I would have spared you this one but for assorted demands that I bestir myself and write something, having been AWOL for 10 days by now. In fact I was unsure of what I should say about the terminally confused, confusing and, for me at least, irritating goings on in our serial. In the event, I am afraid I am going to end up looking like the Grinch who stole Christmas, so those romantic souls who are rejoicing at the goings on between Jalal and Jodha of late need to be forewarned. Please take this as a statutory warning, and proceed at your own risk!
Enter the Devar: But first, let me take up the almost sole silver lining in last week's proceedings: the arrival on the scene at Agra of the Kabul-based Shehzaada Mirza Muhammad Hakim, step brother of Jalaluddin and the second son of the Emperor Humayun.
I was amused to see the predictable oohs and aahs at the sight of the tall, baby faced young man, who looks every inch a Mughal Prince of the blood, of the true nasl-e-timuri. Especially after he endeared himself to over 90% of the forum by bending down gracefully and touching the feet of his badi bhabhijaan, Jodha Begum.
Hopes were already being entertained about the devar and the bhabhi getting along like a house afire, and exasperating Jalal into the bargain, and even that Mirza Hakim might help Jodha save Jalal after the anticipated vish attack on him by the (universally designated) vishkanya Benazir. The secret smile on Jalal's face as Mirza Hakim did the paanv padhna was seen as proof of Jalal's pride and pleasure at any extra respect being shown to his Jodha Begum, irrespective of how much he might rile her himself.
NB:I would have thought that a vishkanya would belong to the Mauryan period of Chanakya rather that to the Mughal period 18 centuries and more later, but then the CVs have such a sublime disregard of periods that she might well turn out to be one! The only question left is whether she poisons by her bite or by her touch!
But re: Mirza Hakim, I am really sorry to have to dampen all these fond hopes. But facts are facts, and they will not be gainsaid.
Folks, please do not get carried away by his baby faced looks.The wily and smooth faced Mirza Hakim is not going to be the latest recruit to the Hamida Banu-led coterie of Jodha-philes. Rather, he is going to be a new, and very promising, negative addition to the dramatis personae.
He was born on 29 April 1553, and was thus 11 years younger than Akbar. In 1562/63, which is when Jodha Akbar is situated, he must have been 10 or less! Not that it matters to the CVs.
He ruled Kabul, notionally under the Shahenshah Jalaluddin, but largely, and as much as he could get away with, for himself. This was why, in our serial, Mirza Hakim was mentioned at one point, in a conversation fto curb him and clip his wings. This was duly accomplished, and Munim Khan was rewarded for this, and for defeating and capturing the rebel Sharifuddin, being given charge of the whole Mughal army.
It stands to reason that Mirza Hakim's imperial ambitions would not be, like Jalal's oaths of revenge against Jodha, of short duration. They were in fact tenacious. A devious and determined adversary, he was a thorn in Akbar's side for all his adult life.
Historically, it was Mirza Hakim who was used by those opposing Akbar to gain legitimacy. Utilizing the Muslim orthodoxy's resentment over Akbar's liberal views, this clique organized their last rebellion in 1580. The rebels proclaimed Mirza Hakim, then still the ruler of Kabul, their leader, and he moved into the Punjab as their king. Akbar crushed the opposition ruthlessly, but he must then have been characteristically lenient with his stepbrother, and pardoned him.
This silsila ended in 1585, when Mirza Hakim died, aged 32, undoubtedly to Akbar's relief.
NB:It is another matter that the Shahenshah's relief was shortlived, for Shehzaada Salim, then 16, took Mirza Hakim's mantle as the chief troublemaker unto himself. He then proceeded to plague his father, by remaining in a continuous state of low level rebellion, till Akbar passed away in 1605.
Given all this, Jalal's secret smile when Mirza Hakim touched Jodha's feet was not because he was so moved by his half-brother showing such respect to the object of his affections. He must have been thinking to himself: Nautanki saala! Kya dikhawa kar raha hai! Aur woh aimakh Jodha Begum sab ko sach maan legi!
