As embarrassed as I am to admit it, and as quickly as I hope to remedy it, I know nothing about this time period. I took the filmmakers' disclaimer and just settled into this gorgeous movie and had a wonderful time watching it and following the probably oversimplified but very engaging story. And I hope to keep this correspondingly short: I enjoyed the movie very much and I thought everyone did a good job.*
A brief discussion of historical films: at some point I'll read up on the history, and I might change my mind about Jodhaa Akbar once I know what the real story is. Generally I don't appreciate people mucking about with true stories, which are very often are fascinating and instructive all on their own and don't need to be tweaked in order to make a compelling film - why not tell the story as it really happened? There are arguments to be made for taking real people or events and then doing something creative with them for other reasons, such as telling a story that has resonance with current audiences that the true story is too complex or rambling to tell efficiently, and in this case I don't have enough knowledge of the real story judge whether artistic license had any particular benefit. And for now, I'm happy to bask in the golden loveliness and not think too hard. I'll think later, but not just yet.
It is soooo pretty. Most overwhelmingly beautiful were the costumes and the locations...mindboggling lovely. The elephants! The fabrics! The weapons! And the ideas are beautiful too - religious tolerance! inclusivity! trust! And after all the sword-clashing and intrigue and punishments, justice and a true love of Hindustan prevail! Huzzah!
My favorite scenes: "Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah" (the only song I liked on its own before I saw the movie and also like most in context), with its cast of thousands "We Will Rock You"-ish stomp-stomp patriotism (and those huge drums! awesome!); Jalaluddin dancing with the Sufis; Jodhaa showing off her calligraphy and Jalaluddin's corresponding confession (which I hadn't seen coming at all); and their sword fight at Jodhaa's home. I don't know squat about sword fighting but I thought it rocked and I was delighted to see Aish swingin' her sword.
And OMG doesn't Sonu Sood look exactly like young Amitabh?!? Those deep, sleepy eyes, the big-ish nose....
* I have one little criticism: I got annoyed by a jarring musical theme that popped up whenever Hrithik was about to do something dramatic. To get technical, it was a major seventh (hear one here), played on a battle horn-sounding brass. It would have worked fine if it had been used judiciously. Oh, and I was all set to be miffed that Jalaluddin seems to notice Jodhaa when she's petting bunnies and cooking for him, but she notices him when he's sweaty and half-naked practicing with his sword. I mean, who wouldn't notice a half-naked Hrithik - but it bothered me a little that she was attractive when being domestic and docile and he was attractive being aggressive. But then I got over it as their relationship developed and became much more equitable and their attractions/affections more rich and nuanced.
Update to post (February 20, 2008): Sanket raises a point about the casting of Akbar that I can't stop thinking about. He also makes me wonder what one agrees to when one enters a movie theater - is your ticket a contract between you and the filmmaker (and cast, crew, theater owners etc.)? If so, what are its terms? Is it a promise that you will at least suspend your preconceptions or prejudices while the movie rolls? It certainly doesn't mean you have to turn off your brain (but you can if you want to; see above), but does it imply that you'll do your best to give the finished product a fair shake until you've consumed all that it offers? Hmmm....