In particular, the various fights and battles put Hollywood to shame. Where Western epics of recent years have overdone cheap visual effects to reduce costs, and eliminated blood and gore to keep ratings low, Jodhaa Akbar doesn't pull its punches for a moment. When Akbar fights, he really fights. Steel connects with steel, flesh with flesh; horses and elephants stampede; armies charge; blood splatters all over the place. Gowariker and his team have an amazing knack of filming violence that is simultaneously elegant and visceral. Famous Hollywood battles of recent years - the likes of Lord of the Rings and Troy - look limp and embarrassing by comparison.
Furthermore, there are some commendable performances here, especially from the supporting cast. Sonu Sood and Ila Arun are particularly wonderful, as is Nikitin Dheer in a remarkably compelling debut performance as Sharifuddin Hussein. I have to admit that I hadn't really thought much of either Hrithik Roshan or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as actors, but I was mistaken. Both of them, especially Hrithik, pull off extremely well-pitched and charismatic performances under Gowariker's expert direction. Also, of course, it's hard not to notice that they make one of the most gorgeous screen couples of all time.
I have only three criticisms, and only two of them are serious.
1. Gowariker has a weakness for cheesy visual moments. There are a couple of points in the film where glowing light is supposed to add to the emotional effect. Unfortunately, these have been cheaply done and don't really work. Gowariker also tends to use various hammy cross-fades. The end result is that the otherwise purely brilliant visuals are undermined by the occasional dated, jarring fade or effect. These things remind me of a low-budget 1970s TV cop show and aren't suitable for a major film like this.
2. The romance between Jodhaa and Akbar follows a fairly standard pattern of hate-each-other, like-each-other, misunderstanding, resolution. The pattern is fine, but the effect would have been much more striking if Gowariker had taken a few risks. He's not prepared to push the characters to real extremes, and so we end up with 3.3 hours of a love affair which meanders along on a fairly even and predictable keel. The misunderstanding stage is cleared up too quickly and relatively painlessly. It's a pity: Hrithik and Aishwarya are both giving the performances of their careers. Though they're very watchable, you get the feeling that even more drama could have been wrung out of their relationship.
3. This isn't a very serious criticism, but... I don't think they had invented deep-pile fluffy white towels in the 16th century. So when Sharifuddin got out of his bath and wrapped himself in one, it was impossible not to giggle. I was expecting him to get out a hairdryer and an electric razor next.
Still, despite a few minor faults, Jodhaa Akbar is a remarkable, dramatic and brilliant film, with a rare beauty and powerful sense of ambition. It's also extremely enjoyable. I'll definitely be going to see it again. Should any Hollywood epic directors see it, I expect they'll be shuffling their feet and blushing at how decisively Bollywood has surpassed their efforts. Akbar zindabad!