38 thoughts on “Jodhaa Akbar: A 16th-Century Indian Romance

    1. Same here, thank you for this! Our costume history classes covered Western costumes only. I have always wondered about other cultures, but where to start researching…. You are pretty modest about your knowledge on the subject, but it seems you already did a ton of research. This is a great read!

  1. Thanks for the review!
    I would just like to point out that it seems extremely unlikely boqta contributed to the creation of hennin. (This claim originates, as far as I am aware, with the tumblr blog Medieval POC, quoting a single source “Secret History of the Mongol Queens” by Jack Weatherford, a claim just mentioned in passing, without any further elaboration – I have never encountered it anywhere else.) The continuous evolution of this headdress (hennin) is very well illustrated in period art.

    1. I’m late to this one, but hennins are tangential to one of my research areas (French Hoods). I was also skeptical of the “boqta inspired the henin” stance that The Smithsonian website just sort of tossed out there, because there’s essentially three plausible origins for the hennin and no academic (that I know of) has really come down on any one more firmly than the others.

      Option One: that the hennin and boqta sprang up independently of one another at around the same time. Tall hats have always come in and out of fashion throughout the centuries, across the world.

      Option Two: the hennin was inspired by the boqta, which coincides with the increased amount of cultural exchange between the Mughal Empire and Western Europe in the mid-15th-century (specifically Italy and Burgundy/Low Countries. Italy didn’t do hennins, but Burgundy sure did).

      Option Three: the boqta was inspired by the hennin, which coincides with the increased amount of cultural exchange between the Mughal Empire and Western Europe in the mid-15th-century.

      There’s way more evidence to support the Mughal influence on Western Fashion when it comes to caftans, which the Italians shamelessly appropriated into the zimarra, so it’s plausible. But I’m still not sold on it.

  2. Jodhaa Akbar is one of my most favorite movies. I find many of the tropes in Indian film very entertaining, and it’s part of why I love this film so much.
    It has everything! Incredible sets, stunning costumes, fabulous music, and every time I watch it, I laugh.
    The first time I saw that scene where Jodhaa says she has some conditions for marriage, and it cuts to the emperor’s face and the music goes “Baaa- WHAAAA Dun Dun DUUUN!!” I laughed so hard I had to pause the movie. And it still gets me.
    I was initially confused about why they had a 10 min elephant scene, but I did some research and apparently Akbar was SUPER into pachyderm-based extreme sports.
    I love this movie. Thanks for the review.

    1. ” pachyderm-based extreme sports.” That made me giggle. Excellent turn of phrase!
      glances sideways I know a kitkat who’s into “cushion-based extreme naps” lol!

      1. I feel the need to work “pachyderm-based extreme sports” into a conversation someday. Or a variation thereof. Brilliant!

  3. Yeah, the lengthy shirtless elephant scene was definitely to show off Hrithik Roshan’s gorgeous physique. And the overly-seamed choli was probably to give Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan’s endowments a little lift. Bollywood does take liberties with history to showcase the attributes of it’s stars (just like American cinema).

    1. I was too distracted by his pretty eyes, but upon closer inspection, WOW. If I had that physique, I’d be showing off too.

  4. Lagaan is my favorite historical Indian movie. It’s set during the colonial era. However, the costumes on the single female English character are TERRIBLE. I want to fast-forward every time she’s onscreen. So snark away if you review it. Mangal Pandey: The Rising is also a pretty good colonial era story–and it has Toby Stevens, which is always a plus. And Devdas (early 1900s) has gorrrgeous costumes and dancing and cinematography, and more Aishwariya. But it’s one of those stories that makes you want to die by the end.

    I’m afraid there’s no escaping the OTT Bollywood tropes. You just get used to them and learn to laugh at the ridiculousness, while appreciating that, for once, the men are as objectified as the women. There are some great ones from South India too, but they are even more OTT because their storytelling form hasn’t been as influenced by Western cinema as Bollywood has. Magadheera (a reincarnation fantasy, part-modern, part-1600s) is fabulous, and I hear Baahubali is, too.

