on 11 January 2002
Asoka, the story of the first all-India emperor who introduced Buddhism to the country, is a cinematic treat for anyone who has even a remote acquaintance with Bollywood films. It stars devilishly lovable rogue Shah Rukh Khan at his most naturalistic and commanding best as the emperor Asoka, and haughtily gorgeous Kareena Kapoor, Bollywood's latest superstar actress, as the Kalingan princess he falls in love with. The plot manages to combine typical Bollywood love-story-with-a-tragic-twist with a genuine - though liberally inventive - exploration and dramatisation of historical events. Asoka is the first real character of Indian history and as such, is seen as a nation-builder. The film certainly gives the impression of both the epic sweep of history and of the sophistication and breadth of 1st millenia BC Indian civilisation, and is lavishly photographed, designed, costumed and shot in every scene. The battle scenes - some of the best I've seen - are vast and not computer generated, with elephants fighting alongside footsoldiers, and the audience is not spared from grisliness of war. This is a film with a message: one learnt by the real Asoka and disseminated across his nation. War brings no benefits. Violence is evil. The violence in the film is given an ultra-realism and morality that Hollywood doesn't match, while you can thrill, at the same time, to the sight of a spear point within millimetres of Shah Rukh Khan's eyeball, or the sight of Kareena wielding a sword on the battlefield in defence of her people.
If you are prepared to settle in for the epic length, this film is a treat. It has fewer songs than the standard Bollywood fare, is more naturalistic, has marvellous cinematography including time-shift shots, two of the greatest modern Bollywood stars, and effortlessly sweeps you through its full three hours leaving you breathless and almost overwhelmed at the end.
I only don't give it five stars because if you don't like Bollywood, you might find its traditional Bollywood conventions a bit distracting at first. Otherwise it is cinema at its best from beginning to end.
on 9 February 2006
I have a very poor opinion of Bollywood movies (most of which consist of half-naked women gyrating on screen, the set-location moving impossibly from Egypt in one moment to Switzerland in the next. Weak plots combine with goofy all-dancing/all-singing numbers, normally).
I watched this movie with much trepidation (I am of Indian origin, and am totally clueless of India's rich culture/history). This film just swept me away, words cannot describe the sheer euphoria that rushed through me when watching this masterpiece unfold. Lush locations, beauteous women clad in the simplest of garments, an intriguing plot with no end of twists and turns, interesting-looking weapons and fight-scenes, subtle humour, a blossoming romance. This is a sparkling gem of a film that rivals such others like 'Braveheart' and 'Gladiator'. Based on actual fact and history (along with a few legends), it tells the story of a mighty prince - Asoka (played with utter conviction by the infamous Shahrukh Khan), and his love for a woman in exile, his "Warrior" - fiesty Princess Kaurwaki (played by the charming Kariena Kapoor); believing that his love is lost, and angered by the murder of his beloved mother, Asoka slowly sinks into a consuming despair and dementia, and starts to "destroy everything", slaughtering innocents and conquering lands, in his wish to be "the greatest emperor on earth". This culminates in the great war he wages against his neighbouring kingdom of Kalinga (this movie, is in fact, dedicated to the people of Kalinga, who were hopelessly outnumbered and so brave in the face of adversity). Asoka, at the end of this bloody war, sees jarringly for the first time all the death, despair and hatred he has caused, and finally turns to a life of non-violence and peace, spreading Buddhism across the world. This is but the bare skeleton of the plot, there is so much more to this enchanting and beautifully tragic tale. This film takes its time to unfold (about 3 hours long), but one cannot help but enjoy every moment of it.
I am so in love with this movie; it is one of those rare ones that really capture your heart and enthrall you. This August, I turn eighteen, and, in possession of my own credit-card, will purchase several copies of this film from Amazon; one for me, the others for friends. I would give this movie more stars if I could; EVERYONE should watch this. Believe me, you won't regret it.
on 1 December 2001
I saw the movie in Calcutta, without sub-titles but it was fascinating anyway! The movie depicts an important part of buddhist history in India, and combines this with a touching love story. It is a real Hindi movie: with song and dance and no kissing; but so well played that is was not necessary to understand Hindi.
Real captivating movie!
on 21 February 2007
I think that this film is alot better than many critics made out when the film was first released. I would definately say that it comes after Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in terms of Shah Rukh Khan's best films, and loved every bit of it, the songs, action sequences and love stories. Shah Rukh shows in this film that he has a great ability to perform the roles of 'goodies' and 'baddies', in the space of one film, and he makes you as a viewer hate him and love him at the same time. And this is coming from someone who isnt an obsessive SRK fan.
Definately a must see, even if you are not Asian, as I am not, and I still loved it.
The special features are also great value, as there are interviews with Santosh Sivan, SRK himself, and producer and film star Juhi Chawla, with clips of behind the scenes footage.
