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The making of Asoka - The book

Discussion in 'Asoka' started by Wafa, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    this is interview from the book..thanks to rajju..

    Do you remember the first time that you ever heard about emperor Asoka??

    I really do not have any idea as to when I first heard the name Asoka, though there is a vague memory of having read about him at school probably. Asoka is so integral to the Indian psyche that no child grows up without knowing about him. But the memories of Asoka were just impressions from pages of history books. Asoka only came alive to me when Santosh brought up the name on the top of a train!

    What was it about Asoka that fascinated you the most?

    The fact that he is just like us. Asoka (this is my interpretation) very simple put is a Greek tragedy hero whose major flaw is inherent in him; the enemy is within. He is a lot like me or it could be that I have made him a lot like me. He’s arrogant. He believes that what he is diong is right. There’s an impish streak to him when he breaks social or moral codes and there is an underlying sense of humour, which breaks out. And that is a part of his arrogance. But then when he realizes the seriousness of the wrong done by him, he is ready to say sorry. And of course, it’s his apology that changed the world. That is what will stay with me. His ability to say sorry and the way he said it.

    Hasn’t there been some trouble with the historians regarding the movie…

    I don’t claim that what we have created is historically correct. Our Asoka crystallized out of some myths, some legends, from my interpretation of him, from Santosh’s idea of him. Then there were the practical catalysts – the location we shot on, the get-up that I had in the film. It’s a creation of many many thoughts of many people, many writers, historians, and lots of discussions. Obviously various individuals and their interpretations are reflected in our Asoka. It’s not one man; it’s many many men rolled into onoe. Asoka is all of us.

    Was it difficult to embody a legend?

    I’m a weak actor when it comes to creating historical characters. One of the fears I had as an actor was, “Would I be able to create Gandhi like Ben Kingsley or Ghalib like Naseerbhai?” I was very scared. But then in the case of Asoka I got the guts and the courage to listen to the story and recreate a character for there is not much known about him. I had a change to carve a legend out of history and whatever I do would be Asoka from today. That gave me a sense of comfort.

    As you said, nothing much is known about Asoka the man. So how did you build up a character to play?
    The trait I wanted from Asoka was inherent arrogance that manifests itself in his quitness. Which is not to say that he is silent, quiet, brooding, sober type, no. he is just so arrogant that he doesn’t wish to say much. Even the film is not spoken from his point of view.

    He is silent, strong, flamboyant, arrogant, and colourful to a certain extent, with a sense of humour. Which is, if you really ask me, all of me! So if the films sticks, if the character sticks, then whenever anybody read about Asoka in the future, this should be the picture that comes to mind.

    I wanted to retain in Asoka a certain sense of sensuality in his physicality. Santosh had observed it when he was shooting for Dil Se with me… there’s a portion I have done in the boat. So he wanted Asoka to have that kind of body language, which has a certain sensuous fluidity to it. A little of the animal like a prowling tiger or cheetah… those aspects I have kept.

    Asoka is also very sensitive and because of it he can go over the edge, just snap. This is a man who keeps getting hurt and hurt and hurt… turns quieter and quieter and meaner, meaner and meaner till it manifests into the most bloody outcome. That was what Asoka was to me, in the film at least.

    Asoka to me is also very Islamic. The first rule of Islam I was taught by my mom was that the first step to redemption was accepting the fact that you are wrong. Once you do that, half the battle is won and that’s what Asoka is all about. A guy who realized that he was in the wrong.

    Shahrukh the star is very much absent in Asoka. How did you manage to do that?

    It was not easy; believe me, because I have a smile that gives me away…(smiles). I also have a certain way of talking, the way I speak every dialogue. The first thing I would do after a shot would be to turn to Santosh and ask, “Was there any bit of me in it?” I didn’t want to make him keep telling me, “Shahrukhbhai, there’s too much of you.” He too is sensitive and he would feel that saying so would hurt me. Everytime I would ask him about a shot, he would ask, “Shahrukh, how would you do it?” And if I’d do it like Shahrukh, he’d say, “Just do the opposite of what you just did!” (grins)

    As a matter of fact, it’s only when Asoka becomes a commoner, a guy without any hang-ups or trappings of a king, that’s the only time you see a bit of Shahrukh in it.

