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Special Post: Movie Review of Dashavatharam (Dasavatharam)

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Kamal Hassan in DashavatharamThis is a special post. Yesterday, I watched the new Tamil film, Dashavatharam of superstar Kamal Hassan, who is believed to be one of the finest actors in the world. The title of the film in Indian languages means “Ten Incarnations”; it is a reference to the ten avatars or incarnations of the Hindu god, Maha Vishnu (Narayana).

The movie enjoys a special mention in this blog because of these reasons: Padma Shri Dr. Kamal Hassan appears in ten different roles in this film (he is also the scriptwriter). Never in the history of cinema has an actor donned so many different roles in a single film. The movie’s total budget of 140 crores of Indian rupees (35 million USD) is way beyond that of any other Indian movie, making it the costliest Indian movie. There is still dispute over the total expenses, with some people mentioning it cost 86 crores and some others, 60.

The films is directed by noted director, K S Ravikumar (who has hits like Avvai Shanmughi, Padayappa, Muthu, Thenali, etc.) The director himself appears in the final scene of the film, dancing with all ten characters of Kamal. Venu Ravichandran (aka Oscar Ravichandran) of Aascar Films Pvt. Ltd. produced the movie. The film company name was previously Oscar Films, but due to the name dispute with The Academy, he changed his company name to Aascar Films.

Another major name associated with the film is the recently popular Bollywood music director, Himesh Reshammiya, who scores the music. He is believed to be paid almost one crore for his job.
Dashavatharam (Dasavatharam) poster

The ten characters played by Kamal Hassan in the film are Rangaraja Nambi (a Brahmin priest of 12th Century); Govindarajan Ramaswamy (A microbiologist and the protagonist of the film); American president George W Bush; pop singer, Avatar Singh; American hitman, Christian Fletcher; Japanese Kung-fu master, Shinghen Narahasi; an old Tamil woman Krishnaveni; press anchor, Vincent Poovaragan; a seven-feet-tall Muslim fellow, Kalifullah Khan; and Andhra-born RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) officer, Balram Naidu.

Kamal as Rangaraja Nambi:
Kamal as Rangaraja Nambi

Kamal as George Bush:
Kamal as George Bush

Kamal as Govind Ramaswamy:
Kamal as Govind Ramaswamy

Famous yesteryear actor, Jaya Prada (opposite Avtar Singh), Asin Thottumkal (opposite Ramaswamy), and Mallika Sherawat (opposite Fletcher) handle the female leads. Asin herself acts in two roles, which are functionally the same (one in the 12th and the other in the 21st century). There was false news in the media that Rekha was playing a female lead.

Kamal as Avtar Singh and Jaya Prada:
Kamal as Avtar Singh and Jaya Prada

Kamal and Asin in a chase:
Kamal and Asin in a chase

Kamal with Mallika Sherawat:
Kamal with Mallika Sherawat
Plot Spoiler Warning: Please don’t read below if you don’t want to lose the suspense.

The story’s first part begins in the 12th century, in which Kamal Hassan plays Rangaraja Nambi, with Asin as his wife. He was a devout of Lord Vishnu, but an emperor, Kulathonga Chola, played by actor Napolean, demanded that he pray Lord Shiva by reciting “Om Namah Shivay,” but Nambi wouldn’t do that.

For his disobedience, steel wires were pierced into his back and legs, hanging him on it (the first song is this scene, sung by Hari Haran). Later, he was cast to the sea tied to the extremely heavy idol of his deity, Lord Vishnu. Following this, his wife committed suicide smashing her forehead against another deity idol. There ends the prologue of the story, which itself took around 3 crores to make.

The next part of the story begins in the 21st century. Now, Kamal Hassan comes into scene as microbiologist, Govind Ramaswamy, who develops an extremely hazardous, super-fast-replicating virus. The scientists’ experiment subject, a monkey named Hanu, breaks free and eats the vial containing this virus. Within minutes, it succumbs to the virus infection, bleeding profusely from nose and mouth. The only agent to contain the virus is Sodium Chloride (NaCl), our table salt. Govind decides to destroy the virus threat by opening the Sodium Chloride-filled chambers around the core of the lab, curtailing the infection.

