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.