    I had to work at my voice too. I would sort of lean on one side during the dubbing sessions so that my voice comes out a bit strained.

    We have kept the dialogues very quiet and silent. In the whole film there isn’t a single scene where I have raised my voice, exceptin the climax when I let out one scream. To him it’s a scream of victory, for me it’s a scream of anguish. I told Santosh that Asoka should sound anguised. Visually it looks like he has won over the world, but it’s actually the scream of an anguished man who realizes somewhere within him that everything is lost and that’s how I have done it. I had to dub it 10 times. (Ruefully) people don’t understand this but to me it was important that the scream sounded like a scream of anguish.
  2. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    Did your interpretation gel with Santosh Sivan’s idea of Asoka?

    You know, there was a strange sense of wonder, the wonder of a child in the story that Santosh narrated. Remember the movie Namak Haram? There’s a line in the movie – you know, that every time when we are driving in a car and we see poor kids, we look at them and feel sad and then drive on. But if we ever stepped out and stood with them, we’d never be able to sit in the car again. That’s what Rajesh Khanna tells Amitabh Bachchan…”Aur dost mein gaadi se bahar nikala hoon. Ab main wapas nahin ja sakta.”
    That was the thought that Santosh captured. Here’s this king who, from his protected and sheltered life, is suddenly pushed into a commoner’s life.

    Santosh described to me a scene that I have based my whole character on. Asoka as a commoner sees the heroine take abath without clothes. Now normally the hero should hide when the girls steps out of the water. But Santosh narrated that you just stand and look at her. And when the girl says, “Why are you staring at me?” Asoka would reply, “Because you’re so beautiful.” The girl would ask, “But can’t you see I’m naked?” and he would say,”that makes you even more beautiful.” He’s the king and he doesn’t think the king can do any wrong. And there’s strange sense of innocence to that. And he wonders – “Oh~need I be shy and hide myself? Is that how a commoner would behave?”

    So here was a kind of Alice in Wonderland quality, which Santosh had in mind while narrating the story to me. I don’t think I have captured that. I wish I could have and then pproceeded from there… that he landed in Wonderland, got out of his car, his carriage and could never come back.

    If you think you didn’t catch the nuance, then how you think you played it?

    That nuance, I think , you can catch if you are very innocent at the depths of your heart, which I think I’m not. As an actor I have this quality of shrewdness, this wanting to be smart alecky. Santosh as a person doesn’t have that. He just likes making films. He has never had any star tantrums. He has never been expose to what I have been exposed to in the last ten years. so I think some of my innocence is lost, which I don’t think I can recreate. But I have tried to give him what comes across now as a prevailing sense of, not wonder, but a bit of arrogance… in not accepting the fact that he doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. It doesn’t come across as just complete innocence.

    Does Asoka now on screen live up to what you had in mind?

    I don’t think I have “performed’’ performed Asoka. I have tried to keep it low key, because we felt that there’s nothing beyond Asoka. It’s the same logic for not giving a tag line to the tile, it’s just Asoka, I have played the character like this.

    People who expect to see Shahrukh would be disappointed, for there’s nothing greater than Asoka, not even my acting.

    If someone comes up and says that Shahrukh acted very well in Asoka then we have lost. It should be that, “This is Asoka” and there should be no discussion on acting, I hope that comes across.

    I’m not being a pseudo, okay: I don’t want to say that I lived the role or that I was Asoka.

    Rahul can be acted, Raj can be acted and Devdas can be acted, but not Asoka.

    Asoka should be left alone.

    What was the reason of producing Asoka? /H1
    Honestly, if you ask me I never really have a reason to do anything because I think reasin os the other side of excuse. Both, I believe are not right. You do something because you feel like doing it and feeling is never controlled by reason.

    Here was Santosh, a very big genius with a little dementia and there were we, Juhi and I, tradional people who like normal Hindi films.

    If, as a friends who have worked together for the past three years, we were to find the right equation of eccentricity and tradition, we would create a different kind of cinema, which would be either tradional eccentricity of eccentric traditionalism!
  3. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    Shahrukh - The Rain God

    Shahrukh’s accommodation arrangements are made at the Brila Guest House somewhere 20 kilometres away. The day he arrives, it rains heavily in Maheshwar. It is after over ten years that the gods have blessed Maheshwar with showers. Everyone is happy with the plentiful rain. Shahrukh attains the status of Rain God in the region as the news spreads.

