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Asoka: longer review

Discussion in 'Asoka' started by Bridget, May 28, 2008.

  1. Bridget

    Bridget Well-Known Member


    Producer: Arclightz & Films
    Director: Santosh Sivan
    Starring: ShahRukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajit Kumar, Suraj Balaji, Rahul Dev, Hrishitaa Bhatt, Danny Denzongpa, Subhasini Ali, Gerson Da Cunha, Johnny Lever
    Music: Anu Malik
    Lyrics: Gulzar & Anand Bakshi
    Released on: October 26, 2001
    Reviewed by: Anusha Samir Gill
    Reviewer's Rating: 8 out of 10 Cumulative Rating: 8.64 out of 10
    Rated by: 3125 unique users

    Santosh Sivan’s much anticipated magnum opus Asoka is well worth the nail-biting wait that preceded its release. A blend of old-world atavism and crystal clear imagery, compounded with lush art direction and stirring music, Asoka is a haunting journey into the life of India’s greatest emperor.

    Tracing Asoka’s first few years as a boy, the film quickly moves to his years as a grown a strapping and arrogant young prince played by ShahRukh Khan. His father Bindusara (Gerson De Cunha) warns Asoka’s stepbrother Susima (Ajith Kumar) to take over the throne, but the conceited Asoka firmly believes that the throne belongs to he who fights for it.

    His mother Dharma (Subhashini Ali) convinces him into entering a life of exile, and lead a life among the laymen. Asoka dons the robes of a common man and calls himself Pawan. He comes across the beautiful and feisty Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor) and her brother Arya who incidentally is the king of Kalinga in hiding. They are protected by soldier Bheema (Rahul Dev). Kaurwaki and Asoka, who she mistakes for a commoner, fall in love and get married. But Asoka is forced to return to the palace to meet his mother. On returning he is informed of Kaurwaki and Arya’s death. Shattered, Asoka loses interest in his life. During the course of his healing with Veerat (Danny Denzongpa), a compatriot from his days as Pawan he meets Devi (Hrishitaa Bhatt), a devotee of Lord Buddha, whom he weds.
    Asoka is a changed man. He gets increasingly cruel in his actions, alienating Devi and surprising Veerat with his lack of mercy, slaying his brothers and assuming the throne of Magadha. In the mean time Kaurwaki is alive and is waiting for her beloved to return. Asoka in a bid to expand his territory wages war with Kalinga. The mighty war leaves no stone unturned in its ruthless massacre of soldiers. Kaurwaki realises her Pawan is none other than the enemy she is fighting.

    Asoka overhears people talking about Kauwaki and goes hunting for her amidst the sea of the dead. Prince Arya rushes up to him mistaking him for Pawan and begs him to protect his little life against the cruel Asoka. In that one moment Asoka meets with his biggest defeat.

    Asoka is another feather in Santosh Sivan’s cap. With the internationally acclaimed Terrorist behind him, the man conjures up another dreamlike reality with his vision captured in sharp celluloid grandeur.

    The film is extremely stylish in its mix of Indian aesthetic and contemporary simplicity which reflects in the art direction by Sabu Cyril and pleasing costume design. The performances throughout the film are spot on with ShahRukh Khan ruling the roost once again with his stupendous and sincere portrayal of Asoka, his myriad emotions and thoughts shining like a mirror in every frame. Kareena Kapoor as Kaurwaki makes a beautiful and sensuous princess, commanding the screen with a presence, that few of her contemporaries can rival.

    The film is further enhanced by its supporting cast of Rahul Dev, Danny Denzongpa and Hrishitaa Bhatt who makes a confident debut with Asoka.

    The highlight of the movie is of course the surreal envisioning of the Great War of Kalinga, which is breathtakingly choreographed with a scale that could stand in good stead with some Hollywood films. Technically, Asoka has few rivals. The cinematography is A-class and the editing crisp. Sivan’s script is tightly woven with moments of passion and intrigue erupting at regular intervals keeping the viewer gripped.

    While the music of Asoka by Anu Malik is exquisite, one does wish he had dabbled more with a sound that was reminiscent of an era gone by. The dialogues by Abbas Tyrewala are sharp, but still reek of contemporary penmanship.

    For all practical purposes Asoka is a winner, and comes through in style mesmerising the audience with its spectacular visuals and searing their souls with its haunting portrayal of truth. A must watch for anyone who enjoys cinema in its richest sense.

  2. Bridget

    Bridget Well-Known Member

    Needless to say this is my favorite part of the review.

