Dasavatharam: Ten Times the Pain

To be able to watch Dasavatharam without cringing you need to be new to Tamil Cinema. You shouldn’t have grown up in the 80s and seen some of the finest works of Kamal Haasan. In fact you might enjoy it if you don’t tend to like Kamal films. Mostly because this film nearly ruins his legacy.

While walking back from the theater today, I was asked not to be too harsh about the film. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to dislike it. To feel like someone has snatched your money and given you a royal yawn in return. For an actor of Kamal’s level, I don’t think it’s particularly challenging to play ten or even fifteen characters. All it takes is a relatively healthy level of megalomania to do something like that. And with this film, Kamal not only plays ten characters, he also directs the film, writes the screenplay and dialogues.

Let’s deal with the issue of ten characters first. Some of them are interesting, some of them make you laugh. But some of them don’t look human. The problem is that the two inch latex mask that he wears for some of the characters swells his face up. So it looks about 40% larger than a usual face. The face and the body have no sense of proportion. I know this sounds strange, but when you see these characters, it feels more likely that that the character will suddenly explode and an alien might emerge from within. That’s how unreal some of them looked.

The only humour in the film came from one of the characters. The thing is, I am okay with films having very little comedy. In fact, Kamal’s done a great job in films that don’t feel like there’s a single light moment in them. But the trouble is, some of the cringe worthy scenes were meant to be funny, I think. Which brings me to Asin. The woman’s name is appropriately close to Asinine. Which is what her character is. The maami caricature fits only if used for a slightly mature woman. If you try and superimpose cute and maami together, it doesn’t fit. I don’t know how to describe that. Oh wait, Asinine is a good word.

The music is crap. Unadulterated crap. The songs feel loud, absurd and don’t fit with any bit of the film. The first ten minutes of the film are watchable. The forty minutes after that are torture. Then there’s about 35 minutes of mildly watchable stuff. There’s some brilliance that shines through when Kamal dons the character of a Telugu man. But from a man who gave us MMKR, Avvai Shanmughi and Thenali, one ends up expecting more.

And about those waves and the tsunami scene. It’s badly shot. With such a big budget, how hard is to get a good animation team together? The animation is horrible in parts. It reminds me of the early video games. Actually, it’s worse than the first generation Sonic the Hedgehog series. There’s nothing worse than bad animation. Actually, a bad movie is worse perhaps. Which is what Dasavatharam is. Save your money and Kamal memories. Rent something from the 80s and drown the noise that is Dasavatharam.

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24 Responses to Dasavatharam: Ten Times the Pain

  1. KS Ravi Kumar is the director. Not Kamal

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  2. Banno says:

    I am not a big Kamal fan. But then I haven’t seen any of his Tamil films, only the Hindi ones. Anyway, I don’t usually like this multiple role indulgence. As you rightly say, all you need for it is a healthy dose of megalomania. And lots of latex.

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  3. Anil says:

    That’s pretty strong.

    Am curious now. If Kamal, as you said, delivered value for money before, what do you think it is with him now, that makes him deliver something like Dasavatharam, for with passing time one would expect an actor to hone his perspective to a point that he won’t be duped by his own fantasy.

    What do you think is the reason?

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  4. mumbaigirl says:

    So far haven’t read a single positive review, though I’m sure there are some out there. I was looking forward to it, now I don’t know if I should see it 😦

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  5. Pingback: Within / Without » Kamal Haasan, disguise and Dasavatharam

  6. Aravind says:

    There are several aspects of the movie that were really good and deserved a wow.And i agree there were irritants spread across the length of the movie.but saying that the movie was a dud altogether makes no sense to me.When audience made a failure out of good movies like Hey Ram, Anbe Sivam etc it must have driven Kamal to go for something like Dasavatharam which had more so called “commercial” stuff within.why need 10 roles ? 1 ) why not ? 2) Mebbe Its more of a marketing stunt .
    make up sucked ? yes at times when u had one make up in Indian it was good and when there are 10 the chances are very high that some looked too artificial and even resembled another. And most of the bashers mention that we expected more from Kamal but none failed to mention what they had expected.well for such people, better not expect “something” hereon and just have fun and that makes it a lot simpler. :).

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  7. Your re-view is such a joke!

    If dasavatharam was not worth your bucks, I don’t know what you ‘d expect from a movie.

    Calling a movie a B-Grade drama because of the latex is just absurd. All the roles were quite convincing. If you wanna go for a movie to get emotionally gelled with it and empathise and sob, yes this movie is not for you. That does not make this movie bad. The movie is legendary and there are so many wow factors in the movie.

    Write sane next time.

    Cheers.