So, you see, I was not off the mark in describing Jodha's silky smooth devar as a refreshing new addition to our by now over used and thus boring assortment of villains. As he has now arrived in Agra, and has been preceded by the other Kabul-import Benazir, something a bit more interesting than harem squabbles and petticoat plotting might be in the offing for us. One lives on hope!
The Khaas Tohfa turns shaayar: Benazir is like something out of Alice in Wonderland: she gets curioser and curioser by the day. She is clearly no golden hearted courtesan of kind beloved of Guy de Maupassant or Sanjay Leela Bhansali, being relentlessly on the make to capture Jalal's fancy.
She also seems to be losing some of the astuteness that made her spot, at first sight, that the Shahenshah cared not a jot for her, but was only using her, beginning with the shamsheer session, to rile Jodha Begum. She is now apparently actually hoping, perhaps deluded by Mahaam Anga's pep talks, to displace Jodha in Jalal's affections. A pity she did not look back, after being dismissed by Jalal, and see him washing her touch off his hands (and making a wet mess on the carpet, but who is to tell him so?).
Worse, she is so lacking in commonsense that instead of writing a newsy prose chitthi to her "Ammi" in Kabul, with the first letters in each line adjusted to convey the same message Kaam abhi nahin hua, she writes out such a bizarre poetic missive that it would have made even a chap with an IQ of 60 suspicious, and the Dak Munshi's IQ is well above that level. Why does the otherwise razor sharp Benazir commit this egregious folly?
What is more, the poem is strewn with words, like mohe, or bawri, that are not from Urdu at all, but are in fact pure Hindi, to be precise Awadhi or Rajasthani. That brought me up short. Why would a Muslim woman from Kabul use such words at all? Is she indeed a Muslim woman, or a Hindu, of whatever origin,, masquerading as one, for reasons unknown, in Abu Mali's harem? I have no way of solving this puzzle, but I want to flag this for your attention, as no one else seems to have spotted this glaring discrepancy in the language of that message.
I am NOT going into the colour of Benazir's digestive excretions. Green, ugh.. In fact, some of the goings on of late make me feel distinctly queasy, and if I were to throw up myself, it would probably be purple, befitting this imperial tale!
But I do wish Ekta had found a really slinky femme fatale to vamp the Shahenshah. If she does have to parade around in that Egyptian belly dancer's costume, a midriff like Deepika Padukone's is called for. Not one in an ill-fitting body stocking, which seems to be doing an imitation of jelly!
And then her face registers no change of expression at all, no matter whether she is cosying up to Jalal or berating the presumptuous Dak Munshi. It is like one size fits all!
Jalal-Jodha: Inconsistencies galore: This brings me to the last part of this post. It was perhaps only to be expected that a large chunk of the forum would be in a roseate haze of delight on seeing all the nok jhok between these two in the last 2 episodes: the prasad scene, the shawl scene, then the lep, the sahara dena, and finally the aushadi scenes.
No wonder Ekta's serials rake in the moolah, she knows how to play her audience like a fish at the end of a line: now slacken the line a bit, now reel it in! Why then should any of us complain, even if we have to face digestive excretions of assorted colours?
As for me, I begin to feel that it serves no purpose to spend time on logical analyses of characters and situations, when everything is suddenly scrambled by the CVs and makes no more sense. When consistency, even in the characters of the main leads, is notable only by its absence.
Jalal: Let me take him first, and go a bit further back, to the idiotic Meena Bazaar. When I saw Jalal smile fatuously at the KT (Benazir, the khaas tohfa; she looks better with clothes on) and that lithograph pretending to be a painting, it made me feel queasy.
When he went so far as to hand over a kind of starry pink blob (the real Kohinoor was of "the finest white") in a box lined in violent yellow (it was the same thing that Ruqaiya gifted to Jodha at the end of the child marriage track. I had then joked that it looked like the Kohinoor, never dreaming that it was going to be passed off as that so soon!) to the KT, as if he was giving a lollipop, I felt like clouting him one good and proper. What a triple dyed idiot this Jalal is, to hand over an imperial treasure to a courtesan he has met only days ago, in order to make a reluctant wife, who reacts to his amorous advances as though he was a caterpillar she had found in her lazeez khana, feel jealous!
