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Review of Asoka movie

When I wrote about bringing Mohandas Gandhi back, I was told to also watch a Bollywood movie Asoka, that documents the story of Emperon Asoka (spelled in some places as Ashoka or Ashok or Ashoke) that ruled parts of the Indian sucontinent in the 3rd century BC. Like Gandhi, he too helped spread the message of non-violence after he embraced Buddhism. Prior to that, though, it would not be a stretch to compare him to Saddam Hussein or Hitler. He was so hungry for power and land that all his life he fought battles and never paid attention to the horrors of war (Read more about the horrors of war in my review of the movie Grave of the Fireflies).

The movie, as I understand happens in all Bollywood films, delves way too much time early on about the romantic relationship of Prince Asoka (played by Shah Rukh Khan) and Princes Kaurwaki (played by Kareena Kapoor) of neighboring kingdom Kalinga. Asoka was asked by his mother to leave the capital so that he would not be killed by his brothers who were all engaged in a tough fight for the throne of the Kingdom of Magadha. Kaurwaki also was in hiding due to similar drama at her court, where her parents were killed by the chief of staff. Like typical Bollywood musicals, there is singing and dancing behind trees and the couple marry in a simple tribal ceremony. To me this was a meaningless diversion and I would suggest that you simply skip this part.

Photo of Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor in AsokaThe movie becomes more engaging when after a bloody battle in which Asoka kills his brothers and is crowned the emperor of Magadha. At that point, he becomes a monster and is commonly referred to as the "demon" for his merciless killing. In the meantime, he has been misinformed that his wife Kaurwaki is dead. He marries a Buddhist woman, who abandons him after watching the horrors of war perpetrated by her husband.

The mother of all battles happens with Kalinga and only towards the end he realizes that the Queen of Kalinga, who was leading the battle, was Kaurwaki.

We now know that at that point he not only stopped all wars but also was responsible for bringing the Buddhist message of love and non-violence to other countries in Asia.

The movie is well done with remarkably good sets depicting the grandeur of 3rd century India. If you can rush through the foolishness of the love story embedded in what is really a story of an emperor, it is a good introduction to the life of a king who learned from his mistakes and rectified them.

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