Dasavathaaram


Dasavathaaram

Cast:Kamal Haasan, Asin, Jayaprada
Music: Himesh Reshammiya
Director: K S Ravikumar
Writer: DASAVATARAM

I met Kamal Haasan 48 hours before the release of Dasavathaaram, a film that he considered his most ambitious. I asked how many marks on 10 Kamal gives himself as an actor. "I am a reluctant actor,'' Kamal said, "I will perhaps give myself two or four," he said, wearing his modesty on his sleeve. And how many marks out of 10 as a screenplay writer, Kamal? "I think I am one of the best in the business." After watching the Tamil version of Dasavathaaram, first day first show, in Hyderabad on Friday, I wondered if Kamal had got his roles mixed up. Kamal, the actor, comes up trumps. His 10 avatars could well have been different actors. But then, what is new about Kamal being a brilliant actor? Dasavathaaram, unfortunately, remains just a film with its USP of 10 Kamals. This Kamal does not blossom the way he did in Indian or Nayakan, Appu Raja, Mahanadi, Avvai Shanmughi or in Thevar Magan. As a Kamal admirer, I left the hall disappointed. Amid all the grandeur of a massive canvas, I missed the soul. One of the best in the business falters with the film's story and screenplay. Kamal did admit the entire story is just a ploy but then a master storyteller needs to carry his audience with him. This probably did not happen and that's why I overheard one of a group of youngsters in the row behind me exclaim in the intermission. "Hey, what has Kamal done? I am lost.'' That to me, summed up the problem with Dasavathaaram. Kamal, the storyteller, had not managed to convey a coherent storyline to the audience. The first actor in world cinema doing 10 roles had brought them to the theatre but now they wanted a good story to hold their interest. The plot deals with the theft of a vial containing a biosynthetic weapon, out of a high security lab in the USA. Kamal as scientist Govind, chases it to India but there is another Kamal as ex-CIA agent Fletcher who also is trying to get hold of it. That is the climax towards which Kamal's magnum opus works. The entire film from the third reel to the end is a chase and nothing else. A chase, in which many of the different Kamals are either saving or searching for the vial that could wipe out humanity. It is an out and out Kamal film, literally. He is in every scene, every frame of the film. The challenge of making the characters distinct is achieved but not all of them are engaging, engrossing and interesting. Govind, the lead character, is most unimpressive and you do not feel anything for him. Others look like caricatures. Be it Krishnaveni Paati, or the seven-feet tall Kalifulla or singer Avatar Singh (who looks so much like Gulshan Grover!). The two Kamals who stand out are RAW officer Balram Naidu and George Bush, where Kamal is very good. Where was K S Ravikumar? The director, who showed his very typical stamp of humour in hits like Muthu, Padayappa, Avvai Shanmughi was sadly missing. His exuberance at the end of the film to sing Ulaga Nayakagane, proclaiming Kamal as the universal hero, seems almost like a desperate measure. On that roller coaster of a film, Govind's consort is a reluctant and short-tempered Asin, who to her credit does hold herself well against Kamal. Mallika Sherawat is wasted. Jayaprada should have let her fans remember only her partnership with Kamal in Sagarasangamam instead of spoiling her CV with a forgettable role as Avtar Singh's wife. (By the way, Sagarasangamam is Kamal's favourite film !) Kamal says he spent over 500 hours doing make-up for the 10 roles. The time is well-spent for the make up artist has by far done the best job in the film. Special effects are very international, very Hollywood. And this would be one film, which irrespective of how it does at the box office, will be a benchmark for special effects work in any Indian film. Himesh Reshammiya as music director was not Kamal's first choice though he said he liked the music. Did he? Really? Most people in Tamil Nadu have not. Barring the Kallai and the Mukunda numbers, Himesh is very ordinary. Will this film work for the audience in rural Tamil Nadu? It is a big if. And given that Dasavatharam is possibly India's costliest film ever, the consequences seem frightening for those who made the film. I asked Kamal, will he take a long break after the strenuous work of creating 10 characters, all in one film. He said he does not feel the stress when he is working on a film because he loves his job. I asked Ravikumar how he will unwind. He said : "By doing a film, with a single actor who plays a single role in the film.'' Viewers who have watched the film, would agree, 10 is indeed too much of a crowd.
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