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  8. Pingback: Kamal Haasan’s obsession with disguises | DesiPundit

  9. Praveen says:

    Hi Neha, delurking for the first time. That bad ehh?? I am really disappointed, wondering if I shud watch it now 😦

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  10. Rein says:

    Kamal cud ve taken a cartoon Dasavatharam movie. It wud ve made lot of sense. In order to show his voice modulation skills, acting skills, his immense knowledge in screenplay editing music, dance (bhangra), japanses knowledge, english accent, hindi and many other he spent 70 crores from someone’s pocket 🙂

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  11. Pasu says:

    Comparing Dasavathram with his 80@s movies is truly absurd. He acted 60-70 movies in 80’s, out of which 3 or 4 movies are good. This is a review only about make up and graphics not for a cinema. There is only one line stating that first 10mins are interesting after which it is painful. Please learn what is cinema review and how to write reviews. If you couldn’t write a proper review then please stop writing This kind of reviews. This is not a review it is half baked one.

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  12. holylotus says:

    I really enjoyed the movie!
    I think almost all the characters except for the punjabi and tall guy,were very good. Especially the poovanadhan character(i am not sure of the name) was just amazing.I have seen the real people in the tirunelveli district talk, and I should say Kamla hassan has just done it so perfectly. I agree it is a typical masala movie, but i think it is a good spicy masala variety …I agree the graphics and the music (ofcourse) could have been better.But Kamal’s acting breaks it all and makes the movie worth watching.Calling it a B’Grade movie is just not fair!According to me each character is well defined and infact I really liked the way he linked everything.The issues he dealt in the movie, the saivites and vaishnavites,different castes,different religions,international differences…were all well shown.
    I truly enjoyed the movie and don’t mind watching it again.

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  13. Mambalam Mani: Fair enough.. but I kept getting the feeling that Kamal ghost-directed the entire film. It really was all about him.

    Banno: I don’t mind multiple roles – he’s used them to stellar effect in MMKR and some other films. But in his other films, each character was well formed, each had a real role to play. They weren’t there for the “variety” but because they served a purpose in the storyline. But the megalomania seems to stop him from taking an objective view of the projects that he’s involved in.

    Anil: Your commented prompted to write a whole other post on the issue!

    mumbaigirl: The thing is, even though I’d read a few negative reviews, I still had to go see the film. In that sense, I think we’re awed enough by Kamal Haasan to want to go see him in a film. The film is disappointing, and boring (the worst crime ever in cinema) but I think it’s worth a watch for Kamal’s sake.

    Aravind: I think this is what we expect from Kamal – a performance that evokes a strong sense of empathy. Not just in films where you see him as an emotional wreck, but also in films where his fabulous sense of comedy comes through.

    Arunesh Kumar: Where does it say in the post that this is a review of the film? People are not allowed to react to films or what? Especially if their reaction is different from yours?

    varali: I think she’s very pretty actually, which is besides the point. Women are never given too much of a role in Tamil Cinema.. maybe in the 70s and 80s there were a few films that broke that rule. I don’t have a problem with Asin, just the character she plays. The character which is otherwise so full of promise becomes a screechy annoying creature.

    Praveen: I will watch any Kamal film. Period!

    Rein: I think the trouble is that he is way ahead of his times. There are so many things he probably wants to do, to experiment with. But if he’s going to put all of that in a single film, it doesn’t make much sense.

    Pasu: Again, where exactly does it say that this is a review of the film? When you talk of megastars like Kamal, the actor usually is way bigger than the film itself. Before I start writing a proper review, I suggest you learn to go write a proper sentence. Also, I think this has nothing to do with his films from the 70s and 80s, but you almost always need to look at an actor’s evolution, their works don’t tend to stand in isolation.

    holylotus: Hey.. I am not saying that you all need to toe my line. I didn’t like the film. I think he’s ruining his own legacy. A fan of Kamal would be disappointed. If on the other hand, you don’t have strong feelings for Kamal, you may not feel much. You might even like the film.

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  14. holylotus says:

    I am a big fan of Kamal hassan and I have watched all his movies so many times and I will surely say that dasavataram is a great movie to watchand is not even a bit dissapointing.
    Inspite of bad makeup for some roles, bad music(as exoected) and subpar animation, if it is worthy of watching is truly because of him and I wouldn’t mind watching again.

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  15. Arthi says:

    Absolutely agree with your take on it, Neha. Was disappointed. And the fact that I had almost exactly the same comments to make about this movie to a friend, is what is prompting this reply.
    Still remain a big fan of Kamal though & I hope he does get back to making better ones.. ! But next time I might wait for the DVD to watch the film.

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  16. Jai Aiyer says:

    I agree the make up was patchy in parts, the music was crap and some of the animation was poor, but the 12th century recreation was quite extraordinary..
    But I think Kamal the actor deliberately toned down his “acting” to make the real star , the screen play, shine through. There was not a single moment of discontinuity in the script. the characters were interspersed with each other quite well.
    And he has again touched his favourite subject, “Belief and faith” rather interestingly. The classical argument was very beautifully summed up right after the denouement.
    Poovarahan stood out in his performance, and Krishnaveni’s lament at the end brought tears to my eyes definitely.
    His take on most accents, specially poovarahan and balram naidu, was near perfect.
    If you go in looking for Kamal the actor par excellence, you are bound to be disappointed. Splitting his acting efforts into 10 roles in the same screen time is bound to make that happen. But if you look at it as a another work of a true student of cinema, who aims to be an all rounder, i.e story, screenplay, dialogue, research, make up and not to mention attempting to play 10 different roles, albeit to showcase an “experiment” and if you walk into the movie without any expectation, i am sure you will see a very good film.

