Jodhaa Akbar’s date with controversies

THE YET to be released Hrithik Roshan-Aishwarya Rai starrer Jodha Akbar, is already creating a storm. Be it allegations of ill-treating animals or twisting historical facts with regard to Jodha Bai’s portrayal, the project has been shrouded in controversies throughout.

jodhaSo much so that, the detractors of the ace filmmaker Ashutosh Gowarikar, even went to the extent of terming the project jinxed, especially so after its lead star, Hrithik Roshan, met with a series of mishaps during the course of the shooting of the film.

Twisted facts

The first allegation levelled against Gowarikar was that of distorting historical facts. The powerful Rajput community of India apparently is not very happy at the way Gowarikar is portraying Rajput princess Jodha Bai in his film.

The heart of the controversy lies in the premises that Jodha Bai was actually Jehangir’s wife and not Akbar’s as the film portrays her to be. Epic like Mughal-e-Azam has only reinforced this after portraying Jehangir and Anarkali as the epitome of undying love and Jodha Bai as Akbar’s dutiful wife.

However, director Ashutosh Gowarikar is sticking to his guns. He says, “I have shown the script to the direct descendents of Jodha Bai, discussed with them and only then I am making the film,” adding, “I did my research even when I did Laagan. I have gone through historical books before finalising my script. I have done my research for Jodha Akbar also and would not do anything wrong.”

Notwithstanding, Gowarikar’s stand, the Rajput Mahasabha, an organization of the Rajputs, even pressed legal action against Gowarikar for misrepresenting historical facts. In his petition in the court, Narendra Singh Rajawat, secretary of Rajput Mahasabha observed: “Jodha Bai’s actual name was Jagat Gosain and she was the daughter-in-law of Mughal Emperor Akbar. You cannot make your own history and Ashutosh Gowarikar is making his own history. He is projecting Jodha Bai, who is Akbar’s daughter-in-law, as his beloved and making a love story out of that. This is totally distorting historical facts.” The Rajputs also condemned the portrayal of such twisted facts as this will become a movie portraying romance between Akbar and his daughter-in-law which is not acceptable in Indian society.

But, this is not the first time that period films have been challenged for misrepresented history. Considering films like Shah Rukh Khan’s Asoka, Aamir’s Mangal Pandey and Akbar Khan’s Taj Mahal have all run into trouble for taking a little too much artistic license with historical facts.

Beastly tale

As Gowarikar was grappling with allegations of writing his own version of history, his period opus ran into another controversy with an animal rights organization filing a police complaint alleging that animals used in Jodha Akbar were being treated badly in the film, and also shot off a letter to the filmmaker regarding the same.

The content of the letter said that the organistaion has come to know that Ashutosh’s film company was using animals for the purpose of shooting the film. “We would like to know if you have prior permission for the purpose,” the letter said. Permission needs to be taken from Animal Welfare Board of India for use of animals like horses, camels and elephants in films.

jodha1The letter also made clear that even if permission is taken, certain standards needed to be fulfilled, including suitable atmosphere for the animals, fixed work hours and presence of veterinary doctors.

Gowarikar, however, was clear throughout about what he was doing. He even reiterated that no animal is being ill treated, saying that he is aware that awareness about animal rights is much higher than in the olden days.

Maintained Gowarikar on this issue: “My take on this matter remains unchanged: 69 elephants, 50 camels and 100 horses will be used to shoot battle sequences. I’m taking all the precautions. There are two vets on the sets. Every four hours the animals get rest. Their holding areas are sufficiently large and roomy. There’s no cruelty to the animals involved.”

Wounded Akbar

If allegations of ill-treating animals and distorting historical facts were not all, the project met with some minor hiccups when Hrithik Roshan got injured several times in a series of freak accidents. The muscular superhero of Bollywood first hurt his knees while enacting a scene where Emperor Akbar fights with a sword on the sets. The injury reportedly forced Hrithik to rest at home for some time.

Earlier too he was injured while enacting a sword fighting scene with Aishwarya Rai, who is playing Jodha Bai. And the latest in this series of mishaps was when he met with a road accident while going to the sets of the film from his home in Mumbai.

According to sources, Hrithik’ Mercedes S-Class was banged hard by a Maruti Zen from behind while he was on his way to Karjat. Even though Hrithik wasn’t hurt in the accident and reported for the shoot on time, an eyewitness observed, “Had the accident happened at very high speed, it would have been a major catastrophe.”

Project delayed

Scheduled to hit the Indian marquees in October, the project reportedly has already got considerably delayed. The foremost delay is due to Aishwarya Rai! The light-eyed beauty’s wedding and subsequent honeymoon with hubby Abhishek Bachchan apparently is a major reason for the delay.

Another main factor for causing some delay in the completion of the film have reportedly been due to the animals that are being used to film war sequences.

Maintained a source closely related to the project, “Apart from the actors, the film has 69 elephants, 50 camels and 100 horses. It’s really difficult to shoot with these animals when they get out of hand, thereby jeopardising the schedule of the project.”

Cannes power

Ashutosh Gowarikar apparently is leaving no stones unturned to ensure that Jodhaa Akbar turns out to be a big success, keeping in mind his earlier super-hit film Laagan. He even showcased an exclusive trailer of the film in the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival. Even though, the reactions he got from the buyers were reportedly positive, nevertheless, the event wasn’t sans its share of controversy. Aishwarya, the lead actress of the film, though present at the film festival, reportedly decided to give the Jodhaa Akbar event a miss. And if sources are to be believed, this didn’t go down very well with the filmmaker.

Period failures

If Jodha Akbar manages to set the box office on fire is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, of late, all the period films —be it Akbar Khan’s Taj Mahal, Aamir Khan’s Mangal Pandey and 1947-Earth, Subhash Ghai’s Kissna, Zubeida or Bose: The Forgotten Hero none had an outstanding run. But with the super-successful Hrithik Roshan and beautiful Aishwarya Rai in its cast, everyone is waiting with bated breath to see if Jodhaa Akbar proves to be the exception.

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