Ashoka the Great (2001)
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The actors are attractive and enjoyable, the battle scenes were enhanced by NOT using CGG. By keeping shots local, on real actors, as opposed to long distance pans of computer generated people, it simply looked better. CGG, as shown in the movie THE PATRIOT; looked phony and to a viewers intuition, felt phony. Kudos to the producers for keeping it real.
My only beef was the time length of the film, and just a few too many melodramatic moments of pathos. This kind of going for the heart-strings style of screenwriting can backfire, if one goes to the well too often.
The music and dance numbers were pretty terrific, albeit through my western eyes. Their tempos were sweetly romantic, or heartfelt in their display of sadness, depending on the case. All were artistic, interesting and entertaining.
ASOKA, the biography of an Indian Prince, is recommended.
That said, Asoka is a film that I enjoyed very much. The story is epic, complex, and deeply layered, and it almost had me crying in the end (VERY few films can do this). The cast is fantastic, and they did an excellent job. The costumes and the sets were equally great. It's runtime is at 2 hours 45 minutes, but I was left hoping it was going to go a little bit longer. I wanted to know what happened to Davi, and I wanted to learn a few things from Asoka's latter days --when he embarked on his journey towards peace.
This film is great, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again.
If you are not a veteran of Hindi films, then you may not fully appreciate this movie... You kinda have to be used to the subtitles, used to the music/dance sequences, and the basic formula that all Hindi films follow, in regards to romance. I mean, the story doesnt focus on Asoka's romantic life, but it does play an important role... Once you get past the first 15 minutes or so, the story really takes off. The story basically is how Prince Asoka rose to power to become King Asoka, and can happen when one is overcome with blind vengeance, despair and hatred...
Shahrukh Khan (Asoka) has got to be by far, the best male Indian actor Ive seen, besides maybe Om Puri. He has great chemistry with Kareena Kapoor and overall, the movie is well-acted.
Asoka is more reminiscent of Braveheart (excellent film), not Gladiator (terrible garbage), which the liner notes suggest. If there is a weak point, it might be the editing...alot of times, after a cut, I felt like there was too big a jump and a scene missing....
Overall an A. I recommend it, especially if you are interested in Indian culture...its based on real events around 3rd century BC.
The film begins with the young Prince Asoka (Shah Rukh Khan) as a boy who watches his father accept Jainism, a peaceful religion that encourages him to toss aside his sword, which has caused much bloodshed. The young boy is intrigued by the weapon and picks up the new toy, masters it and soon learns that with the power of yielding this sword comes a great price. A warrior is born who fights many battles yet it is quickly established that this young man is very much fighting human wars, quenching a thirst for power and balancing this with his love for his family, particularly his mother. His mother renounces her son's violent ways and requests him to undergo the greatest education any person can: a journey.
On his journey as an ordinary traveller, the prince encounters friends and learns to eat peasant food with his trusty horse Pawan, who mirroring an opposite reflection to Asoka's seemingly black heart, is pure white with eyes that steal the heart of anyone who gazes into them. While exploring through a forest he meets the Princess Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor), whose eyes mesmerise one moment and warn off invaders in a blink. She is the embodiment of beauty and the prince introduces himself as Pawan to her, only to find there is a price on her head and she, accompanied by General Bheema (Rahul Dev) and young Prince Arya (Suraj Balaji), are on their own journey to make it alive to Kalinga where their destiny awaits them.
The journey of Asoka continues with trials and love, jealousy and betrayal, all making up cornerstones of what Prince Asoka experiences along the way. He falls flawlessly in love with Kaurwaki, and she becomes his soul and purpose of living, but destiny strikes a blow only to begin a mission born in rage and spread by blood. To reveal the rest of the movie would be taking too much from the audiences' viewing pleasure but the journey for Asoka is far from over.
A story of a traveller's travels, his education that is the journey, the loves and losses and wars and redemption all encompass this 173 minute epic that grips the viewer from the moment the camera pans down onto Asoka, as if indicating it is descending onto a mountain full of riches within, up until the deeply disturbing ending, which leaves the viewer with a ray of hope before the credits flash to announce not the end of the story but the beginning.
Santosh Sivan's camerawork and direction are par excellence, as his unique flash-technique and use of many shots to accentuate a minor detail in a scene all add together to create a cleverly woven story immortalised on film. In some sequences the camera cuts like a sword with flashes of residue left lingering both on screen and in the viewer's mind, yet in others following, he uses less shots and still manages to maintain rhythm. A film such as Asoka cannot be appreciated on a single viewing alone as upon initial contact one is simply bombarded with an onslaught of visual delights, spellbinding sounds and a story that emerges from our past but still reaches into the depths of every man's soul.
