Dasavatharam and the genius in Kamal Haasan…

June 18th,2008.

Dear diary,

So, while everything good and bad was written about the movie, I still hadn’t watched it. But, I didn’t have to wait long. I had a early morning call at around 9 a.m. from my friend who invited me to watch ” Dasavatharam ” and I grabbed at the opportunity. So, I car-ed to Abirami Mega Mall at around 2.30 pm for the matinee show of the movie.

I‘m not here to condemn the film outright as an also-ran nor am I here to put it under the butcher’s (read critics’) knife and dissect it. The sheer magnitude of work put into this film, which is the first of its kind in world cinema history deserves applause and not critisism.

The film is a grand entertainer. It begins with a great shot of Chennai from the sea front. Kamal ( The scientist ) is addressing the massive chepauk crowd (limp graphics) in the presence of the American President Mr. George Bush (Kamal again !), Mr. Karunanidhi (no, not Kamal !) and Mr.Manmohan Singh (no,again,not Kamal !!).

The film then takes us into the 12th century, where Rangaraja Nambi ( Kamal as a staunch Vaishnavite ) opposes the removal of Lord Vishnu’s statue from the temple. He faces the wrath of the ruler (Napolean) and is hence tied to the statue and thrown into the sea (No, Kamal doesn’t perform antics to survive, unlike Vijay!!). A special mention about Kamal here. Great body. Wow ! Surya, Vikram, Sarath, go to hell !!

The story then cuts back to the US where Govind (Kamal as a scientist) and his team discovers a deadly virus (that can be put off only be dissolving in NaCl). When a lab monkey dies after consuming a sample of the virus, the boss of the laboratory centre decides to sell the virus to enemies in return for tons and tons of money. So, Govind steals the vial (in the form of a chocolate bar) containing the virus and escapes. This catches the attention of the American president George Bush (Kamal), who finances the project and decides to send Chris Fletcher (Kamal as an ex-CIA agent)and his tamil translator Mallika Sherawat to capture the vial. Fletcher kills Govind’s friend and his wife, a Chinese, but Govind eludes capture by a whisker and jets out to India.

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At the Tamil Nadu airport, Govind is frisked away by the officials (who take him and Fletcher to be international terrorists) led by Balram Naidu ( Kamal as a RAW officer ). Govind just about manages to escape the clutches of both Balram and Fletcher and makes a beeline for the exit. Meanwhile, a Chinese martial artist (Kamal again) who happens to be the chinese woman’s brother decides to make his way to Tamil Nadu too, to kill Govind, who he thinks killed his sister.

Amidst the confusion, the package somehow finds its way to interior Tamil Nadu, into the house where Krishnaveni (Kamal as a 95 year old woman) and Aandal (Asin) live. Even as Govind tried in vain to convince Krishnaveni that the package contains a dangerous virus, Fletcher and Balram catch up with him. Out of sheer desperation, Kamal hides the vial within a statue of Perumal, thus drawing God-fearing Aandal into this cat and mouse chase.

From there on, it is an edge-of-the-seat escapade with Balram and Fletcher pursuing him. At around this time, characters like Avtar Singh ( Kamal as a Punjabi pop singer suffering from cancer ), Vincent Poovarahan ( Kamal as a Dalit leader ) and Khalifullah Khan ( Kamal as a 8 foot muslim ) make an appearance and contribute in one way or the other to the chase.

However, Fletcher finally catches up with Govind and grabs the vial from him. He swallows the vial in the hope that the virus would spread and cause the death of millions of lives. When everything seemed lost for mankind, suddenly, the tsunami of 26th December, 2004 strikes. The sea water ( containing tons and tons of NaCl ) manages in putting off the deadly virus but not before causing the death of thousands of people including that of Vincent Poovarahan ( a painful, pitiful death ) and Fletcher.

That’s not all. Even as Govind drives home the point that God alone can save this world, the remains of the statue of Lord Vishnu ( minus the body of Rangaraja Nambi ) re-surfaces. It makes me wonder as to what point Kamal wanted to convey by the re-emergence of the statue.

Though the film can boast of a world class script of this magnitude, I still feel that there is something missing in the film. Is it the screenplay or the dialogues ? Or maybe the direction ? I still can’t find out.

It’s an Oscar for Kamal surely. The effort and the hours of hard work into the making of the film shines through. Kamal stands out in each of his characters. His portrayal of Chris Fletcher is amazing, the only drawback being his Indian accent of speaking English. Maybe he wanted his modulation to differ from that of George Bush who speaks impeccable American-English. His roles as Vincent Poovarahan ( Dalit lingo ), Balram Naidu ( Tamil with Telugu lingo ), the Chinesh martial artist ( Chinese lingo ), Ramanuja Nambi ( Pure Tamil of 12th century ) and Avtar Singh ( with a Punjabi-Tamil accent )deserve special mention and praise. His portrayal of Krishnaveni passes muster, the betrayer being the voice, which ranges from croaky to corny.

Critics have condemned the role of Khalifullah Khan in the film looking at it only as a role-filler. But, however, I pledge to differ. It is one of his best portrayals, ever. I mean, the childish innocence of a five-year old is difficult to portray but Kamal stuns you. I almost wanted to tweak the Muslim’s cheek for his cute expressions and innocence looks.

If, even after taking World Cinema to a new height by making a film that traverses religion, belief, boundaries and the old school of thinking, Kamal doesn’t get the Oscar for the Best Actor, then here’s my warning to the Oscar guys.

God alone can save you….

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