Shahrukh Week Continues! In Honor of the Royal Visit, a Discussion of His Royal Performances!

Happy Shahrukh Week Day 2!  Only 5 days left for Fan!  Of course, he is taking a break from Fan promos (although supposedly there was a discussion of having the royal couple do a “Jabra Fan” dubsmash) to greet the royal couple.  I’ll also take a break from Fan, to think about Shahrukh and his royal roles.

Considering his nickname is “King Khan”, he’s actually done a surprisingly few number of royal performances.  Looking at my Shahrukh DVD shelf, really it’s just Asoka.  Even in the movie named “Baadshah”, he was just playing a regular guy who’s nickname was “Baadshah”, not an actual King.

(Baadshah ho Baadshah, Baadshah ho Baadshah, Baadshah ho Baadshah, BAAAAAAADSHAAAAH!)

Kind of matches with his persona, really.  He’s always presented as a nice middle-class guy from Delhi who works hard and makes it on his own merits.  Not someone who inherits wealth and power, or who is brought up to it as a matter of course, but someone who works for everything they get.  Even in a film like K3G, where he is supposed to be the wealthy inheritor of a financial empire, they undercut it a little by making him adopted, and making him find his own way and his own success in the second half.

Which is why Asoka is the perfect story for him!  The King who wasn’t destined, but created his own destiny.  He is the forgotten unloved son, his power comes from his abilities to command his troops, not anything his father gives him.  And then, in the best part of the movie, he goes off on his own and lives by his own abilities and wits.  And then he comes home to power and the whole thing goes off the rails again.

At least, that’s how it is for me!  I recently re-watched Asoka, for the first time in years, and it was both better and worse than I remembered.  The opening, when we are supposed to see the grand sweep of the Empire and how Shahrukh fits within it, really does not work for me.  It doesn’t feel epic enough, and Shahrukh doesn’t feel noble enough.  The first time we see him, he is having a cool stand off with someone, using his fwippy sword (Urumi!).  And it doesn’t feel like a king enforcing his natural rule, but like a cocky gunslinger enjoying showing off his abilities.  Basically, more Han Solo than Princess Leia.

(And someone on the internet thinks Han Solo is more Akshay than Shahrukh)

Compare this with the first time we see Hrithik in Jodha-Akbar, one of my all time favorite hero introductions.  He isn’t showing off his abilities, or showing off at all.  He is merely flipping his hand to order thousands of men into battle.  This is a nobility that is inbred!  This is someone who was raised to power!

I guess the Asoka opening works if we are supposed to be seeing Asoka as he is before he comes to power, when he is still being ignored.  Only I don’t think he is supposed to be completely ignored at this point, I think we are coming into it when he is already the beloved and successful general.  Remember he has that huge parade when he arrives back in the capital?  But the way he plays the first scene, this isn’t a guy with parades, this is a guy used to not being seen, to doing what must be done in the shadows.

And then we see him with his family, and it makes sense again, since his brothers are more loved and he is not expected to take the throne.  It makes even more sense when he rushes to stop his mother from taking a vow of silence, that feels like the familiar Shahrukh, the devoted son of a struggling single mother.  Same as in Baazigar or Karan-Arjun.  And when his mother orders him to leave, that really makes sense.  Just like in K3G  or My Name is Khan, he leaves because his parent tells him to, being banished by obedience.

Which leads to my favorite part, when he is just a traveling swordsman, a regular guy, falling in love with a princess, teaching her how to fight, being generally charming and awesome.  And, most importantly, cutting his hair!  I don’t care what kind of plot logistics they had to come up with to make it happen, I am just so glad to see the last of the long noble historically accurate locks!

This is also the part of the film where I feel like Shahrukh is most comfortable in his performance.  He is just being a charming cocky guy, traveling the world, being cool and enjoying himself.  And, of course, being devastatingly attractive while falling in love with a strong confident woman.

And then it all goes bad again when he loses the strong confident woman, thinks she is dead, and goes home to discover his mother is dead, the other secure element in his life, and suddenly he turns into Vengeance Shahrukh.  Which is not the best look on him.  Speaking of bad looks, he also grows his hair back (noooooooo!).

But maybe this is on purpose?  You could argue that the whole film was structured around Shahrukh’s strengths onscreen.  He never seems quite right, quite comfortable, with the bits in which he is actually ruling the kingdom.  He is happier and more natural when he is just pretending to be a traveling mercenary, than when he is forced to lead.  And the wrong-wrong-wrong feel when he is traveling the country, defeating his enemies by brutal means, that could also be on purpose.  Seeing SRK, who we are so used to as the charming happy lover, turning into this vengeance machine, adds an extra layer of awareness of how Asoka was perverted, driven from his natural path, only to find it in the end.

Only, Shahrukh as a noble peaceful Buddhist is a little unbelievable too.  Maybe that’s why the film ends so abruptly, before we can see his final incarnation, because they knew he really really couldn’t play that bit!

18 thoughts on “Shahrukh Week Continues! In Honor of the Royal Visit, a Discussion of His Royal Performances!

  1. Ashoka!!! My favorite historical character! Ashoka is to Indians what King Arthur is to the British.And I agree with you that SRK couldn’t pull it off properly.But I’d rather blame Bollywood and Santhosh Sivan. Bollywood hasn’t learned to make a proper historical movie without romance being the be all and end all. Take Jodha Akbar, Bajirao Mastini.Contrary to what Karan Johar says it’s all about romantic love-at least in Bollywood.