Performance wise Shah Rukh Khan is the life of the movie. His acting prowess is detailed to the fullest in emotional gut-wrenching scenes, that portray innocence, rage, peace and longing all through his demeanour and eye-language. Asoka's arrogance and clarity of his every action, coupled with the consistent river of flowing energy is evident through the actor's performance which to his credit leaves one finding the line which ends with the character and turns into actor. Asoka could not only be Shah Rukh's greatest screen incarnation, but also a clear message to international cinema of his screen presence, dedication and mastery of his art.
Kareena Kapoor, as the warrior princess who acts as sister and mother figure to Arya, a cautious then enduring lover to Asoka and emerges as someone on her own personal journey, in search of her identity and sense of belonging while juggling her duties, heart and mind in a three ring circus, Kareena gives what is by far her finest performance to date. After her innocent and natural debut in Refugee, she is finally allowed to once more realise her potential and play a character that only she could do justice to. Her look sans make up, except a few lines accentuating her eyes as the window to her soul, is as pure as the princess herself and the image of her going to get milk, fully wrapped except for her eyes is of sheer cinematic delight. Kareena has mastered the art of acting with her whole body in a short span of time and her performance in Asoka proves this. One hopes her potential is continually unlocked and her future holds many more performances and films of this calibre.
It is ironical that a film inspired by history is destined to make history itself by being the first Indian masterpiece to be shown at so many festivals, in so many countries and shown nationwide breaking into mainstream British cinema. It is certainly one of Indian cinema's finest offerings and deserves the attention it is bound to receive, missing out on this homage to true cinematic form would be like missing history. Go see it.
One of the highlights for me was the music. In spite of owning the CD and seeing video clips on MTV, I was unprepared for the lush, sumptuous sounds enveloping me like an embrace, combined with alluring picturization. I would have loved to have seen more of the underwater scene in ROSHNI SE - innovative and full of grace and playfulness.
The Baadshah (King) of Bollywood, SHAH RUKH KHAN, demonstrates his personal aura of majesty and magnetism- classy, gutsy, seductive and intense, he IS Asoka incarnate: imperious, vengeful or romantic, .every move and emotion delivering a message of Grace, Truth and Sincerity straight to the viewer's heart.
More famously known for his exuberant dancing, irrepressible energy and audacity, Shah Rukh's flawless portrayal is so internalized and contained, with moments of chilling stillness, that it's difficult to remember any of his previous persona. Shah Rukh in his prime is a formidable, unforgettable vision.
Another highlight was Shah Rukh's graceful Kallaripayattu (martial art) and one-on-one combat scenes (especially with the enthralling snake sword) almost balletic in execution (no pun intended) - giving added dimension to the phrase `Poetry In Motion'.
Shah Rukh's intensity reminds me of Martin Sheen who was 35 in Francis Ford Coppola's `Apocalypse Now', a highlight of Hollywood history in its time, the same age as Shah Rukh in Asoka.
The entire cast lends excellent support, with many outstanding scenes, and no disappointments. Karriena is bewitching, young Suraj beguiling, and Rahul Dev fiercely protective, to help flesh out Santosh Sivan's magnificent movie. Ajith Kumar impresses more every time I see this movie, and successfully evokes sympathy from an unsympathetic role.
Costume and set design forsake the typical lavish `royal' trimmings, giving a clean, timeless look of elegant simplicity to haunting visuals in soft muted colours (except for the rich, rich, red and stunning peacock blue fabrics) in subtle harmony with the luxurious foliage. God bless Santosh Sivan, a visionary in an industry of mediocrity! (I wonder if he's met Francis Ford Coppola?)
History of Asoka? .not necessarily!
History of Cinema? .but definitely!
The ending left me panting to know what happened next, much like young `Arya' wanting `Pavan' to continue his story-telling ~ is this a clever way to make us beg for a sequel: ASOKA Part II? Mr Sivan, Sir, are you listening?
FINAL NOTE: The exquisite Book on The Making of Asoka (Mushtaq Shiekh, writer, HarperCollins Publishers) completes and further enriches the magical, mythical experience of ASOKA.