Later, Ramaswamy’s boss himself joins hands with the terrorists to sell the bio weapon for profit. Discerning this deception, Ramaswamy gets off with the vial containing the deadly virus. Here comes the third avatar of Kamal, an ex-CIA hitman named Christian Fletcher, contracted to kill Ramaswamy and retrieve the vial. Chris is an American assassin, who never stops until death. He follows Ramaswamy to Tamilnadu, India. With the aid of Jasmine, an ex-CIA agent played by Mallika Sherawat, he chases Ramaswamy through Tamilnadu.

Kamal Hassan, in the meanwhile, appears in the disguise of George Bush. His finesse in that role is commendable. Even his voice modulation is near perfect.

In India, Ramaswamy bumps against Balram Naidu, a typical south-Indian police chief. This is the fifth role of Kamal. The body language and voice modulation of this character reminds us a typical, middle-aged, steadfast Indian police chief.

Fletcher had killed a Japanese lady friend of Ramaswamy in the US. Her brother, a Kung-fu master, Shinghen Narahasi, also played by Kamal Hassan, comes all the way from Japan for revenge. The half-closed, intense, staring eyes of the Japanese work extremely well on his face.

Besides these major characters, other roles are pure entertainment additions: A Sikh pop singer (resembling Daler Mehandi) named Avtar Singh, old, mentally retarded lady character Krishnaveni, and the tall fellow. There is a mind-blowing song—the best in the film—by Avtar Singh. Kamal performs wonderfully in the song with supreme transformation as a Sardarji. Such in depth understanding of the mannerisms and body language of characters is seen very rarely among actors.

The dark Dalit media person, Vincent Poovaragan is an important role of Kamal at the end of the movie. He is a fighter against the vice of the society.

The vial with the virus eventually comes to the hands of Fletcher, after a mind-boggling chase and fight with Ramaswamy. However, as soon as he gets it, Narahasi appears on the scene and fights with Fletcher (the date is 26th December, 2004). This fight is a beauty not to be missed. In Indian cinema, perhaps such a perfectly choreographed fight is in rarity. Kamal’s poses in various Kung-fu steps remind us of real Kung-fu masters. But at the end of the fight, Fletcher, beaten by Narahasi, crunches the vial. That scene on the beachside was to be the end of all, resulting in the death of millions of people within hours, by the fast eruption of the deadly virus.

Soon after Fletcher crunched in the vial, he starts to bleed from nose and mouth and fell down dead within minutes. But at that very moment, a huge tide rushes into the beach, devouring everything on its way. It was the Tsunami that hit Indian beaches on December 26, 2004—a real incident. Please read the article of this Tsunami hit. The rush of seawater is such strong that Ramaswamy and others barely manage to come out alive. But the seawater, full of Sodium Chloride, washes away the threat of virus and everything is fine again.

In the Tsunami, many people are washed away, and Vincent Poovaragan rescues some children, those of the villains, the ones that despised him for being a Dalit. But, he drowns ultimately.

The Tsunami scenes are shot with absolute finesse. The graphics reminds us of Roland Emmerich’s global warming thriller, The Day After Tomorrow.

Plot Spoiler Ends Here

The old idol, which was thrown to the sea in 12th century reappears in the 21st century. 12-21. It’s the plot of the story, the Chaos Theory or the Butterfly Effect. It is a message that the history repeats!

With its budget, it will be the most important release in Indian film industry this year.

Kamal’s Portrayals

Kamal Hassan is an actor par excellence. He is known for his beautiful, naturalistic, Method acting. Acting is an art demanding a lot of discipline and dedication, just as writing. Without understanding a character, his mannerisms, and ways, one cannot play him. While it is extremely difficult to portray one character, Kamal portrayed ten different characters in this film successfully. Just imagine the kind of work he put into this movie. The filming for Dasavatharam took almost a year.