    1. Yes, Lagaan is excellent- and it’s the same director and composer as Jodhaa Akbar! The pair came out with a third film last year called Mohenjo Daro, and it was hilariously terrible and campy. I loved it, but mostly because I couldn’t stop laughing at how over the top ridiculous everything was.
      I’ll just say ‘Lisa Frank Unicorn Goat’ and leave it at that.

  5. First of all, thanks for this. It’s gorgeous. I’m going out on a limb to state that the more covered Mughals were Muslim (and the Koran declares that men & women should dress modestly), while the others were Hindu, with no such proscription.

    A few years back, there was an exhibit here about Sulieman the Magnificent, who lived slightly before the time frame of the film. There were a bunch of textiles, including embroidered silk robes that glowed across the room. The reason for that was because the silk embroidery thread was wrapped with gold or silver that gave it the glow. Unbelievably beautiful. Almost a religious experience.

  6. The part of a saree that is left loose after it is draped is called the Pallu. A dupatta is a completely separate piece of fabric from the blouse/choli/kameez and ghagra/lehenga/ salwaar. There are theoretically infinite ways of draping a pallu, but it’s interesting to note that the sarees in the film are draped in the gujarati style (the pallu wraps across the back and is pinned to the right shoulder so it falls over the chest to end at the hips), rather than in the nivii style that is most common (the pallu is draped across the chest and pinned on the left shoulder, from there it hangs loose).

    Another bit of terminology here:
    The chain and pendand worn down the center of the head is a tikka (maang tikka if the chain is a significant design element), and the one worn to the side is a pakistani originating piece known as a jhumar.

    (I’ve actually studies indian clothing quite a bit on my own-a side effect of learning indian dance, so I would love to help with terminology on future reviews if it’s needed.)

  7. Great review! The rajput women are actually wearing lehengas or ghagaras (a type of skirt) with a choli and dupatta (veil).

    If you loved this you should definitely check out Devdas (2002) also with Aishwarya Rai, and Bajirao Mastani (2015)

    1. The musical numbers in Bajirao Mastani were breathtaking, but I couldn’t handle the plot or characters. I only got halfway through. But the songs and costumes WERE fabulous.
      Devdas is next on my list!

      1. The songs and costumes were definitely the strong points of Bajirao Mastani! I’d recommend giving Mughal-e-Azam (either the black and white or colourised versions) a watch as well – a couple of the songs in Bajirao were loosely based on songs from Mughal-e-Azam. Specifically:

        Mohe rang do laal was inspired by Mohe pangat pe
        Deewaani Mastani was inspired by Pyar kiya toh darna kya

        The costume designer for Bajirao Mastani, Anju Modi, also did another one of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films, Ram Leela. It’s based on Romeo and Juliet, but it’s not a period piece. The costumes are still pretty mind blowing though!

  8. Mangal Pandey: The Rising is also a pretty good colonial era story–and it has Toby Stevens, which is always a plus.

    I’ve seen that. It’s okay.

      1. Thanks now to figure out which YouTube entry is in English & I don’t have to click on something that I don’t see.

  9. Seeing this review touched my soul. I am a huge fan of Bollywood, an even bigger fan of it’s history. If you enjoy period films of a Bollywood persuasion, you HAVE to watch Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeezah, Umrao Jaan both the original and Aishwarya remake. Yes they are over the top but the scripts and music make them iconic and the costumes are to die for!! I always keep these looks in mind whenever I have Shalwar Kameez suits made.

  10. I’m just here to marvel at how gorgeous those lead actors are, especially Hrithik Roshan (Akbar). My oh my.

  11. I love everything y’all write but this is hands down my favourite. Mostly just because pretty shiny things, but also becasue it makes me super happy to see people think about Indian dress. I actually did a writing assingment on it once, becasue I really just love talking about my country’s clothing. Y’all should hit up some more bollywood, even if the tropes are a bit ridiculous. (okay, maybe a LOT ridiculous)

    1. Sisi what aspects of Indian dress are your favorite? Do you have have a favorite period film? I’d love to chat with a fellow fan ^_^

  12. Jodhaa Akbar – LOVE IT! Thanks for the thoughtful review. My favorite part actually is the devotional song Khwaja Mere Khwaja. Are they ?whirling? dervishes? don’t know, but it’s mesmerizing! Time for 3+ hours of DVD magic for me again!