*SANDI* SRK's AUSSIE FAN #1
The music first of all is...very cool. Yes, its not yr typical music of the Indian setting but if u listen, Anu Malik has done something very interesting with the classical instruments of the age. This music has an evolved feel to it, that actually serves the movie very well. Its was an ambitious move that the director pulled off. So many bollywood films have the same songs, the same formula, the same dreary uninventive sound - these songs were different sounding, even if they touched on the same typical subjects. And the lyrics are beautiful in a lot of them (granted not the 'tayar hoja').
the script wasn't amazing but far surpasses the embarrassing lines of some many other Indian movies but it served its purpose. the actions scenes were better crafted then most Indian cinema pieces - the use of cgi would have been tacky and poor - until we have an industry that can create a war scene on full scale its a bad idea.. Shah rukh khan did a good job, kareena kapoor was beautiful (and I'm not a big fan). no one acted cringingly as so many Indian actors do.
finally, yes, the movie may have achieved something more had it been historically correct, but u r warned as a viewer that the film isn't historically correct and some features are fictional. who cares? its still good cinema. not everything needs a wonderful sweeping message.
the beginning of the film is simply marvelous, with the emperor Chandragupta Mauriya, renouncing the throne and advising the young prince Asoka not to use the sword.
the story moves quickly onwards projecting asoka as a competent, even brilliant general but ruthless and ambitious. he is embroiled in intrigues with his step brothers, and with his father who is under the power of his step mother who is hostile to his very presence. unable to tame the haughty prince his mother forces him to go into exile.
the plot meanders a little until he meets the princess kaurwaki. interesting sequences follow with a heartbreaking partition of the two lovers and the eventual betrayal of asoka by his brothers.
the emotional parts are fantastic with poetic cinematography. there is some thing for everyone in this film.
Shah rukh khan once again proves that when it comes to the Indian film industry, there are few who can equal him. his screen presence is immense, and once he is on, there is nothing else you can help notice.
Kareena kapoor is good, as the destitute yet haughty princess Kaurwaki.
Supporting castes are excellent, with a special mention of Danny denzongpa, who acts his part to perfection.
the conclusion of the film is in the massive battle of Kalinga. here the fight sequences are real (not animated), with real time filming. hence the effect is great. the stunts though look like expressive ballet at times.
the only thing lacking is an all too brief exposure to the spiritual side of the event,(of the emperor renouncing violence). since this was the turning point in his life a little more on this and a little less on the romance between Asoka and Kaurwaki would have made this a definite hit.
all in all, a marvelous piece of cinema. a must watch for ANYONE.
''Asoka'' is a very beautiful film, with a great cinematography, scenarios and clothes. It is also a great epic from the Indian movies that deserves to be watched by people of all ages, and even not being 100% faithful about the real Asoka's life, it is a great adaptation of it. The only two things I need to complain are :
+ The songs, that are not a masterpiece like in ''Lagaan'' and also doesn't have anything to do with the story of the movie. In most of the Indian movies , the songs always have lyrics about what is happening to the characters. In ''Asoka'' they don't.
+ The end of the film. After the tension if Kaurwaki and Asoka are going to be together or not, the end should show at least a little bit about their lives as a noble couple. Another thing I missed, was to see the good things Asoka did for his people, like spreading the Buddhism and doing great constructions and monuments. It would help the end to be better, specially after seeing such a massive destruction and annihilation.
Finally, many things of ''Asoka'' remembers me another great epic movie called ''Atilla'', that is directed by Dick Lowry: the way Asoka stays angry and starts to be a monster ,killing everybody after the supposed death of Kaurwaki, is very similar of Atilla 's behavior when his wife N'Kara dies.
And Kauwarki being undercover and protected by General Bheema, remembers me a classic from Akira Kurosawa,''Kakushi-toride no san-akunin''', more well known as ''The Hidden fortress'', where the general Rokurota Makabe takes care of princess yuki in an identical situation of Kauwarki.
Prince Asoka,after leaving his kingdom by his mother's wishes (since he is being hunted by his own brothers), falls in love with the beautiful princess Kaurwaki. Kaurwaki doesn't know he is a prince, but eventually falls in love with him too, spite of the efforts of the general to let her safe from everybody, since she and her brother are being hunted by the Kallinga traitors.
But when Asoka returns his kingdom to talk with his mother, he doesn't find Kaurwaki , thinking that she was killed by the Kallinga traitors, he falls into despair and becomes a brutal emperor.
