with Hrithik, for that matter was necessary.

The princess who grew up with Rajput pride and politics against the moguls, very pious and religious, strong in her understanding of the sacrifice she must make for her people - she doesn't swallow the proffered poison nor does she sends a letter to her brother. The young king - still not out of his violent past with its many wars, struggling to establish himself as a true monarch in the hearts of his people by religious tolerance and better governance. There is a key dialog in the movie where Jodha accuses Akbar of knowing only to lay siege and capture but not win hearts. The movie is about how Akbar learns to do just that and in the process winning her heart and the title Akbar. But due to a confused ordering of the scenes and a lack of crisp editing, the point is not necessarily lost but it doesn't stand out.

It is unnecessary really to comment on the richness of the shots or how gorgeous Hrithik and Aishwarya look. It is definitely worth watching for the grand sets and elaborate costumes and the scenes oozing of romace - perhaps as a chick flick or a date movie.

There are some movies like 'Shakespeare in love' which work in many levels - entertaining without compromising on the cerebral appeal - Jodha akbar is not one of them.

Pillion Rider

A couple roared past us scorching the asphalt. SR observed - "Good. The wife is wearing a helmet too"

I said with a superior smile - "You mean the lady on the back. You can't be sure she is his wife"'

SR gave me this pitying, 'don't be silly' look. "Of course it's his wife. If it were his girl friend she would be plastered all over him", he said.

I had to smile.


Spent last weekend pseudo camping. Its pseudo because there was a farm house nearby. RT and AK from work had suggested this idea of a camping trip - trek, tent, cooking outside etc. only we will do all that in AK's farm house.

This was the first time I did anything like it and AK and RT had a great time pulling my leg about the tigers from Bannerghatta possibly visiting my tent. At one point I was seriously doubtful but decided to do it anyway.

AK and his dynamic wife SK are such gracious hosts. After a leisurely lunch, we relaxed for a while. The windy patio, the sun beating on the young trees, the hues of the afternoon mountain made me feel drowsy.

RT set us to work before sunset and we put up our tent.s. RT and his wife AT are ace trekkers and campers. While pitching the tents we were treated to many interesting camping stories from all over the world. Later RT served delicious corn and burgers from his grill.

I rediscovered how bright a gibbous moon would be and heard the night sounds that I had long forgotten. AK treated to us to a melodious rendition of 'Poomalai Vaangi vandhal'. Even his mis-pronunciations were sweet.

The next morning we trekked up the hill. Another first for me. I thought I wouldn' t make it but it was a moment of intense satisfaction to finally go up there and sit on the rocky surface and survey the land below.

I thought I was going to be out for a week or so but I did not feel a thing, except of course a sense of calm.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday afternoon

I need more than two days for the weekend.. By the time it is sunday afternoon is when I am really ready to unwind. I have finally finished all my weekly chores and I am about ready to decide the music I want to hear and the book I want to read - but it is already time to go back to the weekly grind.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


There was an interesting article in Ananda Vikatan about letter writing. The author after sharing fond memories of letters- , had listed those friends names wondering whatever happened to them, puzzled why there weren't letters anymore. I could immediately identify with it - having written and received hundreds of letters during the course of high school and college. And these letters were not one pagers. Some of them would require extra stamps. I remember writing letters - sitting on a lonely train compartment once on a journey to Madurai, getting up earlier than usual and writing when the rest of the house was asleep still, scribbling a page in the back of a bill on a rainy afternoon and mailing it as is... Is it the sheer lack of time that has prevented me from writing or the fact that my friends have moved on or perhaps that I use the phone more often?

Or perhaps it is more ominous than that. Even if I were to think while I used to write letters when I wanted to share something and instead now I blog, none of my blogs seem to be more than a page, heck not even a paragraph most of the time! Perhaps I have lost the ability to ponder and have settled for capsulated one liners.

Or perhaps I have discovered finally that brevity is the soul of wit.


This Republic day I had a chance to visit two schools.

The first one was a school upper middle class children go to. I sat through an extended assembly. This school had a nice prayer - a poem by Tagore - which could be neutral in terms of religion and could actually also satisfy the atheists if a few lines were dropped. The Pledge, news for the day, thought for the day, the national anthem all brought me back memories of school days. I don't remember ever enjoying the assembly, nor do I remember ever learning anything from it. The kids often speak in a hyper speed, highly nasal voice and half the words are swallowed by the amplifier anyway. Things didn't seemed to have changed much. Except may be the parents with their high tech camera and video equipment capturing that prize winning moment.

The other one was a government school in one of the outskirts of Bangalore. A bunch of us brought some shoes for the kids. This school just a few miles away had seven grades with four teachers and five classrooms - there was no playground and the building was a bit old. It was clear they got their news from kannada movies. There were no parents hanging about - the children dispersed merrily walking home by themselves. [There was the old man who came and promptly took all the empty cartons - talk of entrepreneurship.] There were a couple of computers though I wondered if the kids were really exposed to them.

But at the end of the day - one thing struck me - there wasn't any difference in the brightness in the children's eyes.