Time and again a question keeps popping up - Is Indian audience interested in watching a historical? While the record in the recent past hasn't been anything great, one still ventures into 'Taj Mahal' solely for watching a costume drama unfold on screen. Producer-director Akbar Khan has carried this dream for years and one felt that the movie may not really be an outright reject. Sadly, after watching the movie, the only things that remains with you are the gloss'n'look and a couple of well crafted action sequences.
The movie begins on an excellent note with battle lines being drawn between Shahjahan's [Kabir Bedi] sons Aurangzeb [Arbaaz Khan], who wants to capture the throne and Dara Shikoh [Vaquar Sheikh], who wants to retain it for his father. A well crafted action sequence follows that is brilliantly executed on a VAST canvas. The proceedings simply amaze you with the drama that follows and the first 20 minutes make you wonder if Taj Mahal is more than just a costume drama.
While Dara is captured, Shahjahan along with his daughter Jehan Ara [Manisha Koirala] are put on a house arrest. In his moments with his daughter, Shahjahan tells her the stories from his past beginning with his first meeting with his lady love Arjumand [Sonya Jehan]. A romance follows soon that is unacceptable to Empress Noor Jehan [Pooja Batra] who wants Shajahan [Zulfi Syed in earlier years] to get married to her daughter Ladli Begum [Kim Sharma] from her first husband. She tries to create a rift between Shahjahan and her father Emperor Jehanagir [Arbaaz Ali]. How true love conquers all obstacles and what prompts Shahjahan to build Taj Mahal to its eventual creation takes the movie to its conclusion!
Story wise, it is perfectly fine to see something unfold on screen about which you have heard before. In fact as long as there are drama moments galore, things continue to keep you excited. First Arbaaz Khan and then later Pooja Batra keep you glued to your seats. But the moments when these two are missing from the scene, things fail to move forward. Zulfi acts with sincerity and comes across as a confident personality, but Sonya Jehan is inconsistent in her performance.
Length of the movie is one major factor that doesn't allow a viewer to have an attention span. While the first half is average [after a brilliant beginning], the second half just doesn't move at certain junctures. Scenes are stretched endlessly while towards the climax the movie just doesn't end. In fact when Kabir Bedi finishes narrating his story towards the pre-climax, one expects that 'The End' title soon but the movie keeps going on for a good 12-13 minutes with the final nail in the coffin being a song taking you back in the flashback mode again! This is the reason why editing leaves a lot to be desired. Special effects are mostly ineffective and one can almost always make out their presence!
Background music is fine but the songs by Naushad saab test the patience of today's generation. Whenever a song comes, it simply dilutes the built up done by the script. Except for the 'qawalli' track 'Ishq Ehsaas Hai' that features the tussle between Sonya and Kim, none of the other tracks keep you glued.
Some of the factors that still make you see some positives in the movie are the battle sequences [Sham Kaushal], costumes [Anna Singh] and sets [Ratnakar Y. Phadke]. Dialogues [Mohafiz Hyder & Rajeev Mirza] have a beautiful feel to it and justify the era in which the movie has been made. R. M. Rao's cinematography is consistent and the black & gray feel to the battle sequences stands out.
Amongst the performances, the ones who impress most are Zulfi Syed, Pooja Batra, Arbaaz Khan and Kabir Bedi. Zulfi acts with a lot of dignity that befits the character he portrays and displays a varied range of emotions [love, passion