"Asoka" is a spectacular epic from Bolywood. In Brazil, there are very few Indian movies released on DVD, but all of them are excellent. "Asoka" is one of the best, with a beautiful romance, very dramatic situations and great actions scenes, and a touching conclusion. The actress Karriena Kapoor is extremely beautiful and sexy, and has a great chemistry with Shah Rukh Khan. The boy Sooraj Balaji has a great performance in the role of a prince. Unfortunately the lyrics of the songs have not been translated in the Brazilian DVD. From other Bolywood movies, I am sure that the songs are very important, since they always tell something about the feelings of the characters in that moment. By the way, the music score is excellent. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Asoka"
Santosh Sivan, the gifted cinematographer best known in the USA for the art-house hit "The Terrorist," and in India for his work with director Mani Ratnam, switches gears completely. While "The Terrorist" was a tiny, contemplative drama, "Asoka" is bigger than big, a total opposite. In fact, I read that the war sequence was the largest of its kind ever filmed in the history of Indian cinema.
Asoka, a little-known figure in the West, was a bloodthirsty maniac who became a bastion for peace and tolerance through Buddhism in the 3rd century, ce. The film is a journey, a character study, of Asoka's progression to the time when he first embraced the Buddha. Some have complained that there is nothing in the film about his conversion to Buddhism, but that is really not the film's point. The events that led up to this transformation are what the film is really about.
Particular attention needs to be made to the cinematography and editing--it is nothing short of extraordinary. Done with an uncanny sensitivity, Sivan brings third century India to breathing, bustling life in a way that, perhaps, no one else could deliver with such vitality and beauty. However, portions of the editing are a little too MTV for my taste, with white flashes and jump-cuts interrupting establishing shots. It functions well, though, during the fight scenes. It is a strange dichotomy between art and commercial cinema. You'll never see swordplay in the same way again.
Pay attention to the acting, too--it is excellent. Kareena Kapoor proves that she's a much finer actress than her older sister, Karisma, and Shahrukh Khan, currently India's biggest star, gives the performance of his life. Both show incredible nuances. Also, Suraj Balaje, who plays the young prince Arya, shows a surprising maturity, and even comedian Johnny Lever, in a cameo role as a soldier, is excellent. If you are not familiar with commercial Indian cinema, the acting may seem like it is a bit over the top, but here, the entire cast, especially the leads, shows tremendous restraint. Know, however, that the over-the-top acting style, a staple of commercial Indian cinema, has a direct connection to traditions that are hundreds and hundreds years old, in the classical styles of the Sanskrit and Parsee theater.
The inevitable comparisons between "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Asoka" are warranted. This is the first commercial Indian film to receive nationwide distribution in the US, in this case through the independent First Look Pictures, and it is poised to bring an otherwise unknown filmmaking tradition in the American mainstream to a wide US audience. Both films are sumptuous recreations of history, although this film is based on an actual historical figure and CTHD is based on a novel. Both films have amazing fight choreography, "Asoka's" done without the aid of computers. Personally, I am biased toward commercial Indian cinema because it holds much more of a mystique. Sadly, because of the image that commercial Indian cinema holds in the USA, it may never see the wide audience that this film so deserves.
Whereas the Hong Kong action picture has heavy doses of martial arts, the commercial Indian film has songs, akin to musicals but, in this case, more like music videos. There are five songs in the film, and they may be a turn-off to those not familiar with mainstream Indian cinema. However, they are well-integrated into the story line, and they are among the best filmi (Indian film songs) I have ever heard, combining modern and ancient instruments with just a touch of electronica. The film really loses some of its impact if they are cut--they are that important. They are well-picturized (term for the filming of musical numbers in Indian cinema) and provide additional atmosphere. The influence of MTV is apparent in the editing style that takes over during the song sequences; this may interrupt the film's rhythm and impact, but they are part of the overall story. Unfortunately, I believe that the song sequences are being cut severely for international release, although I was lucky enough to see them in full DTS digital sound. Because of the need for Indian cinema to appeal to as wide an audience as possible (the all-India film), and because film-going in India is a family experience, films try to appeal to all members of the family. This means that violent scenes can turn into comedy, many genres are often combined, and there is neither sex nor nudity, not even kissing on the lips, because of a puritanical society. Overall, this may be seem cheesy to American audiences, but this is one of the pleasures of commercial Indian cinema. It is strange, though, with its lack of any nudity or sex, which are all suggested but never shown, that the film received an R rating. Yes, it is VERY violent, but the violence is quite stylized and often uses the power of suggestion rather than actual representation. I hope sincerely that, when First Look releases the DVD, the film is completely uncut and complete, with ALL the songs.
The film's last song, "Raat Ka Nasha," would be my Oscar pick for best song, an exemplar of superior filmi. The film itself definitely deserves an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. It is a big bonus to see a film of such high production values devoid of any references to Western civilization or without any Western aesthetics. Incredibly entertaining, something for everyone (music, drama, romance, violence), with unparalleled high-quality production values and a moving story, "Asoka" is a dynamite cinematic experience. It is that good. Peace.
