Putting Jodha Akbar on trial
January 25, 2008
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There might be many issues in the coming months, for which Ashutosh
Gowarikar, Hrithik Roshan and crew will be taken to task for in making
their Jodha Akbar. Let’s get right down to it and address some of them
Akbar’s cinema crew are going around passing around posters and CDs of
Jodha Akbar to viewers showing just two people, ie a ‘king and the
queen’ of hindustan pedigree. All we see are Hrithik Roshan and a
mustache and a head queen, played by one Aishwarya Rai. On top of that
you have rent-my-voice Amitabh Bachchan narrating this thing in
sincerity as if he’s getting ready to recite Hindustan’s freedom
movement. How wonderful and generous of them…and weird.
‘Hum Hindustan Ko Galat Haathon me nahi jaane denge’, Akbar is
heard saying in Jodha Akbar. The question is…whose ‘galat’ haath are
they talking about? Rana Pratap’s? …Or Chatrapati Shivaji’s?
Because ladies and gentlemen, there is a central question of whether
there even was any real Jodhabai truly, who was considered head queen of
Akbar that Aishwarya Rai is fantacizing herself to be in this movie (as
compared to being another harem queen) in 16th century Muslim ruled
And regardless of any Jodha Bai and her real stature, is the basic
premise of what an ‘epic romance’ is and should be.
For much of the people, an ‘epic romance’ is a relationship implied
between two people committed to each other and each other only. Made for
each other, till death do them part…so go all the epic tales. Look it
up. Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet, or if you want an
intercommunal equivalent cinematic reference even: Tara Singh-Sakina
from Gadar. Imagine if in Gadar, Tara had 50 other Sakinas on the side,
alongside the one main one he really claimed to love. What would the
reaction have been?
A big question and problem Gowarikar and his people are going to have
then is that Akbar did not have just one Jodha Bai in his chamber. He
had a number of ‘Jodha Bais’ by the hundreds. In fact according to the
biography by Vincent Smith, Akbar enjoyed ‘a harem consisting of 5000
women, mostly Hindus’. Given this many concubines and ‘Bais’ in his
harem; countless ‘harem-zades’ must have been born out of his ‘love
stories’ and ‘romances’ with those all females on various occasions. In
fact there were. Did that not seem like a point worth considering in
trying to sell this off as some noble love story? What’s coming next,
the epic romance of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinksy?
How exactly does Gowarikar plan to get around this fundamental
polygamist reality in his so called ‘epic romance’ which he’s implying
to the public was a primarily bigamous affair? Is he going to advocate
polygamy, or deny basic reality?
Gowarikar’s premise, a muslim prince and a hindu princess in this
fictional 1 to 1 romance of Jodha-Akbar therefore, is fundamentally
More importantly, so is the general implication of Akbar’s secularism.
It is easy to get worked over a Narendra Modi in today’s times at the
same while hailing dead men like Akbar as Akbar the Great. But history
is proof that on February 24, 1568, Akbar (the great) called for a
pogrom and brutal massacre of 30,000 defenseless Hindus of Chittorgarh,
Rajasthan who had refused to convert to Islam. Unlike what Jodha-Akbar
would be implying, in reality countless Rajput women committed ‘Jauhar’
instead of being taken by muslim kings. Some Hindus gave in to the
Mughals and they are in the midst as muslims in the country today, but
most Hindus didn’t. Despite the difficulties, they considered any idea
of Man Singhs and Jodha Bais as treason and kept resisting and defying
the muslim onslaughts. And it is because of that defiance and
determination that Hindu culture and civilization has outlasted the
mughal rule and is able to mount back with a massive army and nuclear
arsenal capable of obliterating the entire Middle-east today. Fact of
the matter is if Akbar and Mughals had their way, Hrithik Roshan would
be named Hakim in real life, Aishwarya Rai would be Hamida in a veil
somewhere, and this article be asked to be written in some Urdu-Turko
So what will not be missed is that this film’s maker is not just
playing with his own personal hallucinations. He is seeking universal
approval for a questionable historical and political agenda using the
cover of Hindu voices and faces on the Indian screen.
Bollywood has long been doing this unquestioned of course. The
implication that Salim aka Jahangir (Mughals’ selected heir to Akbar)
was born out of this romance is another myth or unverifiable allegation
propogated in modern fantasy primarily, such as the earlier costume
drama Mughaleazam. Real Akbar loved this ‘Jodha Bai’ so much that far
from building any Taj Mahal, any school, any building whatsoever for
her, he did not even so much as mention the woman any where. Nor does
Mr. Salim in his autobiography hint anywhere that his female parentage
was not Muslim. Because most likely that was not the case. Most likely,
Jodha Bai’s offsprings were just wandering around the harems also like
her. In any case, given that a number of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs (Sikh
Guru Arjan Dev was slaughtered by him for not accepting Islam) were
murdered by Mr. Salim during his stay in power also, it is hard to
imagine what good it did anyway for greater benefit of humanity as a
whole. What lasting positive influence this supposed Akbar-Jodha
cross-religion drama had on India, except for strengthening Akbar and
Muslim hold over India till they were themselves overrun by the British.
So far as secularism in contemporary India is concerned, regardless of
its merits, it is largely a creation of the Hindu (and sustained *by*
the Hindu, due to multiple pathway principle intrinsic in Hindu
polytheist culture it should be added), not driven by anything to do
with Akbar or Baabur or that Nehruvian visionary Aurangzeb. There is a
reason why Pakistan which flies the Mughal flag and sees itself as the
modern state of the Mughal empire, has pretty much eliminated its Hindu
population, and is the kind of society it is compared to India’s.
Given the extremely leftist tilt of Bollywood and much of media today,
it is not surprising to see the advocacy around Jodha Akbar. They trump
it as the ultimate film for all times as hope for peace and harmony and
this and that. What they don’t realize is that it’s a dangerous mirage.
The way to advance real peace in the subcontinent is by having a strong
Hindustan, capable of avenging and defending its people and its borders,
whereby the consequences of trying to destabalize the Hindus (and
perhaps those muslims who have chosen to bear allegiance to Hindustan’s
ancient history) are not worth the incentives that may come with it.
That will not however happen by Bollywood imagining up false realities
to dupe themselves and the public into ‘feeling better’ about this era
of the history, and by trying to bury significant events, differences
and issues under the surface using the rose colored glasses and safety
net of Indian cinema.
It is conceivable that the filmmaker and crew have tapdanced their way
around some of these hard issues cleverly and if they haven’t, they will
be in trouble. The underlying themes behind Jodha Akbar in the end are
far bigger than a 3 hour movie in some theater. And they’re going to
have to deal with the various aspects and consequences that are bound to
be held against Ronnie Screwvala and the Jodha Akbar promoters,
regardless of how big a hit or flop this film on celluloid turns to be.