    I really like Asoka, both his performance and the over all look of the film. And SRK himself looked so super fabulous in Asoka! :heart: It's always been hard for me to do any screen caps from this film because I basically want to capture just about every second he is in the frame (which is the vast majority of the film!):target:
  3. Bridget

    Bridget Well-Known Member

    Here's another review of Asoka I found in a US newspaper from Salt Lake City.

    Fabulous cast saves flawed 'Asoka

    Handsome epic blends disparate movie genres

    By Jeff Vice
    Deseret News movie critic

    ASOKA[0] —** 1/2 — Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajit Kumar, Suraj Balaje, Rahul Devi; in Hindi, with English subtitles; rated R (violence, gore, vulgarity); exclusively at the Consolidated Starships Broadway Film Center.

    The ability to appreciate the peculiar style of the so-called Bollywood (or "Bali-wood," to be more accurate) method of filmmaking may be beyond the capacity of today's mainstream moviegoing audiences.
    After all, the not-so-smooth blending of seemingly disparate movie genres (usually action, romance, comedy and musicals, jumbled into one big package) and the customary three-hour running time don't really fit into the sensibilities of those who have grown accustomed to MTV-style, quick-cut editing and other gimmicky filmmaking techniques.
    But there's something to be said for Indian blockbusters, even something as clearly flawed as "Asoka[0]." While it doesn't quite stack up with the best of recent Indian imports — especially the Oscar-nominated "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India " — this handsome historical epic does have a lot to recommend it.
    "Asoka[0]" retells the legend of the title character (Shahrukh Khan), a 3rd-century prince who rose to power in India, and — having seen the errors of his ways — later became a man of peace.
    Kareena Kapoor plays Kaurwaki and Shahrukh Khan stars as Asoka[0] in "Asoka[0]."

    Photo Courtesy First Look Media
    The movie traces his beginnings as a warrior who led his kingdom's forces to victory against a neighboring kingdom. However, he is unable to ascend to the throne because of his jealous stepbrother (Ajit Kumar), who attempts to have him assassinated.
    While Asoka[0] wants to stay and fight, his mother pleads with him to leave, which he does. Under an assumed name (Pawan, or Cloud, which is actually the name of his faithful steed), he finds himself in a remote kingdom. There, he's beguiled by a mystery woman (Kareena Kapoor), who turns out to be Kaurwaki, a princess accompanying her younger brother, Arya (Suraj Balaje). Ironically, the young prince has also been denied his kingdom's crown because of usurpers.
    However, it appears that fate itself is standing in the way of Asoka[0] and Kaurwaki's romance, and upon his return, he becomes bloodthirsty and vengeful.
    The film points out that this is a very loose adaptation of the tale (screenwriter Saket Chaudhury and director Santosh Sivan have taken some liberties with the material). And Sivan's peculiar staging of the action scenes ensures that they're not as convincing as they should be.
    But he's got a wealth of material and a fabulous cast. As good as Khan is, it's the riveting Kapoor who commands attention; when her character disappears from the movie, even briefly, it suffers.
    "Asoka[0]" is rated R for scenes of violent warfare (swordplay, arrow fire, hand-to-hand combat and even some slapstick), gore, some extremely suggestive dance moves and some mildly vulgar humor. Running time: 169 minutes.
  4. Bridget

    Bridget Well-Known Member

    And here is the BBC review of the movie

    Asoka (2001)
    Reviewed by Neil Smith
    Updated 22 October 2001

    India may host the world's biggest film industry, but you wouldn't know it from the way Bollywood movies are marginalised and overlooked in this country. But that was before "Lagaan", one of the first Bollywood pictures to break into the UK top ten. Finally distributors are waking up to this vast untapped market and have afforded "Asoka" the widest release ever given to an Indian title.

    Bollywood stud Shah Rukh Khan plays Asoka, an Indian prince who leaves the kingdom of Magadha to find love and adventure in the neighbouring province of Kalinga. Wooing and wedding beautiful runaway Kaurwaki (Kareen Kapoor), Asoka helps another young prince escape the grip of an evil minister. But a twist of fate turns Asoka into a bloodthirsty tyrant, intent on bending all of India to his will.

    To an audience reared on mainstream American product, this rich mix of action, romance, comedy, and drama may be hard to swallow in one sitting. A swordfight will segue into a song, a battle will be interspersed with slapstick humour, and a movie that started off as a whimsical romance may wind up as an overblown tragedy.

    All these elements are present and correct in "Asoka", but it's not the alienating mess you might expect. If you leave your prejudices at the box office, you may find it rather invigorating - if a little on the lengthy side.

    With elements of both "Gandhi" and "Braveheart", "Asoka" is a big, sprawling epic that looks every rupee it took to bring it to the screen.

    In Hindi with English subtitles.

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