    People thank Shahrukh for bringing Asoka to Maheshwar, believing it to be a good omen for the town. They promise to pray for the succes of the film. While the general populace is happy wwith the rains, the police have another reason to celebrate. The arrival of rains means good crop. It seems there is a tribe in the region that relies heavily on farming for their livelihood. The absence of rains had forced these people to turn to a stealing and robbery. The police too thank Shahrukh for bringing the rain with him!
  4. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    Scene Stealers

    1. The Underwater Lotus Sequence!

    A part of the Roshni Se… song, this sequence is based on the romantic thought of a boy giving a flower to a girl to express his love. A concept which is common to the right and poor alike. But instead of the usual rose, a lotus has been used… that too a bit differently.

    Shahrukh elaborates, “ Santosh has used a lot of lotus and peacock symbolism in the film. For Asoka, peacock implies Kaurwaki. Whenever he sees a peacock, he is reminded of Kaurwaki. The other symbol is of the lotus, which signifies the purity and goodness.”

    Santosh explains, “We decided to have the boy giving the girl a flower sequence underwater. Normally, a shot would have been that there is a lotus and there is a boy. He goes to the flower and gives in to the girl underwater. What we have is that there is a lotus in a pond. And suddenly it disappears… cut to Asoka carrying it and giving it to Kaurwaki underwater.”

    The sequence is shot at a hotel pool in Madh Island. The water is actually only 3 feet deep, but a mirror glass gives it the depth.

    "Shahrukh recalls, “It was very cumbersome to shoot the scene at such low depths. I’m quite desastrous underwater ,(I would LOVE to teach you Sexyyyy!!! " ) but Kareena on the other hand is very comfortable. She loves water and is a true water baby. On my part, I gulped a lot of chlorine water in the process of the shooting, while Kareena laughed her guts out at my plight.

    “The camera was kept in a waterproof box under water with three people operating it from inside the box. The biggest impediment was the tiles in the pool. We had to try our level best that the camera did not catch the ceramic squares. The bottom is covered with fake plants to hide these modern tiles. Basically it was an ordinary scene with an extraordinary treatment. The effect on screen in simply fantastic.”
  5. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    2. The Sun And The Moon Sequence!

    Santosh emphasises, “The only statement that has been explicitly attributed to Asoka in the edicts is that ‘The greatness of Buddhism will remain the world as long as the sun and the moon and the stars are there. The real kingdom is not the materiaalistic one, but that of goodness and godliness and is found following the path of the Buddha.’

    “I was very clear in my mind that this line Is very important and should be used in the film. Asoka tells Arya about the sun and moon and the stars being his kingdom, but I wanted to present this visually to satisfy the cinematographer in me.”

    Shahrukh adds, “If we had a tag line for Asoka, this line would have been it. It was Santosh’s genius that we could catch both the sun and the moon in the same frame. We couldn’t shoot it in the right line otherwise we could also have got a star like Venus in the frame. It’s a beautiful shot, the sun has not set completely and there’s the moon shining in all it’s beauty. It’s mother nature gracing Asoka wearing all her ornaments and looking resplendent.

    "“Normally, a crew would have required planning and preparation for such a shot, but we did not have time for the perfect setting as such. We had only half a day to shoot the entire scene, 3 to 5.30 in the afternoon due to production hassles and all. This most important scene of the film was like a sign from God for us that despite the hassles, we were on the right path making Asoka. The only words attributed to Asoka are perfectly caught in the same frame. It’s magic!”
  6. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    3. The Mud Bath Sequence

    How this particular shot has come about is pretty simple. This is a sequence where Rahul Dev comes to kill Asoka and realises that Asoka and Pawan are the same. The scene has Shahrukh wearing hair extensions.

    It requires Shahrukh and Rahul in the same frame, but Rahul has to leave for America the next day. The two do not have common dates free for the next two months, which means the sequence has to be shot that very day. There is no time for Shahrukh to put the extentions.

    So Santosh comes up with an idea of a mud bath scene wherein Shahrukh doesn’t have to wear all the hair extensions as they can be stuck with the mud and covered up. Santosh Sivan explains the idea behind the scene, “apart from the date problem, I thought that the image of a person covered with mud with only the eyes showing had a very evil feel to it.

