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Jodha Akbar, A mockery of History

Can somebody teach Ashutosh Gowariker elementary level Indian History. A friend finally managed to pull me for this 4 hour long movie. She knew that I am very much interested in History and thought I might love to see it come to life. But this movie was a mockery of history. Here is how.

1) Rajputs at the time of Akbar spoke Marwari (or its variants) while Mugals spoke Persian in court. However the movie made a mockery of the history by making the Hindu actors speak so pure Hindi that it looked like speaking Sanskrit and Muslims speak Urdu.. I agree that expecting the audience to understand Persian might be too much to ask for, but Marwadi is an easy language to grasp.

2) Siege of Chittorgarh: Chittorgarh was one of the most strongly defended fort of Rajputs and was the center of all resistance to Mugals. The fort was considered impregnable and Akbar had to lay an expensive and bloody 58 day siege to defeat it. (which also included a lucky matchlock hit to then Rajput chief Jaimal which demoralized the defending army) This battle established Muslim dominance over the region and make Akbar famous. but the movie conveniently ignored this important siege. Also it ignored the slaughter & rape that followed.

Then there were lots of discrepancies in the weapons used:
3) Cavalry archer and composite bow: Although towards the end there was a small scene where cavalry archers were shown, the movie simply ignored them.
The reason why Mugals (from the time of Babar) had military dominance was because of their mastery in making composite bow (an Mongol art which is now lost). Unlike the bows made of traditional wood, these bows were made of bone tendon of ox and wood shavings binded together in a short, light yet powerful bow. These bows were light enough to be used by a mounted archer and yet powerful enough to inflict a lethal wound at even 400 yards distance (500 m).
Cavalry archer was a highly trained Mongol/Persian soldier (Native Indian soldiers were never allowed to join these ranks dominated by Khans) against which there was actually no defense. A foot archer cannot defend himself once the enemy closes in, hence his use and deployment is limited. But a mounted archer could close in at lightning speed, shoot a couple of arrows without stopping and flee to safety before the enemy could even think of retaliating. Also since they wore little or no armor, these soldiers were faster than normal heavy cavalry, who were glorified in this battle. Hence making a chase not only impossible, but one which could potentially lead into traps. Cavalry archers were the primary reason why Babar, with his tiny army could decimate the then Indian rulers.

BTW the depiction of a lone foot archer taking repeated shots at Hemu Vikramaditya is ridiculous. No archer can even stand a chance to be so close to enemy infantry as was shown in the movie.

4) Matchlock: Akbar’s weapon of choice was never a sword, but Matchlock. Its like a musket, but uses a slow burning wig instead of a flint-stone to ignite the charge. These weapons were light, deadly, had a good range and were easy to train/master. However I could not see any matchlock in the movie.

5) Elephants: Whoever has even seen a real life elephant would agree that elephants are not tamed in the way shown in the movie. It would be plain stupid to even think that a lone unarmed man could be a match against the beast. horses might be trained in the way as the elephants were trained in a movie, but you cannot compare the two.
Also in a battle, the elephants move before the infantry does. Once the battle starts and the ranks are broken, a charging elephant would kill more friendly soldiers then foes. Also during those days, the tusk of the elephant was sawed off and replaced by a sharp saber. Something which the movie missed.

5) Cannons: In the battle against Hemu Vikramaditya, there was no cannons & no infantry. Hemu had 30,000 horses and 500 war elephants against a mere 10,000 light cavalry of Akbar. This made Hemu arrogant & careless. His lightly guarded artillery train was lost to the scouts & foragers of Akbar. Akbar’s army was mobile and he did not have sufficient gunpowder or operators to strategically man these guns. Hence no cannon shots were fired in his decisive second battle of Panipat.

Also during those days hollowed out brass cannons were used (most of them manufactured in Rewari). This was because cast iron was brittle, and for machining a hole in the barrel you needed a high quality of steel & forging skills that India did not have. It was only in the later years when the metallurgy technology was perfected and when the brass prices went sky rocketing high, did Indians switch to Cast Iron. But the cannons in the movie were exclusively cast iron ones, which is wrong.

