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Asoka Review

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Charts the bloody rise and remorseful fall of Emperor Asoka in third century BC.

★★★★

Santosh Sivan first caught the eye of the UK arthouse audience with his astonishingly visual film, The Terrorist. His follow-up, Asorka, provided a rare instance of an elusive Indian crossover hit - an exciting, colourful and, above all, commercial movie that delighted fans of world cinema and even won over some of the multiplex crowd.

Its retelling of Indian history does make small assumptions of knowledge but not to the extent of disturbing the enjoyment of the story for the uninitiated. A prince in disguise, lovers who are born enemies, political assassinations, devious relatives - all universal elements in a sweeping epic.

Historically, Asoka was seen as one of the most significant converts to the faith of Buddhism, and the violence of this film has been criticised as being derogatory to the faith. But Asoka’s conversion would not have been so impactful had he been a man of faith from the beginning. The fact that he was such a bloody warrior is no more ably demonstrated than when the battle scenes kick in near the end, it's like Kurosawa goes Bollywood.

Santosh Sivan may just be the man who provide that elusive Indian crossover hit with this rip-roaring historical adventure.

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