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:
|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 type||Sort 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.|
|music||Edgy 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 stories||Funky 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?|
|dancing||Clearly 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.