6) I am not even talking about Jodha Bai and all the mushy scene, because the movie started with a big disclaimer about her origins and how scanty and inconsistent historical records are about her.

7) Tobacco and wheat: Remember the Akbar’s visit to the market disguised as a commoner? Tobacco was an Latin American crop that was not available in India for at least a century after Akbar (read this BBC Link). Also the prices of the coarse grains (jowar, bajara) were shown more than that of Wheat. Something which is historically wrong. Only after the green revolution of 1970, wheat became an affordable staple grain.

All I am trying to say is that although the Director wanted to depict this as a historical movie, it would have been more accurate if he had the basic courtesy of checking the details with even a guy who has a Undergraduate degree in Indian History (if fees of a professor was too much to pay for)cav

34 replies on “Jodha Akbar, A mockery of History”

Ankur, watch the film as a ordinary song and dance drama.forget about the directors claims.You will love it.You can understand the Urdu and Hindi language being a North Indian but for any non Hindi speaking person it was difficult to understand.Imagine using Persian and Marwari.We would need subtitles.

#Marwari language would require subtitles.However there were over 50 dialects too-so best shown in language understood.
#Cavalry Archers were used but they also got close to the main infantry by having a protective ring of soldiers as showwn in J/Akbar.
#Matchlocks came in during Akbars reign but post Fatehpur Sikri.The movie is before that.
What was incorrect was to show so many swords that were ,in those days made of wootz steel,an expensive mix and was thus given to a selct few in the army usually the cavalry.
#Cannons were not used in the battle against Hemu as they could not be carried to the site-they were albeit with the army.
#Correct about tobacco but what was sold was opium and ganja.

@rajiv…
Welcome to ENagar. Thanks for your comments, however I would differ in the following points.

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babur#Conquest_of_northern_India
Babar came to India with the matchlock technology. So your claim about fatehpur sekri was false.

2) If you can transport elephants and hemu used and lost several hundred of them, then cannons are also transportable. Can you point me to a link which says that cannons were not used in that battle.

3) somehow I missed spotting cavalry archer in Akbar’s army. Do you remember which scene?

Jodha-Akbar is one of the big budget films released in February, 2008, directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. The big question is whether the film is going to be as successful as period films previously being made like Mughal-i-azam by K. Asif.

I am Only 12 and I whatched the filme I think it was quit a entertaning filme and was interesting. you Mite think I am only a girl but four your information my dad is cwallified to be a indian history Profesor and my dad douse thinke that some of the thinges were not tru but you are just a purson who i think douse not have a lote of nolade and people do not see a fillm to see if that is tru or not they see it for intertanment and i do understand that you can not stand the fillm not saing the haf truth about Indian History but you have lissted too many not tru thinges and i am actuly from Rajastan and Japure. and pleeas reaply

@pratiksha…
its good to know that you like the movie… I agree it is a good entertainment, but what i did not like was the fact that they misrepresented the facts in a way that the world would now see Akbar from the eyes of the movie for ever

This is not a history channel movie,but a entertainment. Please give credit to the guy for taking pains to represent the period film in the most beautiful way and giving us a very imaginative story of a very private relationship of Akbar and his wife acted very well by Ashwarya and Ritik .For the background of the story sets were provided where for a change soldiers looked like soldiers,horses and weapons looked realistic,real elegant Jewelery,beautiful sets and the most remarkable part of the film was the effort the producer had taken to study history,which no Indian producer that i know of has ever done in any Indian period film.
I am a lover of history,and the most beautiful thing about history is that there are so many narratives given about the same subject by different writers,historians past and present ,that you have to read a few and form your own view.The producer of Jodha Akbar has done exactly that..To find faults is easy but for me it was heartening to see Hemu getting an arrow in his eye which became the cause of his defeat ,beheading of Hemu by Bairam khan and later sending of Bairam khan to Mecca.Importance which Akbar gave to his Maid who nursed him ,and throwing her son over the wall of the fort twice which is a fact.All these facts the producer had cared to study ,and present them in his imaginative way.

i agree that it is a great piece of entertainment…
but what i fear is that now the whole world would see history from the eyes of this movie… and by doing this, they are going to distorting history … a mistake that might probably never be rectified.

