A Hindu Princess. A Muslim Emperor. A country at war.
I think "Jodhaa Akbar" is going to be at the top of my list of favorite epic films. And that's despite the fact that it is a foreign language film. The amazing story wipes away all language difficulties. (Of course, I'm used to subtitles so I get it a little easier than the rest of you, but I still wouldn't let that keep you from watching this film.)
Jalal became Emperor of Hindustan (the Northern part of modern India) when he was thirteen. He was immediately plunged into a life of war as he set out to unite the entire country. He is a devout Muslim.
Jodhaa's father was a Rajput king (the Rajputs are a high warrior caste) and as a princess, the first time we see her is at her betrothal ceremony to another Rajput royal. However, in addition to learning how to be a wife, she studies swordplay with her cousin who she loves like a brother. She is a devout Hindu.
Everything changes when Jodhaa's cousin is denied his inheritance by Jodhaa's father and runs off to form a conspiracy. Facing the possibility of War, Jodhaa's father goes to Emperor Jalal and offers to put his kingdom under the Emperor's protection - and oversight. To cement this alliance, he offers his daughter Jodhaa to be Jalal's wife.
Jalal sees this as the perfect opportunity to create a union between not only two different geographical areas of Hindustan, but also between the Muslims and the Hindus.
Jodhaa is not quite so happy. Marrying a man of a different religion is abhorrent to her and she offers an ultimatum. She will only marry Jalal if he allows her to keep her own religion, and build her own temple in his palace.
"Jodhaa Akbar" is a beautiful story of a marriage between two faiths - and of the work it takes to fall in love and bring peace to a country. It is a breath-taking epic - using live elephants for an amazing battle scene (Peter Jackson, faint in envy, please).
It's a love story, a war story, a faith story... and, being Bollywood, also a musical story. Not a musical in fact, but it contains a handful of beautiful songs and one fantastic dance number that will have even none musical fans appreciative.
What I found interesting was to watch a film about the Hindu and Muslim faiths made by non-westerners, and to see actors play characters with a faith and trust in those religions that rivals what I see in church on Sunday morning. It's not a sight that most Western Christians ever see and for awhile it made me uncomfortable to see homage offered to any other god than my own. And yet I also thought of the story of Emeth in "The Last Battle." It's worth keeping that Calormen in mind as you watch this film.
As for appropriateness, it's Bollywood, which means it's a good deal more appropriate than an American film of this sort. There is never lip-to-lip kissing in Bollywood films, although there is some talk about the necessity of consummation in a royal marriage and one scene with Jodhaa and Jalal includes some cuddling and check and shoulder kissing. All between a married couple, of course, and quite beautifully done, but possibly something some viewers might not feel comfortable with. The violence is tamer than most American films as well, although there are some stomping elephants, a man gets thrown headfirst off a building, and another man gets his eye shot out.
There are also several duels, that are beautifully choreographed and (being non-gory) are absolutely amazing to watch. Especially those that involve Jodhaa. It's not very often you see a woman capable of that kind of swordplay!
(If that sentence concerns you, no, Jodhaa is not some crazy feminist soldier. Although she can wield a sword and wield it well, she is very appropriately feminine.)
Finally, something that might interest fans of "Pride and Prejudice," Aishwarya Rai who plays Jodhaa is well-known among some Western Audiences for playing Lalita (the Lizzy Bennet character) in "Bride and Prejudice."