Ashoka, the Great
This is not a film review or any historical note, but yet another trip down the memory lane. I was in Class IV or V then, studying at ARR Matriculation School in Kumbakonam. It was one school that took Sports meet & Annual days very seriously. Weeks of preparation would go on religious and most of the students would be a participant in one event or other.
On that eventful year, I was part of a play titled ‘Ashoka, the Great’. It was the same Ashoka and his same story that everyone knows. That guy Ashoka went for war with Kalinga, won the war but horrified on seeing the loss of life he turned a new leaf and became a man of peace. Thanks to my appearance, I didn’t look like an Emperor, but someone thought that I would make good as a soldier. I know that I was not given that role due to my fine acting skills but only because I shamelessly, repeatedly & voiceferously volunteered to do anything to be up there on the stage. As it so happened, there was another group wanting to enact a play, our school decided that both the groups would perform on stage before a select audience (school management & teachers), who would select one play to go on stage on the D-day.
Everything was going fine on stage and there came the part when Ashoka would be on the battlefield seeing the ruins. I, as an injured soldier moaned in pain, delivered some dialogue and died. My mate was to do the same. But an ever-smiling guy he was, he was laughing all the way in the battle and also while he was dying. His supposed hoarse cry out of pain evoked laughter from the audience. As if that was not worse, the guy who played Ashoka was made to wear high heel footwear after making some funny decorations over it. Probably he was wearing it for the first time, he found it hard to walk taking each step with a sort of fear, that he looked more an aged old man than a young, great emperor in the battle. At one place, he was supposed to stop walking, rest his foot on a log or something and was to deliver a lengthy dialogue, which was the core one for the play.
Ashoka stopped walking, started his dialogue and rested his foot – but not on the log. What he thought was a log was actually my leg. That stiletto in his high-heel shoe went straight into my leg that blood started oozing out immediately. The very next second I let out a mild scream and sprung up. Ashoka didn’t expect that kind of attack from a supposedly dead soldier. That was enough to upset his balance and he barely managed without falling down. In the meanwhile, I suddenly realised that I was supposed to be dead and fell back again. The entire crowd were rolling on the floor laughing. However, that didn’t prevent our Ashoka from thundering his well-memorised dialogues.
Should I say, which way the decision on who to take up the stage on the Annual Day went? Fortunately for many and sadly for me, that was the end of my career in acting. Long live, Ashoka.