Monday, June 16, 2008

Dasavatharam: Review

Phew! The wait is finally over! I watched Dasavatharam by paying 285 bucks for a ticket! I thought I will have one complimentary vellakari and one complimentary karuppi on either side for this price. But they just gave me one cushioned seat to park my ass. Bleddy inflason!

The hype was phenomenal. Especially after I heard that Kalaignar kissed Kamal after watching the movie! Kamalukkae muththam-a?! First of its kind, truly!

Now most importantly.. was I entertained?? Yup, surely. And would I like to be entertained again? Hmmm...May be not, unless I am given those compliments I expected! :D

Read Review . . .

Dasavatharam had an interesting concept which appealed to me - the chaos theory. No, wait, it's not the usual "chaos" aka "confusion" you associate with a Kamal movie! :D This one's about how one small event can get related to a series of other events; like in the movie "Crash". I see it as a smart ploy by Kamal to use this since there is probably no better way to make the characters converge. A film with an actor in ten roles is no joke. It is meant to celebrate the actor more than the tale and this did not come as a surprise to me. I have nothing to complain about a wafer-thin story line which puts off critics of 'pure cinema', the one's who've always held Kamal in high regard for his movies. But come on, the guy needs to make money too..he's not around to serve humanity :)

The film has overcome many hurdles. The most atrocious - "Kamal stole the story from me" is what some arbit fellow claimed and they went to court. When the judge took a look at both the stories (empty A4 sheets) he dimissed the case and used the A4 sheets to write Sriramajayam and tie it in Alwarpet Anjaneyar kovil tree. Story thirudittan, story thirudittan-nu koovina andha dog-a if me see, tongue plucking question ask: what story? where story? Bleddy fellow.

The 'story' revolves around a bio-weapon which scientist Govindarajan (PS: All characters unless and until mentioned are Kamal!) invents and some evil fellows try to put it to wrong use for money. Govindarajan tries to stop them and this results in a fast-paced turn of events within which many of the ten characters are woven nicely, and a few seem to be just there, staring at you. That's Dasavatharam for you. A good entertainer.

I may sound cliched if I say that Kamal has done a brilliant job portraying the ten characters. I think there can be no second opinion about it. The effort he has taken to showcase their body languages and accents is simply stunning. The body language of Krishnaveni Paatti and the Kung-fu master were top-notch. Dialogue delivery of Poovaragan, Nambi and my favourite Balram Naidu were clinical. If you are keen on celebrating Kamal Hassan, there is and if I may say, there will never be a better film for you. Just go watch it as many times as you want!

Two things which disappointed me about the ten avatars. One, their characterization lacked depth. The roles just had spell-binding acting, but not a single one in my opinion made me 'feel with the character'. Nambi and Poovaragan came close but that's about it. I also expected that the characters would be based on some theme, like the navarasas were portrayed in Navarathri, but that was not there. Two, the make-up. It was brilliant to see that all the ten characters looked different. But is a poochandi mask on the face compulsory? Maybe if it's a fancy dress competition, yes. But we want the guy to be able to emote well. Though Kamal still does a good job with emotions, that's his brilliance, we might have got a better result if they had not been obsessed with make-up!

The screenplay was decent. There were bright spots as well as duds. The film moves at a good speed which is its biggest plus but there were far too many disgressions - evils of dealing with too many characters! The main plot is a typical hero villain-chase with Fletcher chasing Govindarajan for the weapon. And there are subplots for the other characters who happen to get involved in the chase and Kamal does a good job connecting these subplots in simple, nice ways. It is not classy treatment, but something appreciable for sure considering this is commercial cinema! At the same time, in certain cases, like Dr. Sethu's (he's not Kamal!) death, there was no reason. The overall scheme of things look chaotic to me. The racy narration will appeal to the audience, but the disgressions and their connection may not appeal as much to the mass.

