Will Akbar's love story outshine son Salim's?

By Arpana

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) More than four decades ago, K. Asif picked up Akbar's son Salim from the pages of history and cast his love story in celluloid.

The magnum opus, "Mughal-e-Azam", based on the tragic romance between Salim and Anarkali, was a sheer spectacle in terms of grandeur, colour, drama and music. It remains a hit till date.

So now the question is: will Ashutosh Gowariker's "Jodhaa-Akbar" - starring Indian superhero Hrithik Roshan and beauty queen Aishwarya Rai - weave the same magic?

"People will come to the theatres out of curiosity but the magic of 'Mughal-e-Azam' will always linger. 'Jodhaa-Akbar' is not a love story in the true sense, it was more of a marriage of convenience; hence a bigger challenge for Gowariker to make it in to a convincing love story," Debdatta Mukherjee, a leading model, told IANS.

"Mughal-e-Azam", say old-timers in Bollywood, was based on a "documented" love story, whereas there "are very few details available about Jodhabai and Akbar. Jodha still remains a mystery. Many historians believe that she was a Rajput princess from Rajasthan and according to some, Raja Mansingh's sister.

"There is no drama associated with their courtship," said an industry veteran.

Gowariker risked making "Lagaan" in 2001, a period film set in colonial India, and hit the jackpot. And now he is gambling once again by daring to narrate the not-so-familiar love story of Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar and Rajput princess Jodhabai in "Jodhaa-Akbar" releasing Valentine's Day week.

Releasing Feb 15, it's a rather unusual Valentine romance - between a Mughal emperor and a Hindu woman who was the emperor's arranged match. Love grew after marriage and also saw the birth of the heir to the Mughal throne, Jahangir.

While Asif's "Mughal-e-Azam" was a doomed love story starring Dilip Kumar and "beauty queen of the era" Madhubala, Gowariker's 16th century tale is about prince Salims's parents who were brought together by a marriage of alliance.

"Jodha and Akbar shared a perfect arranged marriage. I was fascinated by how their relationship must have grown after marriage," Gowariker was quoted as saying.

Earlier, Hrithik and Aishwarya had scorched the screen in the slick flick "Dhoom 2", but the director says that their previous image is not going to harm his film.

He said: "Their contemporary image won't be a problem. They were a huge success in 'Dhoom 2'. That can only help my film, not harm it. The audience will come in and forget everything about Hrithik and Aishwarya.

"What audiences will see in my film are Jodha and Akbar. At least, that's what I've tried to ensure through their looks, body language and behaviour."

Produced at a cost of Rs.15 million, "Mughal-e-Azam" was the costliest film of the era. It took Asif 14 years to realise his dream because of casting, financial and technical obstacles. Once completed, the epic love story was premiered simultaneously in 1960 in 150 theatres across the country and turned out to be a gold spinner.

Gowariker also faced difficulty in finding a producer. However, once the deal was signed with UTV, he had a smooth ride.

Gowariker finished the film in a year's time. He used over 80 elephants, 100 horses and 55 camels in the movie. Initially, the film's budget was of Rs.400 million, apparently it overshot the whip.

While Nitin Desai worked on the details of the magnanimous sets, Tanishq has designed the jewellery and Neeta Lulla has done the costume and looks of the film. It goes without saying that they all worked under the guidance of Gowariker.

Asif also worked with the best of talents. He hired tailors from Delhi to design the costumes, roped in goldsmiths from Hyderabad for the jewellery, Kolhapur craftsmen made the crowns, Rajasthani ironsmiths fabricated the shields, swords, spears, dagger and armour, specialists from Surat-Khambayat were employed for the exquisite zardosi work on the costumes, while the elaborate footwear was ordered from Agra!

Dilip Kumar who played Salim was sent to London to get a special wig to give him a princely look.

In a song titled "Ae mohabbat zindabad", a chorus of 100 singers were used and in a song titled "Azeem O Shan, Shahenshah" in "Jodhaa-Akbar", the director roped in 1,000 dancers in traditional costumes, wielding swords and shields.

While Asif's legendary masterpiece didn't have any historical evidence, Gowariker hired a research team of historians and scholars to guide him and help him keep things historically accurate.

After two years of pre-production work, Gowariker canned the first shot. "There was no reference in any books about what happened between Jodha and Akbar. I've taken extreme care to make sure viewers believe in the relationship," said Gowariker.

Another high point of "Mughal-e-Azam" was Naushad's superb musical score, especially the song "Jab pyar kiya to darna kya", which has a timeless appeal.

A.R. Rahman's music for "Jodhaa-Akbar" too has been appreciated. The songs have an epic feel to it.

"I wanted to make my historical movie as believable as I'd liked to see it. Every element big or small, from the texture of the clothes to the sets, décor, dialogues and the protocol, even the incidental sounds of birds and animals, they all had to be just right for me," said Gowariker.

Although it has not been decided yet with how many prints "Jodhaa-Akbar" will be released when it opens, the film's promos hit the theatres with 1,125 prints.

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