Sunday, February 08, 2009

[DVD] Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

We're Letterboxed

It's been almost a year since I caught Jodhaa Akbar on screen, and in my review I had mentioned that I will get the DVD because I had enjoyed the movie tremendously, and want to watch it again. You can read my review of Jodhaa Akbar here.

For all the grandeur captured in the cinematic release, the rich sets, beautiful costumes, the epic scale, extras of thousands, and a film many years in the making, the DVD release, a 3-disc version at that, is utterly disappointing. I do not have qualms about the film being split into two-discs given its running time of almost 213 minutes, but for a 3-disc set, the extras in the last disc were found to be wanting, and definitely not befitting a film of this scale. Perhaps the most unforgiving technical aspect of it is that the film had been transferred on a matted letterbox format instead of an anamorphic widescreen one, and the transfer wasn't as pristine to say the least. One wonders why such corners were cut for a film that's pretty amazing in scale and story.

The 3 Disc DVD edition by BIG Music and Home Entertainment comes nicely packaged, and as mentioned, the movie is split into Discs 1 and 2. Subtitles are available for the movie discs only and in English. Audio too comes only in Dolby Digital Stereo, and the visual transfer of the film is in the unfortunate matted letterbox format.

Disc 1 contains the first two hours of the film, and scene selection is available over 27 chapters plus an intermission. The Song section in Disc 1 are those that appeared here, with 4 songs available for separate viewing (as they are presented in the film) with a play all option - Mann Mohanaa (2:22), Khwaja Mere Khwaja (6:51), Mann Mohanaa (3:35) and Jashn-E-Bahaaraa (2:29). Disc 2 continues with the remainder of the film with scene selection available over 22 chapters, and the separate Song section in this disc contains that for the iconic Azeem-O-Shaan Shahehshah (7:46) and In Lamhon (7:27).

Disc 3 should have been a lot more, perhaps because of expectations toward a Making Of documentary, or a commentary of sorts to allow the audience to sneak a peek at the production process behind the scenes and to listen in to director Ashutosh Gowariker's thoughts and explanation of the happenings in the filmmaking process.

Instead, we have plenty of text based stuff and very cursory extras that are woefully left unbefitting of a gorgeous movie like this one is. For starters, there's the text based Historical References which includes a Disclaimer and a list of Literary References in both English and Hindi text. The Director's Interview (11:52) is a short one, and we are told recorded one week before the release of the film, conducted by Rajeev Masand for CNN IBN in Mumbai. Presented in English and in 4x3 full frame format (made of TV after all), Ashutosh Gowariker is pretty chatty as he talks about making an historical drama, which he invested 2 years for scripting, 1 year for pre-production and 1 year to shoot it. He also addressed the controversy of the story and some quarters' concerns with the historical accuracy of it, and naturally talks about the length of his movies. The audio of the interviewer was pretty bad, and Masand perhaps need to restraint himself from butting in each time it was obvious Gowariker hasn't finished and still has more to say. Call it interviewer's etiquette if you wish.

Cast & Crew contains more text based listing of their biographies and notable filmographies to date, and The Cast & Crew Speak On Jodhaa Akbar (21:41) contains interviews with Ashutosh Gowariker, producer Ronnie Screwvala, executive producer Sunita A. Gowariker, script writer Hyder Ali, lyricist Javed Akthar, and lead cast Hrithink Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, as they talk about the production process, their characters and the music of course, it's A.R. Rahman!

There are a total of 10 Deleted Scenes that comes rather finished, and with optional English subtitles presented in matted letterbox format. The Director's Introduction (1:40) sees Ashutosh Gowariker explaining the need to remove scenes from the movie for flow purposes, and unfortunately there isn't any commentary to go along with each deleted scene to explain just why it was decided that it be left at the editing room floor. The deleted scenes are (Spoilers Ahead): The Kings of Rajputana (1:27), Jodhaa & Prince Ratan Singh (2:50), Farewell to Jodhaa (1:50), Brother Against Brother (0:50), How Many Birds In My Kingdom? (4:49) which involves a hunting trip and a supporting character seen in the last deleted scene, Jodhaa Comforts Akbar (2:36), Sujamal's Dilemma (2:22), The Death of Maham Anga (2:50), A Prayer For Three Lives (2:41), and the last and my favourite of the deleted scenes which I thought should be left intact, Mahesh Das Also Known As... ? (a whopping 9:10) which address corruption and contains a brain teaser of an intelligence test.

To pay tribute to A.R. Rahman's score and songs, and to lyricist Javed Akthar, there's a section called Sing Along With The Lyrics for all the karaoke kings and queens out there. All the songs - Mann Mohanaa, Khwaja Mere Khwaja, Jashn-e Bahaaraa, Azeem-O-Shaan Shahehshah and In Lamhon Ke are presented in sing along fashion, where each click on the title brings up the hindi lyrics (and their Anglicized version) for you to see to as the music for that segment of the song plays in the background. For non-Hindi speakers, you can opt for the translated text which replaces the Anglicized Hindi wordings with English.

The scant extras round off with the Theatrical Trailer (4:19 with optional English subtitles), and a couple of Television Promotions such as 2 Dialogue Promos running 0:15 each, a Teaser (0:20), a Song Promo with Supers Azeem-O-Shaan Shahehshah (0:30) and Song Promo with Supers Khwaja Mere Khwaja (0:30).

I hope some day I could double dip into a better version, probably an extended one which restores all the deleted scenes, and of course presented in an anamorphic widescreen format with pristine visual transfer, and at least a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. One can only hope I guess, otherwise for fans, you're stuck with a DVD edition that doesn't exactly do justice to an epic movie.

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