Thursday, June 17, 2010

A little bit of Zen, a little bit of sin

Again, blast from the past...few thoughts on Asoka (2001). This was written in November, 2001. The title comes from the quote used by Santosh Sivan, director of Asoka.
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Much has been said about asoka. Its been panned to glory. The movie most of us love to hate. I too have my 2 cents on this movie.

Asoka, the movie is an experience. Its been bad for many and some of us have enjoyed it. I fall in the later category. I agree with the makers that Asoka the movie is "a little bit of zen and a little bit of sin". India knows who was Ashoka, the emperor. He was the brightest star in indian history. Asoka, the movie does not give a damn about the obvious instead it dwelves into asoka,the man. The man before destiny made him ashoka, the great. Here lies the greatness and the pitfall of the movie. It tries to understand the psyche of the neglected son of Bindusara who adores his mother. Who wants that his mother gets her due as the wife of bindusara and not his dasi. (watch for Asoka's expression when the king does not reward him after his triumph of Takshila)

One of the key scene is when a Buddhist monk tells Asoka that his destiny transcends that of an emperor. His destiny is that of a traveller when he completes his journey. Here is the soul of the movie. It tries to follow the journey of Asoka who does not know where he is heading. And if you dont know where are you heading, no direction is wrong.

What made Asoka transform into how we now him is the crux of the movie. He lost the love of his mother and the girl he loved (this is where folk stories come into picture). How many of us when we lose the things we love react, we become cynical and either we become depressed or we become angry. Asoka was a warrior,he chose to become angry. He became avenging and scheming king who did not fear death. (Another thing that i like were the dialogues instead of monologues, they were short, sweet and simple). Killing his brothers he says "Can i be allowed to be the king now?", a touch of sarcasm, a macabre humor.

The highlight of the movie is the post-war scene when Asoka is looking for Kaurwaki, its a magic scene. Its twilight and sun and the moon and the stars shining, as if nature is looking forward to the history that is being created. Asoka sees the death, the gory, the sadness and he sees Love, he sees Kaurwaki and dead Arya. Life comes full circle, the journey is completed. Asoka is a changed man. Movie ends, History begins.

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