    He need not have chosen this path, but having chosen it, i dont think he has done it injustice, and most certainly , there isnt any one , atleast in the indian film industry, who can even come close to this…

    Now, i wonder what the beard is being nurtured for?

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  17. Siddharth says:

    Aren’t segways the best?

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  18. Vagabond says:

    The movie can be summed up as nonsensical & disrespectful. It was nothing more than a one-man play stretched for 3 torturous hours!
    Nonsensical bcoz a white guy is running the streets of Tamil Nadu and is on a killing spree. If RAW functions the way it is depicted, no wonder even the Parliment of India was almost blown up. Too many loopholes in the plot, too many stereotypical characters, clumsy characterization, screenplay & story. The movie would’ve been better off with 1 hour less duration and less by 7 characters (Fletcher, Kalifulla, Vincent, Old Lady, Bush, Japanese & Avatar). Next time he should start wearing some Halloween masks and save the 4 hrs of makeup. He also has to stop creating caricatures of non-Tamil ethnic groups. A stripper Mallika is unnecessary and so were Jayaprada and KR Vijaya. He’s got to look at the mirror and understand that his ego is getting bigger than his intelligence. I’m surprised to see that the fans who posted at this site almost feel obligated to praise & defend him and guilty if they didn’t! That’s a perfect illusion and ego massage that Kamal Hassan can never have enough of.

    The movie is disrespectful bcoz the handling of the idol since it leaves the procession is the most disgusting and disrespectful depiction of a Hindu god on the Indian screen by an Indian protagonist. I think Kamal Hassan definitely deserves a name in the record books for that notoriety. I dare him to try the same scenes with a Koran or a Bible and would like to see how long can he survive as a “ualaga nayagan”?! Try dumping sand on them or holding them next to a dirty “sauchalyam”, throw them to somebody else 15 feet away or talk about ripping of a few pages to reveal the vial. Let’s see how his ogling non-Hindu fans would react.
    The director is a buffoon and he seems more than happy doing the film rather than the subject! Kamal, try the same nonsense with Mani Ratnam…no wonder there was never another Nayagan that fetched him a National Award. He should not be allowed to the release the Hindi version.

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  19. Amrita says:

    So… tell me how you really feel. 😀

    Thanks for the review – my bullshit meter went off the charts when I saw the trailers so I decided to wait. I think I’ll just pretend this movie doesn’t exist.

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  20. Sure,

    You can react to films. Just as I reacted to an insane, misleading blog post. Just make sure your reactions are reasonable.

    Cheers,
    Arunesh.

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  21. Chandra says:

    I could see different opinion of everyone….But I would register my perspective too.

    I am not even a kamal fan…..but I was admired by this film…..I had always been the one who is tired of tamil cinema clinging on only love stories.

    If you happen to watch Hollywood film next time…..you please listen the theme behind….they will have a science behind…and the story will be rooted according to that…..Like stem cell mixing in the movie “the incredible hulk”….

    In this movie…kamal….rooted the story based on “Chaos theory”. Unfortunately…..most of our people cannot understand because they have been programmed by seeing only love story film….and their knowledge level is always questionable.

    In his ten role….how could a single man shows different body language, eye movement….style….and when you see the film….you will get the feeling seeing different people….not a kamal there……

    Especially villan Fletcher and Japanese karate master……watch their climax fight…..Really Kamal is a living legend…….

    Finally, my opinion is, Kamal has opened a new door for Indian cinema to raise to world standard…..now the people should walk in to it……

    I hope that we will soon be proud of to be Indian in this regard too…

    I wish you everyone….

    Smiles,
    Chandra

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  22. Chandra says:

    I could see different opinion of everyone….But I would like to register my perspective too.

    I am not even a kamal fan…..but I was admired by this film…..I had always been the one who is tired of tamil cinema clinging on only love stories.

    If you happen to watch Hollywood film next time…..you please listen the theme behind….they will have a science behind…and the story will be rooted according to that…..Like stem cell mixing in the movie “the incredible hulk”….

    In this movie…kamal….rooted the story based on “Chaos theory”. Unfortunately…..most of our people cannot understand because they have been programmed by seeing only love story film….and their knowledge level is always questionable.

    In his ten role….how could a single man shows different body language, eye movement….style….and when you see the film….you will get the feeling seeing different people….not a kamal there……

    Especially villan Fletcher and Japanese karate master……watch their climax fight…..Really Kamal is a living legend…….

    Finally, my opinion is, Kamal has opened a new door for Indian cinema to raise to world standard…..now the people should walk in to it……

    I hope that we will soon be proud of to be Indian in this regard too…

    I wish you everyone….

    Smiles,
    Chandra

    Like

  23. rajaram says:

    May be you are a shudra and didnt like vishnavite film..

    may be this is what is wrong with the movie..

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