For dancing as Avtar Singh, he mastered the Punjabi Bhangra dance style. He learned a little Japanese and a lot of Kung-fu to don Shinghen Narahasi. But one cannot portray that character well with knowledge in Kung-fu alone; it needs more in terms of confidence, concentration, and conscientiousness. Each of his characters is distinct, with its own speech style, mannerisms, and body language. The dark press reporter with thrust-out belly is a very typical example.

But my most favorite character is undoubtedly the profoundly typical police chief with a natural, loud sense of humor.

For those, who don’t know of Kamal Hassan, let me introduce him. He is on par with any other actor that ever existed in the history of cinema. He is a world record holder for the highest number of awards and recognitions for acting. He is the finest Indian actor alive today.

Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth (the most popular superstar of India) for Dashavatharam preview:
Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth for Dashavatharam preview

Director K S Ravikumar and Mallika Sherawat with the superstar:
Director K S Ravikumar and Mallika Sherawat with the superstar
It is not everyday that a major Indian film gets released. India is a nation that embraces films more than any other form of art. Love for films is inborn in every Indian. So, Dasavatharam, released worldwide, now enjoys extreme popularity. Cinemas explode with Kamal fans everywhere. This is a truly worth-watching entertainer for the world, not only Indians.

Image Credits:

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. Watching after reading the Wikipedia Dashavathram story and then watching the movie for 2nd time I could fully understand the film, Even though the film lacks some technical perfection the effort put by the crew is wonderful.

  2. Dear Blogger,

    Are you for real? I mean, can an educated adult actually appreciate something so amateurish as Dashavataram? I appreciate the stellar budget and Kamal Hassan's practice with accents, but a few points, in case you haven't noticed:

    1. Out of the 10 roles, 6 looked like rubber dolls. I'm just being kind to Govind, the Vaishnav Pandit, Avtaar Singh and the Police officer.

    2. The special effects were grand - for the 90s! Some scenes, like the 12th century scene where all the fake boats are floating in simulated water, make you wonder if you'll ever see anything real in the film. The depiction of Tsunami looked like a Discovery animated documentary film, and that is not a compliment for a film.

    3. Kamal Hassan's got so obsessed with makeup that none of the characters goes more than skin-deep.

    4. Asin's character in the film is not cute, she's retarted. Anyone who's been on the run from goons for more than 12 hours would have grasped the situation and stopped chattering, but not Asin, whose idea of acting is to chatter till everyone's dead.

    5. Something as tragic as the Tsunami is turned into a joke, with the survivors busy in trivial chit-chat even as thousands around them have died... oh, its because tsunami, in the movie, actually saved the day by relinquishing the virus!

    6. Mallika Sherawat is wasted, but so is Kamal Hassan himself who just goes from one rubber coated character to other, all of whom have been let to float about in the fluidy script, unlike Crash, where some serious themes like racism are examined through a set of characters who inadvertantly go criss-crossing each others' lives.

    7. The ruse of mentioning the Chaos Theory raises intellectual expectations, only to fall flat later.

    8. Flat also, is the music. Himesh Reshammiya and Daler Mehndi put together are capable of much more than a dud.

    9. Why all that gory?

    10. Why the fake Dr Manmohan Singh and Chandrababu Naidu?

    - Deepti Chaudhari

  3. @Deepti:

    Thanks for your comment. I am not a serious moviegoer. I watch films that can entertain me, and at that time, I don't look at the flaws in the film. In fact, if you look closer, there is not a single film in history without flaws. I hope you know of epic films in which airplanes floated in the sky! There have been entire debates raised after the flaws in great films. So, I guess it's natural to make flaws.

    But in Dasavatharam, most of Kamal's characters were well developed and acted; still, I am not saying all. Your pointing out of Asin's chattering nature is correct. I was also put off by that.

    Also, we are not expected to see absolute reality in the Tsunami scenes, which can only be shot at that level with near-perfect technology. I am sure that the crew made the film with great passion.

    But any of those flaws hasn't marred the whole entertainment that the movie provided to me. Also, this is Kamal Hassan's most important project, and I am like many a Kamal fan. This was a special entry in this blog, out of the array of topics attended.

    PS: Next time, you should comment not anonymously, as most anonymous comments are deleted easily. Only those with content and opinion like yours will be retained.

    Lenin Nair


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