Now one is left wondering how it was retrieved from KT, seeing that Shahjahan had it later. The curious thing is that, as legend has it, the Kohinoor was supposed to have been very unlucky for its possessors - among them Ibrahim Lodi, Humayun, and Sher Shah Suri - and so Akbar never took it out of the toshakhana. Shahjahan did, and look what happened to him!
Ret ki lakeer:To revert, truly doth love change a man. Vengeance is mine, Jalal swore after having picked himself off the floor, but that line has gone with the wind. But what does that matter? The Shahenshah's oaths are hardly patthar ki lakeer, they are more like lines in the sand, to be washed out by the next incoming tide of amar prem.
Now he is babbling about revenge for the palna faux pas, but never fear, this too shall pass, for nothing Jalal says has any significance any more. This is no dominating emperor, but a man of straw, and even the straw stuffing has been pulled out of him.
What does this changeling of a Jalal do all day but lie around (I shall not poach on Sandhya's delightful if sacrilegious comparison to Sri Ranganatha's anantasayanam), and try to make Jodha jealous in the most puerile manner possible with a buxom kaneez?
Jalaluddin Muhammed would, in real life, have had more to do than moon around a wife, get shoved by her, swear vengeance, get insulted by the proto-Tansen, waste time on an overweight kaneez with a pseudo Mata Hari act, get wet hauling her out of the water, and then sit in bed wondering how many screws are loose in the aforesaid wife's head.
When did he expand his empire, win all those wars, reform the administration, have long discussions with learned men, and travel endlessly within the Mughal dominions?
By the present look of things, one would assume that the Mughal empire was on autopilot.
And to top it all, in the prasad scene, Jalal looks like a sulky boy and not like any kind of emperor. It is pathetic. Akbar must not just turning, he must be spinning in his grave like a demented top!
The scenes of the lep, the sahara dena, and the aushadi making were pedestrian with a capital P: exactly like a Shammi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Helen troika at work in the films of the 1960s. Even with an incapacitated Rajat, surely something a tad more intelligent, could have been thought of?.So much for progress!
Would anyone applaud such scenes in a new film? Not on your life! But in a TV serial, they are manna from Heaven, apparently.
So why would the CVs even bother with looking for a better script and more sophisticated scenes, when they can get by with such antiquated stuff that insults the IQ of the characters and the actors, if not of the audience?
Jodha: I must confess that even in those childish nok jhok scenes that set my teeth on edge most of the time, it was only Paridhi who kept me in my seat. Her comic timing is improving by leaps and bounds: witness the sudden alacrity with which she dives for the lep whenever Hamida (re) appears on the scene, or the in your face sarcasm with which she briefs Benazir about Jalal's state of health and literally waves him into the KT's care. Or the little face she makes when Jalal informs her that he has too much samajh to hand over her Kanha to the KT.
Or the long drawn out, hardly convinced, Haan, so to hai... when the new Moti (regrettably, no t a patch on the old one) points out to her that it was she who had got the khanddani haar at the Meena Bazaar and not the KT. It was delightful, the barely veiled regret at not having been recognized and praised by the Shahenshah, something that our spoilt Amer ki Mirchi has got used to and now misses badly.
But Jodha too is very inconsistent. Why would a haughty highborn princess, who is so hung up on her Rajvanshi upbringing, behave like a commonplace, jealous wife, and display a sad lack of dignity when confronting either her supposed rival or her straying spouse? It is one thing to rage about Benazir in private to Moti, and quite another to lower herself by letting the green-eyed monster show so plainly, and that too in front of woh daasi, thus giving her the upper hand in the contest.
Earlier, in the pool dunking scene too, I would have expected Jodha to sweep out, head held high, as soon as she spots the KT's arrival. But no, she does not move away even after woh daasi is actually carried out of the water by Jalal (he needs a small medal for having managed that, as KT is no petite damsel. I hope there are no repeats of the carrying bit; Rajat is a strong boy, but there is only so much a back can stand!), and he was yelling at her daasis for a shawl and hot water, and hectoring her to come and chafe KT's other hand. I could not believe my ears when he was ordering her to make herself useful!
