Beware the ghost of Jodha-Akbar!

The latest historical serial to hit the screen in your home is Jodha Akbar (Zee). Ashutosh Gowariker’s dazzling film of the same name hasn’t receded that far in our memory that we’ve forgotten everything in it. Hrithik Roshan made for an impressive, charismatic Akbar and Aishwarya Rai
played the regal and beautiful Rajput princess with the kind of delicate strength needed for such a role. So to try and do a TV version of Jodha Akbar is ambitious indeed. And as we all know, ambition can often exceed the talent.
The opening of the serial was confusing in the extreme. There was a haphazard montage of temples and gods and goddesses. For a moment I thought it was something to do with producer Ekta Kapoor’s banner, Balaji Telefilms, since she is known to be deeply religious.
Then we saw some random shots of Agra with tourists wandering about. Then the location shifted to Akbar’s mausoleum at Sikandra where Akbar and Jodha’s ghosts flitted about, talking of their great love for each other.
And then the show started. They may as well have cut to the chase and spared us this meandering lead-in which actually led neither here nor there nor anywhere else.
The premise of the show (I’m not even going into the whole historical accuracy aspect because, to be fair, the makers lay no claim to being true to history) is how an arrogant and cruel king (Akbar) was reformed by the love of a beautiful and soft-hearted princess (Jodha). This is a fail-proof romance formula that can seldom go wrong. But.
Akbar comes across more as a weird kind of spoilt brat (what’s with all that grinning? Is it meant to be sinister?) than a powerful, ruthless king.
And Jodha looks sweet but hardly the kind of legendary beauty who would bring an imperious and unscrupulous king to his knees. The locations and costumes are nice enough.
But there’s a certain clunkiness in the story-telling, maybe because so many scenes are stretched beyond snapping point. It’s like trying to squeeze the juice out of an orange when the orange is already dry.
The other new show is Do Dil Ek Jaan (Life OK), a love story between a ‘good girl’ (Antara) and a ‘bad boy’ (Raghu). Antara has just come to Mumbai from Kashmir with her family after the tragic death of her father (who was killed by terrorists). Raghu is a street hood who works for a local gangster.
The back story — the happy family in Kashmir, before tragedy strikes — made for good viewing, particularly because of the presence of the incomparable Farooq Shaikh, who played the role of Antara’s father (unfortunately, they’ve killed him off now so we won’t get to see him anymore).
The story right now is focused on the clashes between Antara and Raghu — more forceful actors in the two lead roles could have lifted the show up several notches.

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