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102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Both stylish and stylized, Santosh Sivan's Hindi epic Asoka tells the heavily fictionalized but nonetheless compelling story of India's greatest emperor. In the third century B.C., the Mauryan king Asoka built a vast empire by means of ruthless conquest; but after the great Kalinga war he became sickened by the terrible slaughter he had caused, converted to Buddhism and dedicated the rest of his life to spreading peace and prosperity.

The film, though, concerns itself only with Asoka's rise to power, his love for the princess Kaurwaki, and his subsequent descent into brutality. Shah Rukh Khan is a brooding and temperamental prince who woos the lovely princess Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor) incognito and with the aid of the obligatory song-and-dance numbers. After a promising start involving mythic swords, heroic combat, and King Lear-like sibling rivalry, the film falls into a familiar Bollywood groove for a while until events overtake the unlucky lovers and Asoka turns mean when he thinks his princess is dead. She in turn searches vainly for her handsome hero, not knowing his real identity; and when the tyrannical Asoka attacks her kingdom she leads her people against his armies in a near-genocidal war. The finale, after a wonderfully staged battle that employs 6,000 extras, is genuinely touching.

Throughout, the film works best when striving for a realistic tone, though the fairy tale romance and song interludes are doubtless contrived to please the domestic Indian audience more than cynical Europeans. It's a shame that Asoka's true greatness is never realized on screen, as the story ends before his momentous conversion, but as a film that tackles big themes with real visual flair Asoka nonetheless deserves to find a worldwide audience. --Mark Walker

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Danny Denzongpa, Rahul Dev, Hrishitaa Bhatt
  • Directors: Santosh Sivan
  • Writers: Santosh Sivan, Abbas Tyrewala, Saket Chaudhary
  • Producers: Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Mark Burton, Sanjiv Chawla
  • Format: Color, Director's Cut, NTSC
  • Language: Hindi
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Millennium
  • DVD Release Date: April 23, 2002
  • Run Time: 176 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005RYLQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,364 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Asoka" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Ernie Negus on July 3, 2003
Format: DVD
If you don't want plot details revealed to you, stop reading NOW! My apologies to any Evelyn Wood Speed-Readers, whose training no doubt kicked in and they already read the rest of this review in a blink.
In case you don't know (I admit - I had to look it up), the term "bollywood" is a nickname for Bombay India, where they produce over 600 films a year - a number that puts the real Hollywood to shame.
For some reason, reviewers on always seem to be much more generous than other sites that have user-submitted reviews. On other sites, like MouthShut and Epinions, most of the reviews on Asoka are generally far less than favorable. Most of these negative reviews complain about historical inaccuracies.
For example: 200 BC predates indigo dye, so everyone in that period should have been wearing some shade of brown. Bindusara had many wives and fathered over 100 sons. There is absolutely no evidence that Asoka murdered his brothers, in fact there is evidence that many of his step brothers were generals in his battle campaigns. There was no Princess Kaurwati and he never married her. Yada. Yada. Yada.
Some people were even offended by this film, saying that it is blasphemy to suggest that the great Asokas' turning point was due to sorrow over the death of Ayra and the lust for a Kaurwati instead of the disgust over the senseless violence.
Well, sorry people, but if I wanted to see a movie where everyone wore drabby looking outfits, but is historically accurate, I'd go to the history channel. This movie IS NOT a documentary. Artistic license flows free!
With that said, I'll now clue you in on my REAL gripes about this film. The DVD cover depicts Asoka with an army of extras riding on horseback to battle.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2002
Format: DVD
I have seen quite a bit of Indian film but none like this. This film was so different from the typical "Bollywood" cinema I was pleasantly take back by it. What was most impressive about the film was the role of Asoka. The character was portrayed with so much dimension and complexity that I felt every bit of his love, pain, loss, anger, and sorrow as I watched. The performance by Shahrukh Khan was amazing, as if he was born to play this role. The beautiful (and brave for the director didn't allow any makeup for the film's heroine, save the henna tatoos) Kaurwaki, portrayed by Kareena Kapoor reflected the female counter part to Asoka. The same intensity and raw passion showed her own journey through love, gain, and loss as Asoka.
On first sight, some viewers may be offended by the costumes worn by Kaurwaki (as it is a bit scant) but the actress carries it off well and with dignity making her fit in well with the historical setting of the piece.
The beauty and cinematic grandeur of the film was also fantastic to watch. I wish they would have put it in wide-screen however, as it cuts off a lot of the beauty of the landscape. The whole set is kept simple yet beautiful and mesmerizing, making it believable that such an emperor lived and existed at that particular time. The battle scenes were fantastic and one of the finest ever seen. It lacked the goriness of the Gladiator but it conveyed the devastation of war just as strongly.
I can go on forever with praises for the film, but I won't. Just buy it or rent it, it's worth it. The complexity of the story, the characters, and the richness of the set and cinematography puts this film on my A list. To top it off the music is beautiful and haunting, wonderfully choreographed, even if you're not into "musicals.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 14, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Asoka inspires mixed emotions. On the one hand, there are elements of pure beauty and love and then you have a contrast in the horrors of war. The cinematography is rich and awe-inspiring. I was literally mesmerized.

This is not a romance in the sense of peace and love, this is a tragic tale of two hearts looking for one another amidst a world of betrayal and deceit. Not to mention a lust for power. The plot is complex and there are elements of revenge, cruelty and battles on a large scale.

The intensity in the contrast is at times overwhelming. The action never seems to subside into a moment of peace. Either passion dances across the screen or horror and suspense surround the characters. The musical numbers give some relief from the intensity, yet they are also equally vibrant.

This legendary story is recorded in a second century book called the "Asokavadana." The movie is based loosely on the story and at the end there is the implication of the renunciation of war.

"Love wounds in a way that does not let you live or die."

It is emotional from the start and is dark in its lust for power and beautiful in its exotic swirling dance sequences. An almost mythological atmosphere pervades the film in places.

The story begins when Asoka's grandfather tosses his sword into a waterfall because the sword hungers for blood. As his grandfather leaves, Asoka searches for the sword and finds it.

When he is older his life is in danger. His mother, Dharma (Subhashini Ali), asks him to save his life by fleeing. After changing his name to Pawan, he meets Kaurwaki who is following a similar fate and is hiding out in the lush green countryside with her much younger brother Prince Arya.
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