A new Bollywood epic will recreate the Mughal-era romance of a Muslim emperor and a Hindu princess, a marriage of power that fed popular folklores about how enduring love blossomed.
The marriage of Mughal emperor Akbar with princess Hira Kunwari has fascinated India for 450 years, and the makers of Jodhaa-Akbar say they want to show how the couple broke cultural and religious barriers.
The film features two of Bollywood's biggest stars, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.
Hira Kunwari, known in popular folklore as Empress Jodhaa, was the fiery daughter of a Hindu king who is said to have wielded a strong influence on the emperor.
"How the two resolved cultural differences and shared a perfect arranged marriage is fascinating," says director Ashutosh Gowariker.
<b1>"The way they handled their relationship is relevant for couples today."
Its release postponed twice, Jodhaa-Akbar is eagerly awaited by an audience already teased with trailers and posters of the Mughal era, complete with massive battlefield settings with elephants and horsemen, regalia and exotic costumes.
Considered the greatest among all Mughal emperors, Akbar ascended the throne at 13, but he quickly secured political success by a shrewd blend of military aggression and diplomacy.
He won the allegiance of the Rajputs, a warrior caste, after he entered into a matrimonial alliance with Jodhaa. But the beautiful empress resented being a mere political pawn at the hands of an emperor who has to win her confidence and her love.
Jodhaa, about whom little is recorded in history, is said to have influenced royal policy, upsetting a section of the royalty and making enemies.
"The marriage had nationwide reverberations in a society far more conservative," says Gowariker, adding that how the marriage affected those times was a question relevant even today.
The life of Akbar, an illiterate ruler but with a refined taste, has inspired many Indian plays, television series and films.
"Care has been taken for the sets, the clothes, to dialogues and protocol, and even incidental sights and sounds of those times," says Gowariker, whose 2001 period film Lagaan (Land Tax) was short-listed for an Academy Award for the best foreign film.
Jodhaa-Akbar is set to open on Feb 15.