Asoka (2001)

“What lies in my destiny?”

Fans of Indian film should be thrilled by this exciting epic story based on the life of the Emperor Asoka who ruled India in the 3rd century B.C. When he became emperor, Asoka rejected violence, embraced Buddhism, and wrote a sound set of Edicts that survive to this day. The film Asoka is concerned with Asoka’s rise to the throne of India. Asoka (Shah Rukh Khan) is one of several royal brothers–all sons of the ruler of the kingdom of Magadha in India. Asoka, however, is the son of a less-favoured wife, and Prince Susima will inherit the throne. Assassination attempts and fighting amongst the royal princes causes Asoka’s mother to beg him to leave Magadha. Prince Asoka leaves, and he also promises his mother that he will keep his identity a secret. On his travels, he meets Princess Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor) and her brother Prince Arya (Suraj Balaje)–both of the neighbouring kingdom of Kalinga. Following the assassination of their royal parents, Kaurwaki and Arya are on the run in the company of the loyal general, Bheema (Rahul Dev).

Asoka directed by Santosh Sivan is everything that’s best in great Indian cinema. There’s drama, adventure, excitement, battles and romance all wrapped up in this colourful, exotic product, and there’s even some comic relief to be found in domestic tiffs. The film’s themes, however, also raise many thought provoking questions about duty, violence and revenge, and since this is the story of how Asoka became a great emperor, the film charts his maturity through piviotal events which occur in his life. The scene when Asoka first meets the Princess Kaurwaki is the epitome of the Indian presentation of romance, and in true Indian fashion, many of the love scenes are erotic but involve very little touching. One amazing fantasy sequence allows Kaurwaki to swim all over Asoka, and this scene is extremely sensual. There are also several lively, dance routines throughout the film, and an absolutely thrilling soundtrack complements the action.

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