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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
Another masterful film depicting an historical period. Given as a gift.Published 2 months ago by Baraq Chagar
In history Asoka can be claimed to occupy a position similar to Constantine the Great. Only instead of spreading Christianity, he spread Buddhism. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ryan Costa
Really liked this dramatization of Ashoka. Although it was not accurate, it was still good acting.Published 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
I loved this movie I just wished they talked in English instead of English version.Published 9 months ago by Amy M Gusty
My brother and I saw this movie a looonngg time ago. So excited to see that amazon really does offer a variety "from A to Z". Great movie!!Published 19 months ago by Blmtfish
Show it to your classes! At least you can show it up until when Ashoka thinks Karwaki is dead, which is around 45 minutes into this 3 hour extravaganza. Read morePublished 20 months ago by JTP