Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dasavatharam – The ten horrors or I want my money back

The problem with being Kamal Hassan is you eventually get consumed by your own ‘thinking man’ image. Kamal Hassan is undoubtedly a good actor. Some of his movies have you crying your heart out, like Mahanadhi. Or laughing your guts out like Michael Madana Kama Rajan. But then, he comes up with these grandiose plans to make an ‘intelligent’ movie and you are crushed by the collapsing reels of his ambition – Guna, Alavandan, Hey Ram. Dasavataram is as ambitious as he gets. And unfortunately, it fails as badly as it can.

I can only think of one reason for this tendency of his to make such bloopers – a mega ego which probably tells him that he is up there in the list of the world’s intellectuals. Sure, he is intelligent. He has some very well thought-out views on a lot of topics. He probably reads much more than ninety percent of the Tamil film industry. Sadly, being a good actor or an intelligent person is not adequate criteria to write a good script or screenplay. Kamal fails to realise this. Like a third year, precocious, graduate student, eagerly grabbing his chance to voice his rapidly forming world views, Kamal throws idea upon idea at the audience, more to impress than to explore. One minute he hints at the dangers of biotechnology. Another minute he is urging us to live in harmony with the environment. The third he questions the existence of God. He talks about untouchables and about historical religious wars between Shaivaites and Vaishanvites. Also in the mire is a reference to Muslims being typecast as terrorists (Oh Boy! is he the one to talk about typecasting. Watch out for a Japanese character called Yuka who is from Hiroshima, is a Kung fu goddess and has a brother who runs something like a Shaolin school) .

It is not just the ideas that swing wildly. It is also the mood of the movie. The first fifteen minutes try to establish a serious tone. Then presumably, the director realises that the audience would probably find the whole thing too intense and the track switches to comedy. You grin uneasily when funny lines follow gruesome killings, wondering what to make of it. The movie can’t quite make up its mind till the end on whether it is supposed to be serious with funny thrown in or the other way around.

If Kamal the scriptwriter has bombed, what about Kamal the actor? After all, the movie is supposed to be a vehicle for his impressive range of emoting. This is probably where the plot could have been structured better. The ten roles that Kamal plays do not seem integral to the plot line. Some of them are totally irrelevant and seem to be there just to showcase Kamal the actor. Why did you need the Grandma or Avatar Singh (dancing with an aged Jayaprada, reminding you that it is not just the movies that are going to the dogs and you may as well take a moment to worry about politics)? The other roles could have been played by other actors. Kamal as George Bush looks as silly as Hrithik Roshan as the queen in Dhoom 2. Kamal as the villain, Christian Fletcher looks strangely out of proportion, with a large android head and a punier body. All that money spent on make-up would have been so much better spent on special effects. The scenes of the sea surging and cars and trees being tossed around look like the work of someone who has just completed the first level of Arena Multimedia’s courses.

The protagonist Govind is a role Kamal can sleepwalk through and he does exactly that. Balram Naidu, the RAW officer is the most impressive of them all, actually bringing a few chuckles. The dalit environmentalist also manages to convince us that it is not Kamal playing the role. Fundamentally though, a lack of clarity in the plot renders most of the characters superfluous and hence lessens your ability to admire the disguises or the voice modulations or even a surprising leap from the usual put-on accent Kamal uses when he speaks English. Govind is supposed to be a scientist, trying to prevent a deadly virus from falling into the wrong hands. Christian Fletcher is supposed to be working for the wrong hands. So, are the characters played by Kamal supposed to be aiding the destruction of the virus? Or are they proof of the fact that there is good and bad everywhere?

With even the characters played by Kamal floundering, there has been little focus on other roles. Leading to some downright annoying ones like that of Asin. Towards the end of the movie, you want to grab the bronze statue she holds for most part of the movie and hit her on the head to get her to shut up. Peripheral characters like Sethu, the greedy head of the biotech firm selling out to foreign hands are laughable. Why does the evil dealmaker run around for 15 minutes lugging a VIP-like suitcase straight from the 80s?

The bottomline is that Kamal, the scriptwriter has bitten off more than he can chew leading to Kamal, the actor getting a raw deal.

Anita B.


shiva said...

"Towards the end of the movie, you want to grab the bronze statue she holds for most part of the movie and hit her on the head to get her to shut up."

Yes.Definitely! A good analysis here...

Anonymous said...

Watched it yesterday. I never thought I would contemplate walking out of a Kamal film. but this was just painful to watch. Save for the opening 12th century scene, everything looked so cheap and tacky. The make-up was incredibly fake, especially the CIA agent. Where did the budget go? Hopefully, Kamal Sir can bounce back from this disaster.

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