In fact,in a Pavlovian reflex, Jodha moved automatically towards them when he barked at her to come: Kyon khadi hain? Hamari madad keejiye aur unka doosra haath dabayiye ! I was waiting to see if she was going to wrench KT's wrist while pretending to rub it when the (too hot) water arrived.
The whole episode was not at all what one would have expected of the proud scion of Amer.
He subsequent wailings to Moti were very amusing, especially the catty references to the KT's assumed perfidy in creating dooriyan between herself and the person she would like to preserve in perpetuity as a friend without benefits, the Shahenshah. It was interesting that she adopts the classic ploy of blaming the KT, as if she was the cause of Jalal's coldness towards her, and not merely the symptom. I have always felt that Jodha is constitutionally averse to introspection and self-criticism, with rare exceptions, as in the Green Jodha-Yellow Jodha scene, and the one at the end of the false pregnancy track.
The other aspect of Jodha's inconsistency is in the way she lets Jalal bully her into making that aushadi for Benazir, that too after her fiery responses to his teasing in the lep and sahara dena scenes, which were more like the old Jodha.
Now, making aushadi for a kaneez is clearly not part of the duties of a Shahi Begum - it is in fact an insult to her rank and prestige to be asked to do any such thing. Jodha would have been clearly within her rights to refuse point blank to oblige Jalal in this matter. He would never have dreamt of asking Ruqaiya to do anything similar. And it is not as though Jodha has always been sweetly and unquestioningly compliant wrt Jalal's earlier demands, in fact quite the opposite, for she has generally been confrontational at the drop of a hat.
So I simply could not understand Jodha applying herself with angry vigour to making the aushadi for woh daasi. What is that supposed to mean? Merely that the CVs, having taken Jodha thru a yo yo act, have no idea where to take her from here.
The palna: Lastly, a word or two about the palna affair. While Jodha is absolutely sincere in the thought behind her gift, if she had gifted the palna to Ruqaiya, or to any woman who had recently lost a child, the recipient would have cut up very rough, seeing it as a snide comment on her misfortune. The older ladies in the family would have reacted even more harshly. I cannot think of anyone who would have reacted like Hamida.
I felt that it was an insensitive (if well meant) gesture. For one thing, it touched Jalal's sorest spot, and that too in public. For another, because of the backlog of bitterness left by The Shove, it was as if she was saying: I hope you have a child thru some begum other than me, for I have no intention of obliging you in this respect as I do not love you.The fact that Jalal came to feel that it was an insult only courtesy his Badiammi changes nothing in this.
This is the same old problem, that Jodha cannot see things from the point of view of the other. Even much later, when Salima praises the palna gift, Jodha complains about Jalal's ahankaar as the reason for his preferring Benazir's painting (which she must have had done by someone else, and kept it ready for all eventualities!) to her palna. And this after he has told her how insulting her gesture looked to him!
Nor does she seem to have the slightest notion that most of Jalal's rage at her,and all that he is doing to her now, is due to the humiliation he feels after her rejection of him that night.
This lack of understanding persists. In fact, after Jalal's outburst in the prasad scene, it did seem as though Jodha had herself started having doubts about her being invariably right. Hallelujah! I said to myself, there is light at the end of the corridor after all!But now I am not so sure, alas!
Right now, Jodha, despite looking green enough to satisfy the most committed Save the Planet enthusiast, is nowhere near being in love with Jalal, not by any definition of the divine passion that I know of. Nor is Sallima correct in asserting that there can be jealousy only where there is love. Jealousy can also stem from possessiveness, which does not need love.
Which is where Jodha is at the moment. Possessive about Jalal, and unwilling to let wo daasi lay claim to him. Bewildered and disappointed at the sudden deprivation of all the pampering from Jalal that she had begun to take for granted.
It will need a major jhatka - like Jalal's life being in real danger once again (courtesy the vishkanya?) to make her feel for him, and not just for what he was in the habit of giving her. Even then, my own assessment is that he will always be the lover, and she the beloved. And why not? Good for her!