Like any genre, Sword and Sandals seems to go through its up and downs. It certainly seemed the thing to do in the days of Gladiator and it seems, with Troy to be seen soon as not to mention the Alexander the Great biopics, it still maintains a certain respectability. Of course quality films don’t rely upon the wistfulness of the general populace but it certainly helps with the marketing.
So Asoka, at its most basic, is a Sword and Sandals epic but with elephants and that Bollywood flair because, well it’s expected, isn’t it?
And it is with that certain tradition that there are the song and dance numbers, damn fine looking costumes and romantic triangles that litter the film and yet don’t dominate it. If not as for any other example of Bollywood, the Song and Dance seem to meet a required quota than to actually progress the film in any real sense.
Much greater emphasis is placed upon Shah Rukh Kahn’s tragic anti-hero/noble villian – a mighty warrior brought low via the machinations of his less capable step-brothers until he is forced into self-imposed exile. Being his heroic self, he finds the simple life, when fate intervenes until all he can see is (the copious amounts of) blood and unapolagetically rampages across the countryside conquering all before him.
Death, destruction and a little bit of buddhist compassion. With that kind of combination, there’s little you can really say against the film. The rampaging elephants are just a bonus.