If you want something off the beaten track. Something purely ethnic and not just a Hollywood production with minority players: give Asoka a chance. No, it may not be historically correct, but that wasn't the purpose of this movie. It's for pure entertainment and enjoyment and it succeeds very well in bringing both to the screen.
I've nothing against Bollywood, films are made as a form of mass entertainment and outside the American industry Bollywood stands heads and shoulders above all the other countries of the World put together which is evidence of its success , it's just that I find them unfocused when it comes to genres. Can you imagine a James Bond film suddenly turning into a musical ?
As for the " Epic " merits of ASOKA itself I was very disappointed. Within the first ten minutes we have a line stolen from CROCODILE DUNDEE and a battle scene stolen from SPARTACUS which isn't as exciting as it sounds. Indeed some the fight scenes are laughable with the camera locked onto the actors faces in a completely unconvincing attempt to hide the fact that there are about a dozen or so actors comprising an army. Having said that the final battle is relatively well done with a cast of hundreds , though it's not all that impressive if you've seen GLADIATOR a couple of days previously.
*****POSSIBLE MILD SPOILERS***** My major complaint is the bitter sweet ending which preaches the message that evil begets evil , violence begets violence. It's a poignant and serious message so why did we have 5 song and dance routines in the first half of the film ? And the fact that the musical numbers disappear half way through gives the film in general and the ending in particular an extremely uneven feel. If the producers wanted to make a musical then they should have done so, if they wanted to make a serious epic they should have done so , as it is ASOKA might have appealed to some people but not to me
Seriously, imagine Lawrence of Arabia movie, not imagine if several scenes portraying his multilayered character were replaced with some romantic scenes with a scantily clad beauty in the desert. That movie would have been laughed at globally. A similar form of adulteration was done in the plot of Asoka. I am startled by the kind of praise this movie has received despite the utter dilution and corruption of topic at hand.
The problem with general Indian audience is they do not even know what makes a good movie. If someone made the movie Asoka without romance and mostly focusing on conquests and spiritual messages, the same fans who are praising this movie would have loved it and probably called their all time favorite. Problem with Indian movie making industry is you very rarely get movies that have been flawlessly directed and focused on a certain topic. This has made the fanbase laud mediocrity.
I am terribly disappointed in Santosh Sivan who went this route, possibly at the behest of producers. I do not doubt Sivan's credentials, but someone like Gowariker would have probably made a far superior flick by condensing the romance to about 10% of what we saw. Sivan and SRK probably took this route to earn profits, but this movie was a huge disappointment at the box office. I believe that if this movie got a Gowariker treatment where he would not give two f***s about catering to the masses, the movie would have done much better.
1) It's not only about love and war, but rivals within the family. He didn't kill his brother because he was so vicious but because of how he was treated. No one even talks about the pain that Asoka had to go through. And I haven't seen Braveheart or Gladiator but American films don't often show that.
2) As it coping it's ideas, what bullshit. Americans copied from Japanese ideas and they copied from us. And I think that they're on the verge of making it bigger here, just like Japanese movies and that they will eventually have their own way of directing. You give too little credit when you have no right to judge so hard.
3) In the beginning of the movie they tell you that there is fiction in it so your expected that it's not exactly how it went but made to be more interesting for the viewers. Now how often does that happen? (Rhetorical) unless in the version you watched they didn't say that. But if they did you should have acknowledged that it wasn't all about the truth but about the movie.
Shahrukh Khan, who is a great actor, should understand he does not possess talent to produce movies. Somehow he managed to turn the life-story of a great Indian prince, into a plot of a 'B' Indian movie. Only Shahrukh can accomplish that! All Indians should write a personal thank-you note to Shahrukh, that he did not choose his subject as Nehru or Gandhi!
The sad part is that for some un-explained reason, this movie is available at all Blockbuster stores. That's where I got it! Too bad 'Lagaan', an Oscar nominated movie is not, and this crap is. It would be a true tragedy if world forms its opinion on Indian movies, and great prince Asoka, based on this travesty.
The movie is probably somewhere in between Gladiator and The Hero, but absolutely has its own mark, the distinct Indian flavour. Wonder why it isn't more celebrated. Did this really flop in India??? Why??? Its probably one of the best movies to have been made!!!
If this movie weren't "based on the life of Asoka", I think it would have been a lot better. But It it is still totally worth watching.