The Terrorist director Santosh Sivan uses two of Bollywood's biggest young stars, Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor, for this lavish biopic of the legendary Emperor Asoka, a warrior leader who renounced violence and converted to Buddhism.
Popular Hindu films invariably privilege emotion and spectacle above complex characterisations, and Asoka continues this tradition. The incident-packed narrative begins with our dashing hero (Khan) leaving the royal city of Magadh to travel around his kingdom incognito. He meets, woos and tutors the beautiful Princess Kaurwaki (Kapoor), but the lovers find themselves on opposing sides in a war between rival states.
Asoka resembles Braveheart in its blend of a sweeping love story, dynastic intrigues and bloody battles. Yet amid the song-and-dance numbers and choreographed swordplay, the best sequence is the attempted assassination of a bathing Asoka where acute editing and bold compositions combine to striking effect.