I’ve been slowly catching up on recorded films and, after watching Jab We Met a while back, recently saw Jodhaa Akbar and Chak De! India.
Both were enjoyable and, given the spare time, I’d happily watch them again. In fact all three films were good, which is probably down to the Indian film industry’s phenomenal output providing Channel Four with a wide range to choose from – though licensing deals presumably skew their decisions a little.
So, from the director of Lagaan and featuring Bollywood A-listers Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, historical epic Jodhaa Akbar was always likely to be a pretty big deal. And so it proved to be. Possible historical inaccuracies aside – and director Ashotosh said its genesis was 70% imagination – it’s very much an ‘epic’ tale.
Hrithik sports some suspiciously well-moulded armour, but gives a more likable, and plain impressive performance than in Koy Mil Gaya, one of the last of his films I saw. Aishwarya is great, as I suspect she often is (though if I ever watch Bride and Prejudice again it will be too soon).
Jodhaa Akbar didn’t capture my attention when it was released last year, but its emotion, cinematography and epic scale certainly won me over. Unusually, there’s no hint of a song until more than an hour into the film. Instead there are epic battles (more than 80 elephants, 100 horses and 55 camels were were used) and fight sequences that could easily compete with Hollywood films. Add to this sumptuous colours and beautiful Rajasthan palaces (yet another place to add to a future tour itinerary) and you’ve got a very good, engaging film.
Another film light on the songs was the third and final installment in Channel Four’s short Bollywood season, Chak De! India.
Staring Shah Rukh Khan (a global megastar, with the exception of Newark airport it would seem) the film is a battle-of-the-underdog hockey drama. It’s a glossy Bollywood film with the high-end production values this entails. The sports sequences were believable, the story-line interesting and it delivers the sort of plot arc you’d expect from an underdog drama.
It also taps into a common theme of Indian cinema, that of patriotism and knowledge of one’s country. Where this would more than likely be awkward or jingoistic in English cinema, Indian cinema, with its heart-on-its-sleeve emotions, generally carries it off it off without lurching into rampant nationalism. As for knowledge of one’s country, I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be subtle, nevertheless I liked the ‘we are all the face of India’ message.
My only gripe is that over three and a half hours, some more character development of the female team members would have been welcome. I know he is, to re-iterate the cliche, India’s Tom Cruise, but the film was a bit too much of The SRK Show.
Channel Four usually shows Bollywood films twice a year, so hopefully the next lot will be coming soon.