    It is a facinating visual in context of this story, it symbolizes the evil, mean nature of Asoka. Mud baths are usually taken for relaxing or cosmetic purposes. So when Asoka is shown to take a mud bath, it implies that this man is relaxed despite the slaughter and killings going on around him! It adds an element of madness to the whole character. “

    Shahrukh recalls with a shiver, “The shot was taken in the night on an open set in Film City, Mumbai. It was freezing cold and I was in water all the time. To make things worse, the temperature in the bath was even lower. As you must have noticed, the shot is taken from three angles so I had to stay in the bath for a long time.

    The bath was prepared by adding mixture of sawdust and chandan (sandal) to water! I didn’t come out because constant getting in and out of the mud bath would have been even more harmful considering the biting cold. Though the date problem led to this shot, I really like the way it could be interpreted in the story.”
  7. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!

    4. The Kallaripayattu fight sequence!

    This is Santosh’s inclusion in Asoka despite the fact that this martial art from is from Kerala. His idea is to use it as a symbolic dance-form. There is an element of risk for the troupe of Kallari fighters that came for the shooting are not used to film fighting. Ironically, it’s these traditional fight-artistes who get hurt during the shoot since theypay more attention to the actor’s safety. This sequence is shot in Panchmarhi, where the cool mist played hide and seek with the shutter speed.

    These are Shahrukh’s first fight sequences after the surgery he underwent and he isn’t sure if he would be able to do them. But not only does he give almost ninety percent of the shots himself, he also takes to this martial art like fish to water. He uses the most dangerous of Kallari sword,, throughout the movie, except for the irst and the last part where he fights in a crowd.

    In these, a dummy sword is used lest he hurts those around. While Santosh wants the scenes keeping it to metaphorical leven, Shahrukh wants more of a Kung-Fu, Karate kind of treatment. Shahrukh says: “I improvised a bit to make it look more like an animal fight than a dance. In the movie it’s been made to look graceful and swift, almost smooth. No jerks, no abrupt movements.

    "Just after the surgery, moving my leg without a crick was quite a task. We are using real swords, but the minor cuts that Rahul, others and I have suffered during these sequences were nothing compared to the ache in the wrists cause by handling the real but very heavy swords.”

    The Kallaripayattu sequences are Shahrukh and Santosh’s version of Matrix.
  8. veronicas

    veronicas ~Forever Yours~

    I'm not sure if I could do this Wafa, if not, please excuse me:redface: and remove it.


    " Tomorrow or the next life, you never khow which will come first."

    As I sit here write what hopefully will be the last bit of work for Asoka, the World Trade Center has disappeared from the Manhattan skyline.

    I am here in New York on my way to promote the film in Toronto. My partners Juhi and Jay have worked out a string of promotional interviews and photo shoots while we are in America and Canada. We have all our hopes and dreams pinned on the story of this Great Emperor. Everything has been worked out. All details taken care of. The press reporters are arriving in a few hours to take their designed seats in a quiet Conference hall at the Four Seasons. The publicity teams in India, England, Toronto and America had clear print outs of the minute-by-minute programme. We are absolutely ready. Prepared for the World... prepared for tomorrow. Ten blocks or so away from us, I am sure there are other people ready to take on tomorrow. Some miles up in the sky, another set of people are planning their tomorrow as they sip on champagne.

    Five minutes later the concept of tomorrow ceased to exist for hundreds and thousands of people... not only in New York but also around the World. Tomorrow never came.

    " You cannot control life, But you can control art"

