June 23, 2008

Kamal Haasan Disappoints

By Bhavani Krishna Iyer

I WENT on a wild goose chase for tickets for Kamal Haasan's latest film, Dasavatharam, which opened simultaneously in India and Malaysia on June 13. After several failed telephone bookings, I ended up in an hour-long queue at GSC One Utama - and still didn't get a ticket for the film. Finally, the cinema at PJ State Lotus had first-row seats left on a Sunday night.

I didn't mind risking my neck for Kamal, although my family thought I was crazy.

After such a hassle, I sat down in front of the screen with great expectations and popcorn.

Indian actor Kamal Haasan is known for bringing novelty to his screen roles. In this film, he is offering 10 avatars (reincarnations), all at the same time on screen.

Asin Thottumkal appears in a dual role and Bollywood babe Mallika Sherawat plays the lead female role.

The first 15 minutes brings us back to the 12th Century conflict between the Shaivites and and the Vaishnavites. The scene is set in Chidambaram during the Chola empire. The costumes well depict the era.

The events that follow, after the execution of Vaishnavite Rangaraja Nambi (Kamal) at the start of the film, weaves history delicately into the scenes.

Then for the next two hours and 45 minutes, it was basically about Kamal running after a tiny box, the size of a match-box, containing a deadly biochemical.

Biotechnologist Dr Govind Ramaswamy (Kamal) is part of a prestigious research project on bio-weapons in the US, directly under the Bush Administration.

His colleagues want to mint money from a potentially deadly biochemical weapon, that's in a vial in the tiny box.

The little box finds its way out of the laboratory and to Chidambaram, and our hero is off to save the world.

Dasavatharam's storyline is based on chance, chaos and coincidence. It took almost three years to come to fruition and is filled with predictable twists and turns.

There are no dream, dance or song scenes and this helps keep the momentum.

Film critics have since torn Kamal apart for the lack of many things in the film, first on the list being the absence of depth in his character(s).

The popularity of this film rests on Kamal doing 10 different roles, a record-making feat for one actor in a film.

You can barely recognise Kamal in his non-main roles in this film. American make-up artist Michael Westmore (known for his work on the TV series Star Trek) has done a really good job here.

But, I must admit that there is no value or justification for Kamal to appear in so many roles.

Compared with his previous film roles in Panchatanthiram (2002), among others, Dasavatharam does not live up to my expectations.

K.S. Ravikumar shares credit with Kamal, the late Sujatha and Crazy Mohan for the script.

Crazy Mohan's dialogues are in a class of their own, and Dasavatharam has several rib-tickling oneliners.

Catch the film on the big screen or you will miss the special effects.

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