  13. I am astonished by you’re fashion perception. You didn’t even study Indian history that much, it’s a complete diffferent culture, but you caught on to historical costume traditions effortlessly(and amazingly).
    You are a TRUE historical fashion expert.
    Great job! You have a gift!

  14. I think the reason why Bollywood costume designers take liberties with historical accuracy so confidently is because we pretty much still wear the same sort of stuff today too. We wear both western clothes and cotton, casual, but traditional Indian clothes on a daily basis, and for special occasions glam up. Of course not to the extent of these royals on screen, but most of us pretty much have a good idea of how historical costume looked because it isn’t too far off. Craploads of gold and jewels is still a must today. No matter the strata Indians will splurge on gold and jewels like westerners would for the latest designer handbag/shoes and be thrifty in other areas.
    I think designers kind of have an intuition of what works what what doesn’t. Expect for the men’s costume, where they would need to be a little careful.
    And not to mention fashion trends were a lot more creative/colorful and impromptu than western historical fashion trends. Western historical costume designers have to be crazy meticulous not to screw up because of such specific fashion trends of the past that we’re so out of touch with today(otherwise they should expect to be schooled by FrockFlicks lol.) Whereas in Bollywood, a lot of things will ‘roll’. Fashion’s been literally the same for centuries in India lol.. at least before the British rulership that is.

    This movie came out when I was like.. 10. And can’t even count how many times my mom made me watch it lol.

    Btw, Devdas was really big. Bigger than this movie, definitely “Titanic” status in India lol. But a tear jerker.

  15. Also, most Indian styles are kind of worn all over the country now. But gagra choli and stuff was really popular in the West. Wearing the sari draped over the head and holding it like that to shade their face like you said is a Rajistan thing. Wearing the saree draped from back to the front was a Gujarati thing(west). Front to back is done over the rest of India, mainly the south (where I’m from) though. The south is known for all kinds of silks and sarees while in the North they usually wear more salvars nowadays.
    There are three types of Salvars, anarkalis(worn with tights, patiala(loose pants), and churidar(also tights underneath)
    When I go to India, I love love love to wear Anarkalis, because the ‘western historical costumes freak’ in me loves how it accentuates the waist, and hides the lower body(the thighs/hips thankfully). It covers my pear shape perfectly. That’s why I specifically love 18th century fashion anyways.

    And another fun fact: people only started wearing blouses these last centuries. In ANCIENT India, they would just mainly wear sarees without the blouse, and the guys Dothi without shirts usually. The main point was to get the job of covering up done with one piece of fabric.. and depending on occasion, either wear a glam fabric with jewels or casual fabric for normal days.

    I love the ‘toga’ look of sarees. It looks really graceful and flowing. Especially the crepe silk ones. Americans go crazy for those when my mom wears them here.

  16. Most Indian female protagonists I know, either in TV shows or movies, go to bed in full costumes, jewellery and make-up, LOL.

  17. The costumes are pretty indeed,but streamlined through the 21st century lens.Particularly Jodha’s costumes,who should be wearing fine cotton prints instead of silk dupatta.The portraits you referenced for rajputi women are not royals,but dancing girls in the mughal court.Even the jewellery,though splendidly rich and heavy,seems very sleek and modern compared to the chunky extant ones from the era.The mughal jewellery was on point though, but rajput costumes were more accurately created in the recent movie Padmaavat.And yes,such super seamed bra like cholis are totally wrong-the few surviving cholis from a much later period show that the cholis had no seaming on the sides.I won’t go much into the details,but the draping of the dupatta is done in the gujarati style instead of the acual rajputi style of that time,which is not surprising since the correct style of draping leaves a lot of cloth on the shoulders and is uncomfortable.
    Appreciate your work,but I wanted to point out the inaccuracies.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: