Jodhaa Akbar: door to hollywood

Published On: 2016-07-27

Author: Various

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Bollywood Princess, Hollywood Hopeful


Source: NYTimes 

By: Anupama Chopra 


LAST October Aishwarya Bachchan grappled with a tough choice. The Bollywood star could either stay in Los Angeles to pursue a lead role in Will Smith’s new film, “Seven Pounds,” or she could return home to Mumbai to celebrate Karva Chauth, a daylong ceremonial fast that some married Hindu women observe as a prayer for their husband’s health and long life. (The observance is a new one for Ms. Bachchan; in April she married Abhishek Bachchan, an actor and the son of the Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan, a union that prompted Time magazine to describe the three as “Bollywood’s Father, Son and Holy Babe.”) Ultimately Ms. Bachchan chose to return to Mumbai and starve with a smile. National television channels covered her first Karva Chauth as headline news. 


Two months later she shrugged off her loss in an interview. “You do what you have to do,” she said. “Feeling torn and thereby unhappy, confused or guilty is not something I want to feel. So you make your choices and go with it. You get some and some you don’t.” This month Ms. Bachchan brings some of that clarity and traditionalism to a role she was born to play: that of Queen Jodhaa in the sumptuous-looking historical drama “Jodhaa Akbar.” The $10 million film is one of Bollywood’s biggest productions this year. It will be released worldwide on Friday, in more than 115 theaters in the United States alone, making it the biggest American release ever for a Hindi film. “Jodhaa Akbar” focuses on that quintessentially Indian subject: arranged marriage. 


Set in the 16th century, it explores the marriage between the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, a Muslim, and his Hindu wife Jodhaa. Historians have described the union as a political alliance, but in the hands of Ashutosh Gowariker, the film’s director, the story has become “an epic romance with its share of battles, harem politics and intrigue,” he said in a telephone interview. Mr. Gowariker, whose 2001 period film, “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India,” was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film, isn’t claiming factual accuracy but insists that the film is “embedded in historical truth.” He cast Ms. Bachchan as the queen (a figure some Indian historians dispute ever existed) because, he said, “Aishwarya is a comic book princess with a certain dignity, elegance and sense of purity.” 


For the role of Akbar, Mr. Gowariker wanted someone with “the physique of a warrior and the face of a romantic,” and selected another Bollywood superstar, Hrithik Roshan. Mr. Gowariker described it as a dream cast, which, at least as far as box office appeal goes, seems accurate. Both actors, to steal the phrase Pauline Kael invented to describe Michelle Pfeiffer, are “paradisically beautiful,” and are consummate superstars. With their ethnically indeterminate looks and impeccable English, Ms. Bachchan and Mr. Roshan could be India’s first international movie stars. Ms. Bachchan has already made considerable progress in that direction. She is the international face of L’Oreal and Longines, as well as a consistently glamorous presence at the Cannes Film Festival; in 2003 she became the first Bollywood actress to serve on the jury. In 2004 she made Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. So far Ms. Bachchan’s international projects — “Bride & Prejudice,” “The Mistress of Spices” and “The Last Legion” — have sputtered commercially and critically, but with her high-profile marriage, A-list brand endorsements and plum Hindi film projects, she continues to generate global attention. Mr. Smith, who wanted to cast her in “Hitch,” but couldn’t, because of scheduling conflicts, remains an ardent admirer. “She has this powerful energy where she doesn’t have to say anything, do anything, she can just stand there,” he said in a February 2006 interview with BBC News. “Anything she’s making, I’ll be there.” Next February Ms. Bachchan will be seen in “Pink Panther 2,” in which Inspector Clouseau, played by Steve Martin, teams up with a squad of international detectives to catch a thief with a penchant for historical artifacts. 


