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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Jittery market greets Bollywood film
Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan
The overseas market for Hindi films has slackened off
By the BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

Asoka, released on Friday, is Bollywood's first attempt to capture the life and times of India's greatest emperor who ruled the country more than 2000 years ago.

Historical subjects are the new rage in the Indian film industry and two of the biggest Bollywood hits this year have both been period films.

Western markets, specially those with a fair sprinkling of South Asian diaspora like in the US and the UK, had become a major source of revenue for Indian films in recent years.

Scene from Asoka
Asoka: The emperor's reign is considered to be a golden era
But after 11 September not many overseas buyers are willing to pay exorbitant sums of money for Indian films.

With overseas markets showing signs of cooling off, it is back to basics in the Indian film industry.

Also riding on Asoka is the fate of Bollywood's reigning superstar Shahrukh Khan, star and producer of the film.

Khan realises that these are not the most auspicious times.

"If there are riots in a certain part of our country it affects the business," he said.

"If there is any rainfall in a certain part, if it's too cold in Delhi in December it affects the last show.

Local audiences

"Of course something as tragic and as big as the WTC and this ongoing war is obviously going to affect the business of the film."

The film is not only about about Asoka the warrior king. It is also about Asoka the son, the lover-boy and finally the man who gave up arms to embrace Buddhism and become a messenger of peace.

"He wanted to be known as one of the greatest emporers of all times and he had this ambition to make his boundaries bigger," said the film's director, Santosh Sivan.

"And then he realised at the end of a war that the way to conquer people is by conquering their hearts.

"So he made an attempt to change totally. I like a character who went through so many contradictions."

Bollywood moguls are now making all out efforts to woo back local audiences into the cinemas.

And in these changed times, it is these people alone who will decided upon the commercial success of the new release.

See also:

23 Feb 99 | South Asia
Bombay evicts 'gangster chief'
05 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bollywood suffers from US attacks
04 Nov 98 | South Asia
Bombay gets tough on gangsters
25 Jul 01 | Film
Cash boost for Bollywood
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