To start with, if you want an entirely unbiased review of this movie that highlights all its pluses and minuses, go read this review from fellow blogger Balaji Balasubramainum. I am a very ardent Kamalhasan fan and have been expecting this movie for quite some time, so don’t expect my review to be devoid of bias.
First of all, a word to casual movie-goers: The movie has been getting a lot of mixed reviews around the web from various sources. Most of these sources are highly respected, so I am not bringing into question their worth or somesuch. All I want to convey is a regular moviegoer’s perspective. Once an online friend of mine – who was also a movie critic for sometime – told me that the problem with being a critic is that you watch a truckload of movies and begin to note each of them with a critical eye. He also went on to add that you go in to the theatre to get the whole view of the film and, thus, find all its flaws and somehow, sometimes could forget that moviegoing is just about having fun. Maybe Dasaavathaaram is getting hammered by critics for the same reason. It has been hyped a lot and has disappointed in some of these aspects, but, overall, it provides lots of fun.
The problem with Kamalhasan is that he can never create a movie to please both critics and regular moviegoers alike. When he released Aalavandhan, Hey Ram and Anbe Sivam, all wonderful pieces of cinema, critics praised him and the movies were critically appraised but all those movies bombed at the BO. People called him self-indulgent and that he created those movies only to appease himself (even the same critics who praised such films mentioned these flaws too). So, he comes out with Dasavatharam, a movie that is critically getting only mixed reviews but is a hit with the general public. Its story is a bit light and the screenplay is not tightly paced, but since the movie is taken with commercial intentions, it is so entertaining that the general public is having a fun time. Maybe after taking many movies where he pleased critics, this is Kamal’s time to please his devoted fans and provide some entertainment to the masses. Because that is what watching movies is all about – Entertainment. When you pay Rs. 150 of your hard-earned money, you want to come out thinking you have eaten a full-course meal, not thinking you have had only appetizers; a fact which is especially true for the B & C centers of Tamil cinema. I can certainly say that my money was absolutely well spent.
Now that the “rant” is over, we can get on with talking something about the movie itself. The story starts off in the 12th century in the middle of an era where the Shaivites were discriminating against Vaishnavites. The King of the land, who is a Shaivite, asks Rangarajan Nambi (Kamal) to say Lord Shiva’s name to which he doesn’t oblige and ends up inside the sea along with an idol of Lord Vishnu. This sequence has no real connection to the rest of the story but still ends up being enthralling with the Kallai Mattum Kandal… song to add to it.
The movie then moves forward to the present day and follows the story of Govindarajan (Kamal), a scientist working in America in the research for biological weapons. When he finds out that a vial containing the chemical that his team has researched is extremely dangerous and is about to fall into the wrong hands, he steals it and goes on the run being chased by ex-CIA agent, Christian Fletcher(Kamal again). Revealing further details might spoil some of the fun, so it best left undisclosed. However, the way the screenplay does tie some interesting aspects together at the end is particularly satisfying.
However, since I am a Kamal fan, I could not get myself to be bothered about these aspects of the film. Since the movie does feature him in 10 different roles, that was one of the main reasons for most of the press hype (as well as personal hype). And I can safely say that the actor in Kamalhasan has not disappointed at all. He has done his bit to bring out every difference about the 10 different roles right from voice modulation to walking style to general body language to even minute details like the way the lip moves and such. There is just so much painstaking effort visible in each frame of the movie that I found it hard not to overlook certain other flaws that the movie had. So, if you are like me and were hoping that Kamalhasan has gotten the 10 roles right, then by all means go ahead and watch the movie because he certainly has.
Asin doesn’t have a whole lot do in terms of bringing out her acting talent but her great comedy timing (which one could see in Ghajini) is put to good use in the second half. However, towards the end of the movie some of her antics did get so irritating that I wanted to reach into the screen and just give her one tight slap, at the same time wondering why the hero was not doing the same (even though that is a lot of exaggeration, it does tell you how annoying the character is). And only Kamal can explain why he chose Mallika Sherawat to play a part in this movie – a very minor one at that. As Balaji’s review aptly put it, “She does her bit (pun unintended)”. All the other actors perform their roles quite well and, overall, the acting department does not leave anything wanting.
However, the same cannot be said for the visual effects department. Even early on in the movie, in the 12th century scenes, you can see certain aspects of the scene as being graphics clearly. The movie was hyped up to be up to Hollywood standards but fails to capture the same sense of awe and splendor. In most scenes, you can clearly make out what part of it was the responsibility of the visual effects department. With that being said, the tsunami scenes do provide a visual spectacle for the average Tamil viewer who will be used to crappy graphics in half-baked God movies and the visual effects can be forgiven for that. There are other quirks with the film as well. The overall music is quite average saved only by Oh Oh Sanam… and the final Ulaganayagane… song which unabashedly sings Kamal’s praise. Also, in most of the getups when Kamal appears, you can make out that he is in the scene because he will be so visible because of his makeup. However, these are just minor quirks. If you want to see a great actor in top form in a good movie and want to get entertained for about 165 minutes, you could do a lot worse than Dasavatharam.
Finally, on a more personal note: Watching Kamal in 10 different roles in an above-average film is thousand times better than watching a mediocre actor in one role in a decent film. At least, that is the way it is for me.