As it happens, her “Jodhaa Akbar” co-star, Mr. Roshan, 33, rejected a role in the same film because it wasn’t important enough. In an interview in Mumbai, Mr. Roshan made it clear that while he is “actively pursuing Hollywood” he would not “do a film just because it’s Hollywood.” Hollywood and Mr. Roshan have been flirting with each other since he burst into Bollywood with a film called “Kaho Na Pyar Hai” (“Say You Love Me”) in 2000. The film, directed and produced by his father, Rakesh Roshan, was a blockbuster and catapulted the newcomer to superstar status in India. In 2002 the American edition of GQ ran a profile headlined: “The most famous person you’ve never heard of,” and rumors of a project with Tarsem Singh, the Indian-born director of “The Cell,” and Jennifer Lopez swirled in the Indian press. It didn’t happen, nor did a series of other proposed projects that for various reasons Mr. Roshan declined. But last October he took his first concrete step toward a Hollywood career by signing with Brillstein Entertainment Partners in Los Angeles. Despite their global stardom — Bollywood has an estimated annual worldwide audience of 3.6 billion — Ms. Bachchan and Mr. Roshan will not find it easy to break into Hollywood. The two film industries are forging closer ties (last year Sony Pictures Entertainment released its first Hindi production, “Saawariya”), and a few Indian names like Mira Nair, Kal Penn and Shekhar Kapur diversify the Hollywood landscape. Still, for a variety of reasons, no actor has successfully made the transition from Bollywood to Hollywood. Schedules and expectations are difficult to match. Bollywood superstars are generally unwilling to play supporting roles in American movies, and there just aren’t many movies coming out of Los Angeles that feature Indians as leads. 


“You don’t want to sacrifice your own kingdom to set up somewhere else,” Mr. Gowariker said. “But an international star can only be in the English language.” If Ms. Bachchan and Mr. Roshan do cross over, they could be Hollywood’s most old-fashioned stars. Until she married at 33, Ms. Bachchan (now 34), lived with her parents, which both Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman noted when she appeared on their shows in 2005. (“We don’t need to take appointments with our parents to meet for dinner,” she replied cheekily to Mr. Letterman.) Now that she is married, Ms. Bachchan lives with her husband at his parents’ house in Mumbai. As for Mr. Roshan, he is married to his childhood sweetheart. They are expecting their second child this year, and they also continue to live with the senior Roshans. Unlike Ms. Bachchan, Mr. Roshan has yet to find a Hollywood film that fits his taste and schedule. Currently he is “breaking the ice,” which means reading two scripts a week and giving feedback so that he and his Hollywood managers can “get to know each other.” He said he is hopeful that “Jodhaa Akbar” will be a first step in expanding the traditional fan base, and UTV Motion Pictures, the co-producer and worldwide distributor of the film, is pushing hard to make sure that it does. Theatrical trailers were released globally as early as September. “Of course we are relying on South Asian viewers,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, the director of UTV, in a telephone interview. “But this is the perfect film for anyone who is curious about Bollywood. It has scale, stars, drama, song and dance.” 




JODHAA AKBAR: door to hollywood


Source: Glamsham 


Providing a window to the effervescent and rich tradition of culture of a country can best be done by the medium of cinema, as it is the walking and talking exposition of the vibrancy that a country has. China has been able to do this through multitude of films being made on a large scale by turning out one leaf of history or the other and using the grandeur of cinema to tell the world about the mystique called China. It was done by four films, which told the world what China was all about and the films that achieved the same include CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, HOUSEOF FLYING DRAGONS, HERO and THE PROMISE. These four films became epochal, as they were able to attain a synergy by choosing the aesthetics of Hollywood and combining it with Chinese culture, tradition and heritage. 


For India also this epochal moment seems to have arrived with the release of JODHAA AKBAR. It is the sheer grandeur of the film and the choice of the subject that provides the confidence that the film would be able to make a definite mark at the international level. This would also pave the way for more historical films emanating from the drawing board of the Hindi film industry to tell to the world the richness of culture that India possess. The portents are auspicious as UTV, which is the producer of the film, has as its CEO Ronnie Screwvala who has already been featured on the cover of the Newsweek as being one of the stars from the sub-continent who would be going to change the course of world cinema. JODHAA AKBAR may just do the same. The confidence arises from the grandeur of the scale on which the film has been mounted. It has one of the most recognizable faces at the international level in the form of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. 


It is the sheer grandeur of the historical films, which make them a hit among the audience, as the grandeur is able to hark back the audience to the memories of the past. It has been done successfully in various Hollywood films, and has rekindled the interest in history after the films were received. The most recent example is that of THE GLADIATOR. Number of Shakespearean plays could become successful and get new converts only on account of various screen adaptations from time to time. In India also the same interest in Bhagat Singh was evinced after two films in succession based on the life of Bhagat Singh were released. Another positive feature in case of JODHAA AKBAR is about the choice of character which is one of the least controversial characters in the history and which has had fan following across all generations, caste and creed. Being a popular character, there is very miniscule chance of it being associated with any controversy. It is owing to the way JODHAA AKBAR has shaped up that more and more filmmakers in India are turning their focus to history to pick out characters and give them a new lease of life through celluloid drama.