Title : Dasavatharam (Meaning: Ten Avatars)
Starring : Kamalahasan, Asin
Direction : K. S. Ravikumar
The thought of a movie where a single actor plays ten different roles does raise some basic questions about how it might even be possible to weave a sensible story (unless of course it is a comedy like Naya Din Nai Raat). Watching the film just confirms the worst of these fears. Dasavatharam is a poorly concocted, meaningless film, with Kamalahasan playing ten roles in addition to being responsible for the story, the screenplay and the dialogues.
There is no real story as such. It begins with a twelfth century clash between Shiva and Vishnu devotees resulting in Kamalahasan’s first character being tied to the Vishnu deity and drowned to death. The visuals for these scenes are impressive. Fast forward a few centuries and Kamalahasan is an Indian scientist in the US and an American CIA agent. The scientist is busy chasing a computer chip that contains some biological weapon. The CIA agent is hired by the goons and wants the weapon too. What follows is a weather-beaten cat and mouse game between the CIA agent and the scientist where every other scene has Kamalahasan in a new look. Along the way the scientist picks up Asin for company. The love story of the film is almost forgotten and concludes in a lame and predictable manner at the end. The story comes to an end with a Tsunami and the deity from the 12th century being swept ashore. Perhaps the movie makers could not think of a better way to end the film. The Tsunami scenes are extremely well shot and comparable to some of the real shots you find on Youtube. There are references to the existence of God at various points in the film but such intellectual topics of discussion in the midst of intense “masala” seems obviously out of place and completely lacking in depth.
Kamalahasan plays George Bush, a Terminator look-alike (supposedly a CIA agent, when a stunt man would have been a more appropriate characterization), an old woman, a scientist, a priest, a villager, a singer (Daler Mehndi type), inspector Naidu, a Japanese martial arts expert, and an Afghani. Every time a new character appeared on the screen I found myself busy trying to figure out if it was Kamalahasan in a new make up! Of all the roles in this film, the role of Inspector Naidu was by far the best for the simple reason that the makeup was still believable and Kamalahasan was playing his age. The scenes and dialogues featuring Inspector Naidu were easily the most enjoyable part of the film.
State of the art makeup techniques have made it possible for near complete facial transformation. However, the more dramatic the transformation the less interesting it gets after the momentary “wow” factor. In fact, it is a lot like wearing a Halloween mask! This destroys the seriousness of the film and takes away the focus from the main story, if there was ever one.
It is not in the least bit surprising that this film ran into trouble with religious Hindus. For most part of the film a Hindu deity is tossed around under the pretext of having a dangerous chip inside it. Unfortunately for the censors if those parts of the film were curtailed the movie makers would have had to return to the drawing board. In hindsight, that might have not been a bad thing after all.
Asin does a decent job as the conventional big mouth brahmin girl. The rest are all mere passengers with little to do. One of them looked like yesteryear comedian, Nagesh while another looked like KR Vijaya, (another an old timer) or maybe they were Kamlalahasan himself with makeup. Mallika Sherwat tries her best to provide her personal brand of sizzle. Himesh Reshammaiyya’s music is nothing to write home about. Kamalahasan should have handled the music too (I think he sang one of the songs in the film). He might have done as well if not better than Himmesh.
It is sad to see Kamalahasan trying so hard to impress when it is an accepted fact that he is one of India’s top actors. It is no secret that big stars insist on dominating every frame in their films. But Kamalahasan takes this obsession to a whole new level. There are several scenes involving two or three characters all played by Kamalahasan and with no other actor in sight. If you had any doubts that Kamalahasan’s megalomania and eternal self-obsession, then this movie should put those doubts to rest. It should not come as a surprise if Kamalahasan were to make a movie where he plays every single role in the film.
Overall Dasavatharam is a huge dissapppointment. Even the biggest Kamalahasan fans are going to have a hard time defending this disaster.