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Ashutosh Gowariker's latest film
"Jodhaa Akbar" Creates Controversy in India
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
Aishwarya Rai
(born on Nov. 1, 1973) is an internationally renowned Indian actress. Before starting her acting career, she worked as a model, and gained fame after winning the Miss World contest in 1994. Often touted as the most beautiful woman in the world, Rai made her movie debut in Mani Ratnam's Tamil film, Iruvar (1997).

Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" clinched the Oscar nod in 2002, the third Indian film after "Mother India" and "Salaam Bombay" to have won the honour. A period piece on cricket set in British India, it endeared to the masses. But Gowariker's latest, "Jodhaa Akbar" may not. Also another attempt at recreating history, this time of Mughal India, the movie is essentially a love story of King Akbar, essayed by Bollywood hunk Hrithik Roshan, and Queen Jodha, played by Aishwarya Rai.

"Jodhaa Akbar" hit a rough patch even before it opened worldwide on Feb. 15, 2008 Gowariker's work talks about a rather sticky relationship between the Muslim, though benevolent and broad-minded, king and his Hindu queen, a Rajput princess. The Indian Rajput community — popularly called "Marwaris," whose trading and business skills have helped them amass huge wealth – is angry with Gowariker for what it terms distortion of historical facts. Jodha was never Akbar's wife but that of his son Jehangir, the clan contends, and is demanding a ban on the film. There have been protests even in the U.S., where the movie opened in a record 115 theatres.

"Jodhaa Akbar" has caused enough anguish for Gowariker, whose lead actress, Rai, was not quite comfortable working with Roshan, because of an incident that took place during an earlier film in which the two worked, "Dhoom 2." A scantily clad Rai, just fresh from her engagement with Abhishek Bachchan, kissed Roshan on the screen and invited the displeasure of her future in-laws and Bollywood's first movie family, Bachchans, who were rumoured to have even tried delaying the release of "Jodhaa Akbar." They were never in favour of their now daughter-in-law, Rai, pairing with Roshan, but her agreement with Gowariker made it difficult for her to get out of the project. And, part of it had been shot by the time Rai married Abhishek.

If all this was not enough, the film nearly three hours and thirty minutes long, has been panned by critics who have found fault with its sloppy editing among other things. The sub-plots, for instance, mar the flow, especially the romance, and reviews have called it just a heap of details that a viewer can get lost in. And, perhaps bored stiff. Gowariker, whose reputation soared with "Lagaan," now finds himself hurtling downhill.



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Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.

 

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