Academics in the Indian state of Orissa have hit out at the historical accuracy of actor-producer Shah Rukh Khan's international hit Asoka.

MN Das, an internationally renowned expert on Emperor Ashoka and his conquest of Kalinga, said that a figure of such historical importance should not have been distorted in a bid to make easy money. Blasting the filmmakers for not doing adequate research and for trivialising the history of the period, Das said that the objective of a historical film should be to educate even as it entertains.

Asoka, a fictionalised account of the life and times of the Mauryan emperor who renounced war and converted to Buddhism features thanks to the Dalai Lama from director Santosh Sivan.

Das pointed out that Asoka is no ordinary historical figure, but one whose relevance to India today continues to be significant, not merely in the message of non-violence that came to typify his life, but also in that his symbol, the wheel, forms part of the Indian national flag and his lion seal is the national emblem.

Das, who is also a member of the Indian Parliament, said he was surprised that the Censor Board approved the film.

The film, which had its world premiere at the Venice festival in September opened in the UK on Oct 26 on a massive 76 sites scoring $341,743 (£235,461), including previews of $55,411, the second-biggest ever opening for a Bollywood film in the UK. Asoka, produced by Shah Rukh's Arclightz Films, gets the biggest ever release for a Hindi film in the North American market, getting a 68 print opening.