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The Cast

  Shah Rukh Khan
  Kariena Kapoor
  Hrishitaa Bhatt
  Rahul Dev
  Raghuveer Yadav
  Gerson Da Cunha

Behind the scenes

  Author, Making of Asoka
  Costume Design
  Art Decor

'I wouldn't have done Asoka'

I never considered doing films. That's the whole point. It just happened.

Santosh is a close family friend. I think he is a brilliant photographer. I met him through my son Shahad.

At the time, Santosh came over to my uncle's house in Madras, where he shot a fantastic interview with my mother. There were no studio lights. He just used two towel stands with a sheet over them. The lighting he achieved was unbelievable.24subha.jpg - 5380 Bytes

I was very touched by his gesture, happy that he did it for us. I think that deep down, he's a committed pacifist. That appeals to me tremendously.

I happened to be in Bombay when he was working on the preliminaries of Asoka. He was offering a role in his film to everyone he met -- an old man who was staying with us at that time, the doorman at the Taj, his rickshaw driver. Even me.

I thought he was joking. Later, I realised he wasn't serious about the doorman at the Taj, but was serious about me.

Shahad had helped Santosh organise his shoot and was to go along with the crew to help out. Just before they were to leave, Santosh asked Shahad where I was.

My son just panicked. Santosh was a good friend of his. If I let them down, it would be a great embarrassment for him. He told me there was no way I could get out of it. So I did it. I wouldn't have done Asoka or any part for anyone but Santosh.

The few days that I spent with this film unit, it was like a big picnic. You meet a lot of interesting people, especially the technicians. I like the mechanics of filmmaking -- so much effort goes into it.

Sabu Cyril, the art director, is a genius. He creates marvels from nothing -- he'll take flower petals, add them somewhere; he uses little children as props, too, to decorate the screen, as Mani Ratnam does.

There were these huge pillars which were just moved around. You had exterior décor, interior décor, a throne room -- it was so exciting.

I played Shah Rukh's mother in the film. He is very well-behaved. I wouldn't say that I know him or that he knows me. He is a star, but a very well behaved one.

Subhashini Ali spoke to Vivek Fernandes
Photograph: Jewella C Miranda