The first half hour of the movie had just too much English and infact had Tamil subtitles! Now, you are making a commercial cinema targeting the mass. You board a train when it is racing past a checkpost. When you jump from a bridge you always land on a nice cosy vehicle below. When Manmohan Singh (he's not Kamal!) and George Bush are listening to your speech (no translators), you speak in "sanga tamizh". Do we care? No, we don't! So please dub the first portion in Tamil and re-release, we won't mind :)

The 12th century scenes were the most interesting part of the movie. Nambi was really majestic and portrayed a lot of different emotions during his brief appearance. Napolean (not Kamal) tried his best to speak Tamil, aana paavam he can at best say "Chozha Saamrajyam" as "Sola Seraton". Fletcher was too Terminatorish for my liking, but he had style. Naidu, the cop, was top class especially when he says "Aathankavaathi", ultimate! The screen was so full of Kamal that I had intelligent questions like "Andha kutti koranga nadichathu Kamal-a?" and "Oru velai climax twist-la indha perumal bommai will reveal itself and say Naanum Kamal dhaan. Ivalo naal Perumal veshathula irundhaen a la Thillu Mullu climax?" Avtar Singh was a joke, really. He gets shot and the bullet shot cures his cancer?? This is a too much. Cancer research stop panni, Gabtun-a vittu all cancer-ku 'soot at site' order kodukka sollalam inimae!

Asin's (not Kamal) dialogue delivery was brilliant. Her hard work to memorize the dialogues are evident. The only dialogue she had - "Perumaale" (Rhyming bad word I am getting in my mouth-u, but for old time sake, I am no speak) was as likeable as Udit Narayan's Tamil. For the number of times she uttered the word, avalukku VIP seat Vaikuntam-la confirmed - innum oru vaati solli irundha naaney amchu vechiruppaen. Kamal tried to fill in the comedy track with Asin, but it has backfired badly. Neither the dialogue, nor the acting is impressive. And ya!! Mallika Sherawat (not Kamal) plays the role of a Tamil translator. Spashtama pesina. Suththi podanum. Avalukku illa, avalaye suththi kadal-la podanum.

The music department was a clear let down. Himesh has to start from Sa Pa Sa and Saralivarisai. I love "Kallai Mattum Kandaal" for the lyrics. BGM was thankfully nice and suited the movie. The special music for Balram Naidu was the best :D The songs did not intrude the movie at any point and that was a really nice thing considering the fact that they had a tough screenplay to handle. It nicely adds on to the commercial aspect. Good job! Climax-la KS Ravikumar (not Kamal) does an item number for Karunanidhi, Manmohan Singh and George Bush :D

Art direction and camera work were very impressive and were very apt for the film. There was not grandeur for the sake of it! Sensible. But the much hyped computer graphics - tsunami scene, under water shots look straight out of Finding Nemo kind. For a film of this budget and magnitude, special effects were far from impressive in the sense that you could realize what was graphics and what was not. Just because it is called special effects, it need not specially stand out! I am really surprised that this has happened in a 'tech-savvy' Kamal film.

The climax was dramatic. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it was handled in a amateur fashion. When you see a tsunami, would you run? Or would you look at it like Vijay Sarathi in Sun TV Neengal Ketta Paadal and say "Idhu dhaan tsunami"? That's what our Kung Fu master did :) The Krishnaveni Paatti - Poovaragan connection, me likey! Nice touch! Kamal debates with Asin the existence of god who has caused such a tragedy and Asin explains why it has happened for the good. Wokie. Then they show dead bodies all around. Next minute Kamal-Asin romance. Venaam. Valikkuthu. Message sollala-nu ippo yaar azhutha? "Meendum Meendum Sirippu"-la message solliyae aavaen-nu adam pidippangale, like that this comedy!

The last dialogue was nice though - "Naan kadavul illa-nu sollaliye, kadavul irundha nalla irukkumnu dhaan sollaraen" :) Kandippa will become popular! I already see this in various places - "Dasavatharathula kadhai illa-nu naan sollala. Kadhai irundha nalla irukkum-nu dhaan sonnaen". Namma pasanga kusumbukku oru alave illa :)

Lets not be finicky about logic and thin story-line. The film is meant to be a commercial entertainer and it is a good one. I refuse to accept though that this is the closest Kamal has come to bringing an 'intelligent' script to the masses. The film could have easily been much better and it's not. First, the script is by no means 'intelligent'. Second, he had done a better job with sreenplay in a Virumandi or a Devar Magan.

I did not mention Ravikumar anywhere since it was just Kamal's touch I could see throughout the movie. I am guessing Ravikumar was meant to tell Kamal what would be commercial and what wouldn't. In that case he was good, the commercial elements were mixed well. I still feel the treatment should have been more simple than what has come out. That's needed to get repeat audience from B & C and my guess is it will hit the collections. Time will tell the true story.

Overall, the film is worth watching once in theater if you are neutral. Leave your brains out and go looking for an entertainer. You will not be disappointed. Dasavatharam is meant to be an exhibition of Kamal's talents and it truly is a grand exhibition. Ensoi thangamani!

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