Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sexy period-piece-off, yo! Asoka and The Rising.

This weekend I saw both Asoka and, much to my delight, in my local art theater, The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey. Uplifting, we-can-change-the-world goodness with dancing to boot.

some points of comparison:






compare/contrastAsokaThe Rising
hero(es) Genius. Tempestuous second son, goo-goo-eyed lover, bloodthirsty conqueror, and pacifist, all in three hours. Shahrukh at his shirtless, intensely smoldering best. Not someone I'd want to be friends with, though. In DVD extra features, Asoka interestingly described by SRK as childlike in all his phases: he's innocently vengeful, innocently greedy, innocently in love, etc. Whatever. He does certainly come off as mostly, if not all, id. Also genius. Spirited underdog and his equally spirited but more tentative friend who amounts to more than he seems. Aamir Khan as a hero with a sense of humor and friendship. I'm sure every reviewer is saying this, but it seems to me that short of being a real person and dealing with the larger picture of the same basic issue, this is the same character as in Lagaan. Toby Stephens as conflicted company man who does the right thing in the end.
heroine(s) One of the most enjoyable I've seen. I have not been impressed with Kareena Kapoor until now but she was v g in this, swinging her sword, being flirty and mysterious, and sticking up for beliefs. Warrior princess indeed. Not prominent. Only three female characters of any consequence: a dancing girl (feisty but loving, blithe but insightful), a servant (jittery but joyful), and a madame (jaded and in charge). Chorus of prostitutes gets in good line, when coaxing Mangal Pandey to stay at the brothel: "We'll pay you! We've never tasted a hero!"
villain(s) Enh. Neither resonant nor a selling point for me, as my Indian history is ignorant at best. In films dealing with armed conflict before the twentieth century, there is no better enemy than the corrupt, snotty, bigoted colonial forces personified by the British.
love story - hard to contrast, since both principal couples have weddings of the small, intimate, meaningful typeSort of like An Affair to Remember but with swords and dust. All about being truly simpatico, about truly understanding. Asoka and Kurwaki are a fit because they are both warriors for principles - and both grow up enough to know what principles are most important. The sweet little Buddhist girl never stood a chance.Two love stories. Not sure quite what to make of the servant and Colonel Gordon, since she was crying when they got together, but then she seemed happy later. A little bit heavy on the "don't worry, I'll protect you!" side for my taste. Mangal Pandey and Heera didn't get much of a go, but they clearly understood each other also, the sadness that comes with sacrifice even when it's truly important.
musicEdgy but also perfectly reasonably historical, since I have no idea what third-century BCE Indian music sounded like. A little spooky, a little ethereal, definitely up to the mythical proportions of the story.Can't beat A. R. Rahman. Songs stuck in head for 30 hours immediately following film (and counting!).
overall cinematic loveliness - both dramatic and edgy, rather than lush and pretty - v appropriate to storiesFunky tattoos, fancy swords, fantastic architecture, and love scene underwater and in a dark fairy-tale woods. Effective but not as bright as most other movies.Any movie that shows a Holi festival is going to win my heart. Wish it were acceptable to chuck fistfuls of pigment and squirt people with dye, then swirl around with the passionate, principled, funny, decent man who loves me.... Oh, wait, where was I?
dancingClearly the winner. Underwater scene as mentioned, plus complicated-looking moves that made the best of the this-got-shredded-in-the-dryer "historical" clothing. Idea of Buddhist evangelist who can shake it v delightful.Wasted opportunity. My eyes are glued to the screen whenever Aamir Khan dances but he had no opportunity here. Don't know why - perhaps not dancing makes his character carry more weight? Pish posh. What, pray tell, is wrong with a freedom-fighting funky bunch? Nothing!


See them both! It's almost 2,000 years between the stories, but if you want a movie-fied story (although with a disclaimer right up front about being mostly made up!) about principles that are important to think about in your own life, in the world we have here and now, and you'd like a side of dancing and costume changes to go with that, you can't go wrong.

12 comments:

Isa said...

God, I love your sense of humour. You have a wonderful style of writing reviews, always surprising and fresh. And the thing is I tend to agree to your ideas about the films as well. Thank you so much for the info and for the laughs.

Beth said...

Isa, thank you!!!! What lovely things to say. I have to admit, upon re-reading this one, this is probably one of my favorite posts. I'll have to try the compare/contrast again, but only when properly motivated, of course - you can't force these things.

In all seroiusness, thank you again for your kind words. They mean a lot to me!

Morgan said...

Thank you for one of the only positive reviews of Asoka ever- I love this one...not as well as some of my others, but still- IT'S HOT! Underwater dance scene- that says it all!

Beth said...

I loooove Asoka! Totally agree. :)

ajnabi said...

I thought Asoka was great, too. I'm surprised that more people didn't love it.

Beth said...

I know! What is wrong with people? :)

call me tapan said...

well asoka is based on kalinga war and i live in kalinga(modern orissa) the place where the war was held is just 20 km from my home. thye say that the entire river turned red after the war due to blood. but the river is clean now.

there was controversioes that the women of that period never used to wear skinny dresses but now experts are saying that at that time women dont used to wear anything in th upper part of their bodies. and so called sarees are used to be a cloth that women wear around their waist. the temple architecture of that period shows thata nd shahrukh khan just showed that but some hindu extremists are saying that its a shame to their religion these people goes t9o those tem0ple to worship where nude women are potrayed but they never say that these temples are shame on our religion.but when it comes to movies they do it fopr cheap publicity.

i lo0ve this movie. but it only talk abt asoka and his love kayravaki. but there much more to this story like the war, (they show so little.kalinga(an ancient republic which fought agaist the mighty asoak to save its people.)abd the change that haoppens after asoka meets an old kalinga mother who lost his son in the war. they show it as kauravaki was the reason.

but dont worry another movie is comin starring big b asd asoka and arjun rampal as hi son kunal. you can find a lot on web abt asoka and the mauryan empire. do you the funniest thing . this empire emerged after the death of alexzander. if he had not died the history of india might be differnet.

call me tapan said...

hey heres a link top asoka's life:http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring98/Ashoka.htm

Beth said...

tapan - I never take historical movies literally - so often they are at least partially invented. In some ways, I'm glad the movie didn't try to show any more of the story than it did, because I thought it was rich and interesting and "ended" in a satisfying way - though clearly the story wasn't really over.

As for the controversy over the clothing - I hadn't heard about that, though I'm not surprised. So many people like to refer to history only when it suits them - and then, only to the parts that help their arguments. :)

shell said...

I'm so glad other people like Asoka, even after it was considered a flop (and I think the first inhouse project of ShahRukh's Dreamz Unlimited wasn't it?). I've yet to see the Rising, but it's sitting downstairs with my other lovelies just waiting.

Anonymous said...

The person your'e insulting by calling a servant is a respectable young widow. Sati had been banned by the mughals during the mughal period. But it was restarted by indian women during britsh raj to prevent white men from marrying the beautiful indian women and making them impure.Or doing to them what was being done to Heera and the other indian prostitutes. Such was the hatred of the white people. The girls name is Jwala and she didnt want sati so the colonel saved her and gave her shelter in his house as a platonic housemate. She only did some chores because she had nothing to do.I hope you publish my comment on your blog and not delete it because you missed a point.
Sincere thanks
Mohini

Beth said...

Mohini - I trust you realize that I did not mean to insult the character. There's always more to learn and I appreciate you sharing your insight.