A great buy, I would recommend it to anyone.
on 20 January 2004
The first thing you notice about this film is the stunning cinematography, the richness of colour and the beauty of its setting. The story itself is an old fashioned, if gory historical romp. Based loosely on the tale of the historical tyrant turned monk of third century B.C., Asoka, this is a film that truly has everything. Although the songs went somewhat over my head, they work well within the film, and the choreography is quite mesmerising. It was also helped for me that Osaka married not just one, but two stunning women. I guess that goes with the job of Emporer. Having not seen a Hindi film in full before, i am determined not to make this my last. A wonderful, wonderful film, with a heart rending ending. A must for any open minded fans of cinema!
on 17 June 2004
This is the first Bollywood film I have ever watched - and I must say I am very impressed. Completely different in style to any film I have seen before, this added a new flavour to the genre for me. The graphics are beautiful, the actors are brilliant and the women are stunning and the songs were truly amazing.
A brilliant semi-fictional work, this is a film easily right up there with Gladiator and Braveheart, and, in my opinion, perhaps even better. The love story is both convincing and quite gut-wrenching too. All in all, I would say this is a must-buy, even if only to watch something different for a change, that is not dominated by the hollywood-style.
Buy this film - it rules:)
on 16 August 2002
This is an excellent film not only for the film itself but for the DVD itself. It is the story of one of India's greatest emperors - Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya who ascended to the Magadha throne in 3rd centuary BC. It is not a complete historical account but more like the director's interpretation of all the various legends surrounding this man's journey from ruthless conqueror to enlightend monk spreading Buddhism throughout the world.
The film is beautifully shot with a very well thought out plot which is only accuentuated by the DVD. The DVD version has brilliant animated menus with the all the usuals such scene selections, song selections and some special features.
This is a film which I believe will appeal to everyone even people who do not understand hindi/tamil as the DVD has english subtitles
on 5 March 2006
Most of what people know about Asoka is pure fantasy. For example, it is widely believed that Ashoka, out of disgust and sorrow over all the blood he shed, renounces violence and becomes a Buddhist. The details about this, however, comes from text written several hundred years after his death. Historic fact is that he probably did not become a Buddhist, and he became the model emperor in order to peacefully consolidate his conquests. If he had renounced violence and was sorry for what he had done, why did he not return the land he had taken? Any good history book will clarify this.
Now, about the film:
The film Asoka takes the fantasy, and fantasizes about it, creating a whole new level of fantasy, which is the story the film follows. It is pure Bollywood melodrama: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get separated, boy thinks girl dies, boy eventually remarries, invades her country, and fights her army in battle. Okay, the last bit doesn't fit any of the normal formulas. But, change the clothing, and it's a standard Bollywood film.
The movie is, emphatically, not "as good as Gladiator" or Braveheart. The battle scenes are disappointing. Apparantly, rolling burning logs down a hillside will defeat an entire army. Well, of course it would do if they all stand there screaming and falling about the place, as they do in Asoka. There are amazing lapses in storyline continuity. For example, Asoka is lying at death's door. Then he's up and hunting. Then he's back in his sick bed and unaware of what's going on around him. Switches from day to night and back to day again seem to occur within a few minutes (depending on which lighting is more dramatic for the shot). Taking Bollywood standards into account, it is not nearly as good a historic melodrama as "Mughal-e-Azam", for example.
Having said all of that, if you accept that almost nothing of the story is at all factual, and that it is a "heightened emotional drama", as is the usual case with Indian films, and if you accept that continuity is not a priority in a Bollywood film, then Asoka is quite an enjoyable film. The story has its own interest, and the song and dance bits are fascinating. The cinematography is quite good by Bollywood standards. So, judging it purely on the basis of its own story, and by the expectations of a Bollywood film, I give it four stars.
If you can enjoy Bollywood films, then the four stars apply to you. If you can't step into their world and mindset, then you won't enjoy this one.
on 17 September 2005
This is a classic - It started off like an arty Indian movie with stagey character acting (which can be off putting!) but when the story moves to Asoka's adventure as a normal everyman - the movie takes on elements of classic Bollywood with some nice songs and romantic storyline.
The martial arts sequences are stylised and surprisingly quite dramatic - Particularly Danny Denzongpa's final battle - and the war scene at the climax.
I was extremely surprised at how good this film was and at the time of its release critics compared it to Braveheart and Gladiator - Although this movie surpasses both those films in terms of its cinematic direction, sheer scale and storyline. I would rate this film on a par with classics such as 'Dances With Wolves'.
This is more than worth the asking price (Its a steal!).
A movie no one should miss.
on 27 October 2015
If your interested in Sumrat Ashoka like me get this film. If your into Indian history and interested in the Greatest Indian Emporer India has ever had this DVD will give you an insight.
If you have no interest in Indian history or Bollywood don't buy it but it's good value for money. Quality of picture is clear.