India may host the world's biggest film industry, but you wouldn't know it from the way Bollywood movies are marginalised and overlooked in this country. But that was before "Lagaan", one of the first Bollywood pictures to break into the UK top ten. Finally distributors are waking up to this vast untapped market and have afforded "Asoka" the widest release ever given to an Indian title.
Bollywood stud Shah Rukh Khan plays Asoka, an Indian prince who leaves the kingdom of Magadha to find love and adventure in the neighbouring province of Kalinga. Wooing and wedding beautiful runaway Kaurwaki (Kareen Kapoor), Asoka helps another young prince escape the grip of an evil minister. But a twist of fate turns Asoka into a bloodthirsty tyrant, intent on bending all of India to his will.
To an audience reared on mainstream American product, this rich mix of action, romance, comedy, and drama may be hard to swallow in one sitting. A swordfight will segue into a song, a battle will be interspersed with slapstick humour, and a movie that started off as a whimsical romance may wind up as an overblown tragedy.
All these elements are present and correct in "Asoka", but it's not the alienating mess you might expect. If you leave your prejudices at the box office, you may find it rather invigorating - if a little on the lengthy side.
With elements of both "Gandhi" and "Braveheart", "Asoka" is a big, sprawling epic that looks every rupee it took to bring it to the screen.
In Hindi with English subtitles.