    The real Ashoka was ambitious,cunning and a brilliant general.And here’s what the movie does not tell you- Kaurwaki was a fisher woman of Kalinga.The conquest of that kingdom had nothing to do with Kaurwaki and everything to do with the fact that they had the monopoly of trade on the eastern coast and Kalinga lay between Mauryan territories.The merchants of Magadh had to take a roundabout route to travel within the Empire.

    Sadly the TV show on Ashoka which is currently on air perpetuates the myth that Kaurwaki is a princess and is Ashoka’s one and only love.Considering that the man had five principal wives and innumerable concubines that’s taking it a bit too far.

    Like

    • I was trying to think of a good historical that didn’t revolve around a romance, and you’re right! They all have something. Jodha-Akbar is my favorite, because Akbar’s character is so well-drawn, but then all of that character work is just in service of his romance. Maybe Mother India? I mean, it’s technically a historical, even if it doesn’t really feel like it. And then 1942: A Love Story has it right there in the title! It starts out about the whole Quit India movement, and then just turns into A Love Story. And Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. And LOC: Kargil with a million inserted love scenes. Even Pinjar!

      Is there a good book I could read on Ashoka? I’m fascinated by how much is known about him, despite how old he is. At a time when the most of the rest of the world was still in pre-history and myth, there is an actual documented Empire in India!

      Like

  2. Not much is known about Asoka’s past before he became the Emperor.Of course they are a bunch of Buddhist texts like Ashokavadana,Divyavadana,Dipavamsa etc.But their version has to be taken with a pinch of salt since they have grossly exaggerated the ruthlessness of Pre-Buddhist Ashoka in order to glorify his deeds after conversion.

    Fiction:

    1. Ashoka the Great – Wytze Keuning
    Nearly 80% of it is fictional but it is amazing that the author got so much of it right since he had never been to India.

    2. The Prince of Pataliputra- Shreyas Bhave
    3. Ashoka- Amar Chitra Katha Comics

    Non-fiction:

    1. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar.
    (Recommended by most history buffs.)
    2.The Pageant of India’s History-Gertrude Emerson Sen
    3. Asoka Maurya -B. G. Gokhle
    4. Ashoka : India’s lost emperor- Charles Allen

    The Chakravartin Ashok Samrat forum at India forums have some interesting facts about Ashok.

    Kaurwaki
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560712

    Ashoka’s greek blood?
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560059

    Five tales about Ashoka-Asandhimitra
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4559757

    Kalinga war
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4604550

    Long historical thread
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4300010

    Parody of Night before Christmas
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4499290

    Like

  3. Not much is known about Asoka’s past before he became the Emperor.Of course they are a bunch of Buddhist texts like Ashokavadana,Divyavadana,Dipavamsa etc.But their version has to be taken with a pinch of salt since they have grossly exaggerated the ruthlessness of Pre-Buddhist Ashoka in order to glorify his deeds after conversion.

    Fiction:
    1. Ashoka the Great – Wytze Keuning
    Nearly 80% of it is fictional but it is amazing that the author got so much of it right since he had never been to India.
    2. The Prince of Pataliputra- Shreyas Bhave
    3. Ashoka- Amar Chitra Katha Comics

    Non-fiction:
    1. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar.
    (Recommended by most history buffs.)
    2.The Pageant of India’s History-Gertrude Emerson Sen
    3. Asoka Maurya -B. G. Gokhle
    4. Ashoka : India’s lost emperor- Charles Allen

    The Chakravartin Ashok Samrat forum at India forums have some interesting facts about Ashok.

    Kaurwaki
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560712

    Ashoka’s greek blood?
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560059

    Five tales about Ashoka-Asandhimitra
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4559757

    Kalinga war
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4604550

    Long historical thread
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4300010

    Parody of Night before Christmas
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4499290

    Like

    • I can’t buy any more ACK! I already have a whole bookshelf full of them! But now I really want it…. It’s just so much easier to learn Indian history and mythology in comic book format, you know?

      Like

  4. Of course the 15 year old Siddharth Nigam who plays Ashoka in Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat is super talented.He has both Aamir(he was in Dhoom3) and Salman’s blessings(the kid already has an impressive six pack).Here’s hoping the latter would introduce him.Well, he should.If he can introduce the non-talented Suraj Pancholi why not someone who can act well.

    Kaurwaki
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560712

    Ashoka’s greek blood?
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4560059

    Five tales about Ashoka-Asandhimitra
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4559757

    Kalinga war
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4604550

    Long historical thread
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4300010

    Parody of Night before Christmas
    http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4499290

    Like

  5. Of course the 15 year old Siddharth Nigam who plays Ashoka in Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat is super talented.He has both Aamir(he was in Dhoom3) and Salman’s blessings(the kid already has an impressive six pack).Here’s hoping the latter would introduce him.Well, he should.If he can introduce the non-talented Suraj Pancholi why not someone who can act well.

    Like

    • It’s because of the links, for some reason I have to manually approve any post with a link in it. I’ll always approve them eventually, you just have to wait for me to wake up 🙂

      Like

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