Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Jewelry of an Epic Bollywood Movie



When I started this very different kind of jewelry blog, I did not know I would one day be writing about a Bollywood movie! Goes to show there is always a first time.

Jodhaa Akbar by the Academy Award nominated writer-director, Ashutosh Gowariker ("Lagaan" in 2001) is epic in scope as well as length (over 3 hours). There was much excitement and anticipation leading up to its release last week. It caught my attention because of two things - the fabulous jewelry and costume design and it was about Akbar (1542-1605), the greatest of all the Mughal (Moghul) Emperors of India and the Rajput princess he married.


I watched the movie trailer  and was amazed at the wonderful jewelry created by a team of 80 stylists from Tanishq, a leading Indian jewelry manufacturer. What was more astounding was the use of real gemstones and gold for the film. Considerable research went into creating authentic period pieces. Besides the pearls, rubies and emeralds, unfaceted diamonds were used - Indian craftsmen of that era produced mostly polished diamond cabochons.



The Mughal Emperors were descended from the Mongol leaders, Tamburlaine and Genghis Khan. The Mongols were fearsome warriors - one custom was to build mortared pillars made out of the heads of their vanquished enemies. The first six Mughals were powerful and impossibly wealthy rulers of much of India and parts of Afghanistan in the 16th and 17th centuries. Noted for their great military and administrative skills, they were also staunch patrons of the arts and sciences - they left behind a wonderful legacy of Mughal architecture and a sophisticated system of government later adopted by the British.

Like all the Mughals, the third Emperor, Akbar, was Muslim. He earned the title "Akbar the Great" because his reign was marked not just by his military prowess and the growth of his realm, but for his extraordinary interest in and tolerance of all religions. He even founded a new religion, Dīn-i Ilāhī based on the best elements of several religions in an effort to unite his subjects. He abolished, at a cost to his treasury, taxes imposed upon Hindu pilgrims and "non-believers" and welcomed Hindus into his civil service. He realized the stability of his nation was dependent on the harmonious coexistence of the two main religious groups.

The movie is about the romance between him and a Hindu Rajput princess along the lines of "as he conquered lands, he also had to conquer her heart." He was not the first Muslim ruler to marry a Hindu woman but he was the first to allow her to practice her own faith if she so wished. It was a shrewd marital alliance for the Rajputs were fierce Indian warriors - it was best to have them on his side.

Like all movies, this one was meant to entertain, not deliver historical accuracies. The filmmakers cheerfully acknowledge Jodhaa wasn't really her name. Nor is it clear if the heroine was supposed to be the first Rajput princess he married, and mother of his heir, Jahangir. Akbar actually married a few Rajput princesses - he really made sure they were on his side! His harem consisted of over 300 wives, many of whom he married for purely political reasons. Was the love truly grand like that of his grandson, Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved? Alas no, according to the historian and author, Bamber Gascoigne (see reference below), Akbar did have some preferences but only his mother received his strongest affection.

Still, because of the lavish production and all that jewelry, both masculine and feminine, I will be looking for this movie in my local video store when it comes out.  This Indian production is free of nudity, profanity, and outright goriness typical of today's Hollywood epic fare. Even elephants shown on the movie looked as if they were having a good time on the set earning their sweet treats - not at all like the famed Indian fighting elephants long ago which so terrified invading armies. I won't mind the English subtitles either for I am better off than Indian audiences who must understand both the Urdu spoken by Akbar and pure Hindi spoken by the princess.

It will be the first Bollywood movie I will rent/see. As I said, there is always a first time for everything.

Update :  I eventually saw it on Netflix. It was marvelous! Highly recommended.

More to enjoy :
The Jewels and Jewelry Obsession of Shah Jahan Akbar's grandson had a major jewelry obsession - his hoard was so vast, cataloguing it all would have taken years.
Tammy's Indian Style Bracelet In the trailer, there is one scene where Jodhaa wears what looks like a pearl and ruby bracelet with finger extension. Tammy is one beader who created her own based on this style of jewelry.

References
______________________________
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 

12 comments :

Dina Cuomo said...

Great article. I will be back to read more. I love your blog.

The Beading Gem said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my movie review. Thanks for the lovely comment - it keeps me going here!

Miachelle said...

Another great movie for jewelry was "Apocolypto." The jewelry designer for that movie is a complete unknown...pity...her designs were so fabulous in that movie. The nose pieces and the chest plates had me breathless in the movie.

I'll have to check this movie out as well

The Beading Gem said...

Thanks Miachelle! I am going to check out your tip. When we hyperventilate seeing jewelry in the movies, that's when we KNOW we are true jewelry artisans!

Lonni said...

Indian jewelry is so exotic! Awesome post.

Lindley said...

Wow, those pieces look amazing! I wonder if they plan to auction the pieces off after the movie to recoup some of the investment; I can't even imagine how much the materials must be for that sort of work. I've never watched a Bollywood movie, but I think I may get this one!

The Beading Gem said...

Thanks Lonni and Lindley for your comments!

Tanishq has no plans to sell the jewelry they created for the movie, according to the Hindustani Times. It is really much too heavy to wear. They will however create a more affordable line inspired by the movie.

Tusheeta said...

Dear Pearl, Interesting article about the jewellery. I am a jewellery designer who worked for Tanishq for 5 and a half years. Jodha Akhbar was Tanishq's second venture into Bollywood, the first being an Oscar nominated film from India in the best foreign film category called Paheli. I designed te jewellery for this film and you might want to see that too while you are in the spirit of Bollywood!! :)

The Beading Gem said...

Tusheeta - that is so cool! I didn't know Tanishq had previously designed for another movie. I'm off to check it out. BTW, please contact me by email. I would love to do a feature designer article if you are interested.

Horse'n'Garden said...

Ok.. I just love your review and it makes me want to see the movie, even though subtitles annoy me! LOL And just the few clips you have here show some stunning work!
But I just have to say, how COOL is it that thanks to the internet, you get to 'meet' Tusheeta!! This could not have happened just 10 years ago! (or 15 or whatever, you know what I mean!)
I have met so many new friends and found so much useful info through blogs like yours! I love that you post things that aren't strictly jewelry related.. but they still are! Thanks for all your hardwork on this blog!

The Beading Gem said...

Actually my whole blog would not be possible without the internet!! And like you I have so many friends and learned a great deal myself.

Chrissi said...

Bollywood movies- especially some of the older ones really do inspire, the jewellery colours and scenery are just so beautiful- you could not fail to love them- I first started watching them in the '70s and they really were awesome then, and the historical epics- the jewellery and colours are just mouthwatering

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