Subash Awards Movie Review
Asoka (Shah Rukh Khan) is the stepson
of Bindusara, the Emperor of the Magadha Empire. Bindusara's
son is Sushima (Ajith Kumar). Both of them want the throne.
But Asoka's mother, fearing for her
son's life, banishes him to the forest, telling him to use a
different identity. So Asoka wanders the forest, taking the name
of his horse, Pavan. It is as Pavan that he meets Kaurwaki (Kareena
Kapoor) and Arya, sister and brother, who are the actual heirs to
the Kalinga throne. They are also in hiding since villains who
desire the Kalinga throne killed their parents and wished to kill
them as well. Asoka and Kaurwaki fall in love with each other,
though Kaurwaki thinks he is only Pavan. Kaurwaki falls in love
with Pavan, without knowing that he is actually Asoka.
Eventually, Asoka leaves Kaurwaki to
visit his mother, promising to return soon. However, in that time,
news (wrongly) comes to him that Kaurwaki and Arya were killed.
Actually they are still alive and well in hiding.
But heart-broken Asoka, who does not
know this, goes angrily to war, bloodthirstily and viciously,
uncaring about death. Eventually, Sushima's men stab him, and
Asoka is healed in a Buddhist monastery. A young Buddhist girl
named Devi (played by Hrishitaa Bhaat) takes care of him, but when
he is attacked, and she kills the attacker, her arranged marriage
falls through the cracks. Asoka takes pity on her and weds her.
Eventually, she becomes pregnant with his heir. Sushima tries to
kill the pregnant Devi, and instead, the life of Asoka's mother is
taken. In a blind rage, Asoka murders Sushima and all of his
brothers. Since Bindusara is also dead, Asoka takes command as
Emperor. But the people do not like him, calling him the Vicious
and Bloody King.
It is at this time that Magadha and
Kalinga go to war. Asoka and Kaurwaki, neither one knowing it is
the other one they are fighting, face on the battlefield. Kaurwaki
finally realizes that Asoka is Pavan, but collapses when she sees
him murdering all around him viciously.
At the end of the war, Asoka has won,
and when he is basking in his glory, he is told he is the father
of twins (a boy and a girl). He is also told that all he has won
is blood and tears. Asoka takes this to heart and visits the
battlefield, where he meets the unconscious Kaurwaki. She berates
him for becoming a bloody monster. Arya was also in the
battle, and when he dies in Asoka's arms, Asoka gives up his life
of blood and reforms and becomes Buddhist.
This movie is, in the end, the story
of Asoka's conversion from violence to Buddhism.
This is, unless "Aalavandhaan" is a horrible flop, the most
disappointing movie of the year. I had high hopes for this movie,
and most of them all were crushed. I felt like I was going to see
"Braveheart" and instead I saw "Love Story."
Since the basic point is about
Asoka's Buddhist conversion, I would expect the violence to start
early. Instead, it starts two hours and fifteen minutes into the
movie, after a belabored and basically unentertaining love story
featuring song sequences, a fight sequence, and scantily clad
Don't think of this as a historical
film. History is used sparingly in the film. Instead, think of
this as a fictional film set in the Asoka era, where the hero's
name happens to be Asoka.
Santosh Sivan said he intended this
to be a "commercial" film. So what's included? Classic Indian
cinema cliches such as boy saves girl from villains, unnecessary
song sequences, and a disgusting and unnecessary running comedy
track featuring Johnny Lever.
The cinematography and direction are
excellent. But that's to be expected; we are talking about Santosh
Sivan. In the final war scenes, the scenes are almost beautiful
despite all the blood. However, it's the story and the screenplay
that need massive tightening.
The film has its moments (such as the
tie-in between throwing his sword away near the end and the
opening scene) but not a single scene stands starkly in the heart
after the movie is over. Watching this, I just kept waiting for
Asoka the warrior to stop being Asoka the romantic hero. It was
far too late in the plot that Asoka actually becomes bloodthirsty
Asoka, and that makes only the last half-hour of this film worth
None of the actors have done very
remarkable jobs. Ajith Kumar looks sadly out-of-place, and
extremely fat. Shah Rukh is good in acting, but the story makes it
so that we don't care.
The Tamil language in a Hindi dubbing
film is usually written poorly (think of the Tamil in "Taalam").
But here, it is extraneous. The actors use both historical Tamil
and modern- day Tamil, and so it's a mess.
Other reviewers will undoubtedly
extoll the film for trying what so few films do -- be a biography
and a historical film. But for me, it does this so unsuccessfully.
The plot is too long and meandering.
NOTE ON THE MUSIC:
The music, which sounded a lot better in Hindi, is near torture in
Tamil. None of the songs make an impression. Of course, I'm no Anu
Watch it on DVD, I think. It might be a bore, but somehow, I still
think it's worth watching on DVD (maybe for the cinematography or
such). Make sure you get a good quality print if you watch it on