    If you have gone trough the book, you would be aware how we made Asoka and what made us choose Asoka. Juhi loved the innocence of the story. As for me, I never say no to a film story narrated to me on top of a moving train.(while he was shooting for Dil Se, that's what he means) Where we made Asoka? By now the answer is everywhere. In our heart in our mind. In our sleep and while eating. In our four storeyed office and on our garden swing outside the office. Like I said everywhere. Why we made Asoka and what does it mean to us? When we started to shoot the film, the reasons varied. Our company's profile was to make measingful cinema with a difference. Here was a period film, a genre not touched for the last twenty years by any filmmaker. the story of the greatest Emperor of our country., whose mark stands proudly on our national flag and government buildings. A historical figure whom the younger generation of our country should know more about. All these reasons and more made Asoka, a film based on the myths and legends that surround this figure, a very appealing subjest for our company arclightz. Strangely the real reason why this film should be made eluded us till we finished the film and went to market it... The importance of Life that we live. The greatness or worthiness of your life is not what is foretold before your birth and the achievements you were born to attain. The importance lies in the measure to which you were true to yourself and your sense of being. The moment of truth does not vome at the end... instead till the end comes, you have to be true to every moment. Is there something left behind for tomorrow? Would you feel that I should be given another chance... or go with the thought that I am happy to go to, as I have done everything till this moment that I wanted to. Would you be able to realize that Life was not for permanent and only a temporary part of your journey? A journey, which has no end. Just the process of the traveling and taking in the marvels that GOd has given along the way is inportant... not the Destination. Asoka is told the same in our film. " Yours is the Destiny, greater than that of an Emperor. Yours is the Destiny of a Traveller." Asoka's greatness lies in the fact that he understood this, and made sure that his journey mattered...not for the World or because he was Destined to do it, but for himself.

    ..."Only the dreamers are free to contine"

    This is our most expensive film. Our future rests on this film.Whether Aziz, Juhi and me will make another film depends on the success and failure of Asoka. We are very nervous because it truly is a different kind of film. I told Jihi and Aziz that for the first time in my career I am feeling insecure about my future, as a filmmaker and as a star. I get worried at the thought of tomorrow. What if this film does not work? What if we sink? What if ...?

    And then I was in New York. I realized that the path of dreaming is filled with pitfalls. But the pifalls are also the part of the journey. The challenge is for each of us to take only what is neede of the world that Allah has given you and not look for more. Just to be able to understand what is needed is the purpose. The right choices are important and the want for things beyond your control innecessay. Our choice of Asoka is tight, we know that. The journey was beautiful, even with it's hardships, we belive that. What lies ahead is not important now. The success and failure has been achieved as we made the film. We thank all whomade this happen... the director,the actors, the technicians and writer of this book. We thank God for this opportunity and all that he has shown us so far in the journey of our life. we at Arclightz are happy right now... We are ready to take on tomorrow, with whatever it holds for us. We are ready for tomorrow, even if it does't come....


  9. Souby

    Souby New Member

    Thank you Wafa and Veronica I really like this movie no idea why.those are really interesting facts. It shows how hard they had to work to make this film.
  10. veronicas

    veronicas ~Forever Yours~

    Welcome Soubia,:welcome: this film is very special for me because it was the first one that I saw HIM:flame: in.
  11. Souby

    Souby New Member

    Well then I'm glad he made this film it earned him a new loyal fan:)
  12. veronicas

    veronicas ~Forever Yours~

    Yup:nod: , but I think it's more than loyal, I'm more like :crazy: , obsessed (I'm sure if I was anywhere near his house, stocker :becky: type) of fan. I don't think that I'm the only one that feels like this, he na girls?:wink:
  13. Cosima

    Cosima SRK`s heartbeat

    I love this film too. And thank you for the extracts of the book.:heart: I really enjoyed them.:cheer2:
  14. veronicas

    veronicas ~Forever Yours~

    :) Welcome Manuela. I'm glad that you've enjoyed reading this.
  15. Wafa

    Wafa I want my Mom!!!


    book signing.
  16. veronicas

    veronicas ~Forever Yours~

    He looks just gorgeous here, thanks very much Wafa
  17. Evy

    Evy Well-Known Member

    Making of Asoka - book

    I found this website where you can order:

    Making of Asoka - book
    Making of K3G - book
    Hall of Fame book - Shah Rukh Khan
    Devdas - book

    link: http://www.indianmoviemart.com/
  18. Meghna04

    Meghna04 ChakDe SRK!

    Re: Making of Asoka - book

    Thanks Evy!

    But it is too bad that the K3G book is out of stock.
    I've the Devdas Novel... it is sooo great! A must read!!!
    And finally that Asoka-book... That is the next one I'll order :thumb: (hope that it is not out of stock again :( )
  19. Evy

    Evy Well-Known Member

    Re: Making of Asoka - book

    Hi Nicole,

    I ordered both books today and they confirmed it very quickly. It seems that at the moment Asoka is not sold out.
  20. Astri

    Astri New Member

    I just check out the site again. K3G is still out of stock.

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