Cinema Nirvana Presents Asoka on May 26
Showtime is Sat., May 26, 7:30pm
This month, Cinema Nirvana will present Asoka, the 2001 Bollywood epic, historical drama; an over-the-top, at times surreal and psychedelic fantasy that can be surprisingly moving.
King Ashoka, the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world history. The British historian H.G. Wells has written:
Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history ... the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.
Although Buddhist literature preserved the legend of this ruler -- the story of a cruel and ruthless king who converted to Buddhism and thereafter established a reign of virtue -- definitive historical records of his reign were lacking. Then in the nineteenth century there came to light a large number of edicts, in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These edicts, inscribed on rocks and pillars, proclaim the reforms and policies of Asoka promulgate his advice to his subjects.
The film, a largely fictional version of the life of Asoka, who ruled most of Southern Asia from 273 BCE to 232 BCE, was directed by Santosh Sivan and staring Shakrukh Khan as Asoka and Kareena Kapoor as a princess of Kalinga.
Like any self-respecting Bollywood film, it contains some wonderfully catchy pop tunes (you may find yourself humming the melodies the following day) and some crazy choreography. It was originally released as Ashoka The Great in India. It was widely screened across the United Kingdom and North America, and was also selected for screening at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, where it garnered high praise.
The elaborate final battle scene employed over six thousand extras with some of the actors portraying warriors using real weapons, being actual masters of Kalaripayattu, a Southern Indian martial art. Anu Malik and all the songs in the movie became big hits in India. Gulzar penned most of the lyrics for the songs, with 1 song written by Anand Bakshi.
The film did exceptionally well outside of India, and actually has a 100% rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’ve never seen a Bollywood movie, this is an excellent introduction to the largest film industry in the world!
Movie night is offered free of charge. Donations are gratefully accepted for local charities.