Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dasavatharam - Errr...


I am a huge fan of Universal Star Padma Shri Dr. Kamal Haasan. I think he's an exceptionally gifted actor and something approaching a cinematic visionary. I love the fact that he is not afraid to experiment, to push the boundaries of contemporary cinema.

So it was with fairly high expectations that I went to watch Dasavatharam (Wiki) - his much-hyped magnum opus - last weekend.

If I had to pick two words to describe it, they'd be these: a. Impressive, b. Disappointing

Impressive because it takes guts and talent to contemplate and execute a movie of this scale. Disappointing because I expected so so so much more.

A few thoughts:

I didn't come out of this movie feeling anything at all. Of his recent movies, Panchathanthiram and Vasool Raja left one feeling on a ROFL induced high, while Anbe Sivam and Virumaandi simply blew one away by the sheer brilliance of structure and performance. Dasavatharam? Nothing. No connect, just a mild feeling of having been let down.

As Kamal has gone to town declaring, this does set new standards of filmmaking for Tamil cinema. Maybe even Indian cinema. Some of the visual effects are amazing, especially the often ignored visual effects of having multiple Kamals sharing a single scene fairly seamlessly. Some though, are cringe-inducingly tacky, particularly during the climax.

Contrary to what the rest of the world seems to think, I didn't find it a complete disaster. Mukunda is very easy on the ears, and Oh Ho Sanam is good fun as well (until Kamal starts yelling instead of singing in the last 30 seconds). But Kallai Mattum Kandaal is sheer brilliance. Wonderful music by Himeshbhai (although the base tune is copied from a random Malayalam song) and sung powerfully and emotively by Hariharan.

Mallika Sherawat
Ugh. My god, woman. If you're doing a pole dance, at least try to be graceful. Especially if that is practically the only thing you bring to the movie.

Another Panchathanthiram would have worked just fine. Keep Rangarajan Nambi, Balaram Naidu, Govind, Vincent Boovarajan and (reluctantly) Avtaar Singh. The others didn't need you to play them anyway, layers of muscle-stiffening make up and all.

Make up
Oh Kamal, Kamal. Did you have to go for random Plaster of Paris masks for your characters? Not only do they look ridiculously fake, they also restrict your facial expressions and smother your eyes and voice, all of which are key to your normally brilliant performances.

This, to me, is the single biggest flaw to the movie. Kamal is a phenomenal actor, but has a phenomenal ego to boot. (This, incidentally, is often pointed out as the key personality difference between him and Rajni.) How else does one explain the force-fitting of Kamal-played characters to bring the total to 10, the dialogue anointing one of the characters as Ulaga Nayagan and the my-god-I-can't-believe-they're-doing-this-tacky-self-congratulatory-song Ulaga Nayagane at the end. The whole movie was eventually reduced to being less about the story and more about Kamal giving himself a stage to grandstand.

Which made it very disappointing to someone going in expecting a powerful performance from him.

Oh well. Hopefully his next will make amends.


Nandini Vishwanath said...

I like your review. Very not pseudo. And yes, everyone says the same thing about his ego. So far, I've read umpteen reviews about the movie and so has Ajit. So no Dashavataram for us, I guess.

This in Gurgaon aah?

maxdavinci said...

hmm well said, you've deconstructed the pieces very well.

ps:nandini recomended this blog

Praveen said...

After a long time just jumped into your blog corner to see what is happening over here.....

The movie is not a big hit...Since the time shared between each character is not sufficient....

Expected big thing from thalaivar but it was not upto the expectation

Anonymous said...

How could Kamal make it 5..the purpose would have been defeated.. its the final impact of the character/make-up that makes one choose some out of the 10.. but all 10 are equally important.
I recd a forward.. with detailed explanation of the avatars. jist below..
1. Krishna avatar - Vincent Poovaraghavan
2. Balarama avatar - Balarama naidu
3. Mathsya avatar - Ranagaraja nambi
4. Varaha avatar - Krishnaveni paatti
5. Vamana avatar - Kalifulla khan
6. Parasurama avatar - Christian Fletcher
7. Narasimha avatar - Shingen Narahashi
8. Rama avatar - Avatar Singh
9. Kalki avatar - Govindaraj Ramasamy
10. Koorma avatar - Bush
Much as I was disappointed with the movie..this forward did make me appreciate it slightly better :P
mailed you the 'detailed version'!

Btw, AC - why no mention about the Chaos Theory or the butterfly effect ;)

- Soundarya

AC said...

@Nandu: Delhi, actually. And do watch the movie, at least once. It's worth that.

@DaVinci: Thanks :)

@Praveen: Yeah... given the high expectations one has come to have of him, this was a let down...

AC said...

@Soundarya: Hmmm...

1. 5 vs 10: Yes, I agree the point of 'Dasavatharam' would have been lost. But what I meant to say was that only five were perhaps relevant and necessary, the others were almost filler roles (as in, roles for Kamal, not that they were irrelevant characters) to make up the 10.

2. The subtexts and avatar mapping: Yes, I've read that as well... and somemother mentions of deepr subtexts in the movie. I realised I have not mentioned my impression of the story/screenplay: I really really appreciated that aspect of the movie. I think Kamal has done a crack job of pulling together a potential chaotic (yes, pun intended) script into something tight and coherent, complete with a lot of nuances for Kamal fanboys. So I'm all with you on that front!

Shree said...

nice review. The movie was a one-man show and I found the movie very long.sigh!

AC said...

Thanks... I guess it was always meant to be a one-man show!

appy said...

when did you start seeing tamil movies da ?


I never thought you watch tamil movies. well critiqued


AC said...

Hey Appy :) Watching Tamil movies? Always have, always will!

chaami said...

I watched this flick and thoroughly enjoyed it, of course expected much more but can't say was disappointed. Screwball comedy was a bit too much.

Watched Kuselan (don't watch much of Rajini's movies) and to atone for this came back to watch dasavatharam twice.

Kamal is going to rock in marmayogi which is on the lines of the hollywood smash hit 300.

Nithya said...

I could bear the movie for the first 20 min. From then on, I was sinking in my seat. Perhaps a more mythological narration would have woken me up from that meaningless torture!
Gosh, and to actually see this terrible piece of work from such an exceptional actor like Kamal Hassan. IMPOSSIBLE!!
Just hope his next film is limited just to one single role!! I'm sure it would work better for him and his audience!