I agree that d movie shows sm things which r not true n also neglects many important historical facts ……..but i shud also remind u all that today’s audience is intelligent enough not to consider movies as a true depiction of history……..they watch movies for sm 3 hrs entertainment n i think u all will agree that Jodha-Akbar succeds in that :P……n plz b sure no one is dumb enough to think of akbar or historical events as portrayed in the movie…….even foreign audience knows that the best way to know abt akbar is to read abt him frm sm trustable source n not movies :P…..so plz ppl don’t b worried as it might harm our position a bit but it is certainly not that gr8 a mistake that cannot b rectified 😛

hehe …….well i might agree with u a bit but i feel that any person now will certainly not make an opinion based on a movie …….its just that ppl hvn’t read Ramayana so they think it is d way it is depicted in d serial…….morover Ramayana was a long series which reflected on almost all instances of Ramayana ……it is too much to say that d movie harms our history as it does not claim to tell abt d whole life of akbar ……..it just stresses on d relationship btw jodha n him (which i don’t think nyone is so sure of)……d movie is not meant to tell us all abt akbar n his persona but it is a romantic story btw him n jodha ………..so why not enjoy d movie n leave d facts to d books …….

well Ramayana is a religious book.. so its more likely for indians esp the orthodox ones to read that book than to go into history book and read about Akbar… esp in a country where people cannot trace their family tree beyond 5 generations.

yups its a nice movie to enjoy 🙂

yup but they might not b able to understand d original script n now u can’t even trust the translator:P ……..n here u r – u only said that ppl don’t even know abt their ancestors so temme how is smthng that akbar did hundreds of years back gonna affect them? wat diff does it make ? so let poor ppl(overloaded by tensions) enjoy themselves by watching a movies which lies but entertains them rather than d one which depicts boring ,true history n wins oscars…..

well culture, heritage develops from history… and for a country that takes so much pride in culture and history, its amazing how little we know about our roots.

also otherwise, the history is very important. it helps us understand what mistakes we made in the past and what lessons we should learn from it.

oh…..nthng like that ……he just says not to get involved into strong arguments as no one can ever win an argument…… u really loose an argument when u think u hv won it( as u can never really convince a person to ur way of thinking)……he will always believe that he is right …….u’ll only hurt his ego n self respect in d process of proving him wrong ………so i generally stop an argument when it starts getting hot …….
but i agree that u do hv more experience than me 😛

I agree to some people as to the importance of not distorting the history too much just for the sake of entertainment. History is not entertainment but a study of events in the past and their influence on people to this day. So history gotta b educative that instills inspiration in the mind of youth, and not pass by like any entertaining (love – knight in shining armour) kinda movie.

Since I am a rajput so i understand the emotional bonding with every inch of rajput history. Any distortions do hurt rajput feelings as it shapes much of our mind even today. We still rever our ancestors after daily prayer so we are still affected by any such distortions of historical facts.

What I feel strongly about Jodha – Akbar is that it was much of a romantic movie than a movie based on true valour of warriors.

Rajputs lost at the Battle of Khanwa not due to might of Babur, but due to a mix of using out dated techniques and plot. Rajputs led by Rana Sanga were on verge of winning the battle despite having no knowledge about use of artillery unlike Babur who came with concept of artillery from Fergana. Secondly in the last moment the mighty Purabiya Rajputs led by Silhaditya backed out during climax of the battle since Silhadi was promised Malwa by Babur after victory.

The most distorted fact of the movie was the apparent dialogue b/w Akbar and Jodhabai, whereas in those days and even in Rural Rajput families today such direct conversations are not customary. The Zenana system was most strong during Mughal times, and in no way cud any Mughal or Man enter a Zenana in a fit to discuss nuptial matters outrightly.

Thanks.

Well, for that matter… Ashutosh Gowarikar never claimed it is a true story..
If you are so particular about history, the name of Akbar’s wife was not Jodhaa bai at all 😀

very nice as it helped me in my assignment
u also try it my hubby abhishek shukla of dahisar husband of preeti chaubey

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