Controversy dogs Shah Rukh Khan!
M I Khan in Bhubaneshwar
After the Fire and Water film controversy, it is now director Santosh Sivan's Ashoka The Great that has come under attack.
The film stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor. The shooting for the same has almost been completed in the Orissa capital, Bhubaneswar. Eminent historians and politicians are up in arms against Santosh Sivan for distorting historical facts and hurting the Oriya pride by misrepresenting the city in the film. They allege that Sivan has not given importance to the historical background of the period and seriously doubt the authenticity of his storyline.
What is remarkable is that the protest and criticism has been very peaceful. And, unlike the Water controversy, this hasn't quite made the national headlines because shooting was neither disrupted nor the star and director abused.
Ashoka The Great is a home production of Shah Rukh Khan. Kareena Kapoor plays Karubaki, princess of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga.
Sivan, acclaimed director of The Terrorist, now hopes to recreate magic with this period movie. The film has Emperor Ashoka losing his heart to Karubaki, who was in love with a Kalinga prince herself. Ashoka, who had set his heart on Karubaki, then invades Kalinga to capture her.
THE opposition began with local newspapers raising the distortion of the Kalinga story issue. The script, they allege, is not correct -- neither was an Oriya historian consulted nor the theme of the film disclosed before the filming was completed last week with the famous Dhauli hill temples and ancient caves of Khandagiri as its backdrop.
M N Das, the only Indian historian who has researched the Kalinga war, and who happens to be a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, expressed to rediff.com his surprise at the fact that the Indian government passed the film that distorts history.
Karuna Sagar Behera, another eminent historian, declares, "The producer should make the script public so we can see whether the historical facts are being distorted or not."
However, Sivan said, during the shooting of film here last week, that the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), had, in fact, approved the script and that he has not distorted historical facts.
Historical evidence, however, reveals that Karubaki was not a princess at all. "If she were a princess, who then was the king, her father? There is enough evidence that she was a Buddhist and had guided Ashoka towards his religious leanings. This is the only reason that her name finds a place in Ashoka's inscription," discloses Das.
Cultural organisations like Utkal Sammelani have also objected to the film's script, saying that the story of Emperor Ashoka and the Kalinga war are well-known and that any change in its historical representation will lead to protests.
Attests Biswa Bhusan Harichandran, state cultural minister, "If the story is not based on historical facts then there will be opposition from the people."