Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic. The greatest?

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: Brush it aside as a narcissist’s mindless natter on celluloid or a fading star’s exaggerated attempt to reaffirm his talent. Dismiss it as an egotist’s eulogy of himself or as another crass exercise in self-indulgence.

Bury the film, like sundry other critics have, in reams of cynicism if you may, but Dasavatharam, the maestro’s latest work, is a grand spectacle and Kamal Haasan is a goddamn genius.

And nobody can take that away from him.

The attraction is certainly not the script, which jiggles about as uncontrollably as Mallika Sherwat, who happens to be the villian’s moll in the film.

The film revolves around a US-based scientist Govind Ramaswamy, the primary protagonist among the ten. The upright scientist’s one-point obsession is to safeguard and retrieve a deadly virus vial from the many recesses it finds itself in.

From the safe vault of a lab in the US, the ‘vile vial’ traverses the globe to the southern Indian temple town of Chidambaram, frantically pursued by the scientist and an evil ex-CIA man Christian Fletcher—played by Kamal with a ferocity, that gets you in the gut and quite bloodily at that.

Even as the killer and hero blaze a trail across rural Tamil Nadu, punctuating the landscape with their Tom & Jerry escapades, the plot off-tracks into side lanes throwing up a bewildering array of characters, most of them enacted almost effortlessly by the doyen.

The heavy and layered prosthetic make-up, a tad overdone on occasions, does not subdue Kamal’s intensity in any manner.

The cantankerous Iyengar paatti (grandma) with a penchant to lock herself in cupboards; the activist Vincent Poovaraghan who spouts fiery Malbari-Tamil; President George Bush; the Telugu-loving, safari suit-clad RAW officer Balram Naidu; the gauche seven-foot-tall Kalifulla Khan, the revenge-seeking Japanese kung fu expert Shingen Narahasi; the cancer-suffering Punjabi pop singer Avtaar Singh…

With convincing and bold flourishes, Kamal builds the texture and nuance of each of these characters. The accent, inflection and intonation cutting across these characters are delivered with his trademark ease and felicity.

My personal favourite of the 10 avatars is the character of the 12th century Vaishnavite devotee Rangaraja Nambi. The film opens with Nambi who displays a pulsating brahaminical zeal, defiantly reciting the Vishnu Sahasranamam, even as the Chola king tortures him for not surrendering to the greatness of Shiva.

Nambi is tied to the stone deity of Narayana and ruthlessly consigned to the depths of the ocean. Asin Thottumkal, who plays Nambi’s devastated wife and later the role of the scientist’s accomplice in another birth, does a superlative job as a Brahamin belle. She is pretty but could have been less shrill in a few scenes.

Mallika Sherawat’s pole dance is most unsavory: I say this not because of a suddenly acquired refined sensibility, but for the simple reason that my seven-year-old son sitting next to me was gawking at her much more than I. The quick glances that I kept throwing his way did not seem to faze him one bit. My fatherly instincts revolted instantly.

Himesh Reshammiya‘s music plays somewhere but fails to resonate. Jaya Prada as Avtaar Singh’s wife is still beautiful. The other bit that deserves mention is Dasavatharam‘s special effects. The tsunami tearing into civilization and the havoc that it brings about is masterfully orchestrated.

Kamal also uses the movie to drive home some of his beliefs: When the delusional paatti clutches the dead body of activist Vincent mistaking him to be her son, the Brahmins trailing her are repulsed and attempt to convince her but she does not listen. Kamal who has written the story, screenplay and dialogues, for a brief, very brief moment makes a lofty caste statement through this scene.

In the end, disillusioned to see the heaps of corpses caused by tsunami-scientist Govind, raises the question of whether there is God at all. This could well be Kamal himself. A self-confessed rationalist and atheist.

His spiritual and social ideologies apart; Kamal will continue to dwarf his peers through his towering histrionics in Indian cinema. Dasavatharam is an act of arrogance, a creation of conceit, a maverick’s attempt to tell the world that he is the greatest.

And Kamal gets away with it.

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38 Responses to “Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic. The greatest?”

  1. Avva Madesa Says:

    ” a maverick’s attempt to tell the world that he is the greatest” — an attempt in glamorization of bullshit.

  2. Krishnan Says:

    At last glad to read a positive review. After ploughing through so many reviews all over blogsphere spewing vitriol on the film, it is indeed a whiff of fresh air to read a honest review.

  3. ERR Says:

    A double or a triple role itself is quite taxing for both actor and the viewer.But to do 10 roles, he must be liking himself a bit too much. A great actor, no doubt, even then, he need not overexpose his talent on the viewer for 3 hours.

  4. Chintaka Says:

    A few of my friend watched this movie couple of days back, inspite of a warning not to take the risk.

    Came back with a heavy head and heavier headache!!!!

    And today, anyone in that gang, the moment they hear the D word, they become hysterical!!!!

  5. T.Shetty Says:

    WOW! I’m so happy to see more coverage of Tamil movies and actors on this site than Kannada movies/actors. Great!!!!

  6. mayura Says:

    With all due respects to Kamal Hasan, he should take a break from acting and get married again. This special effects and prosthetic makeup based characters are getting boring by the day.

    Kamal need not prove what he has already proven to his fans, that he is a capable actor.

    Kamal take a break and look for some 16 year old belle and get married…again !!

    :)

  7. Sudarshan Jayaram Says:

    Good review, subliminal in parts, ‘Chetan Krishnaswamy’ can still write!
    There is but one area I disagree with Chetan- The Tsunami re-creation and its aftermath was one of the most shoddy pieces of SFX/CGX I have seen in a lifetime of watching movies, unless of course you are not using Hollywood as a benchmark!
    Write on!

  8. Sandesh Says:

    @T Shetty
    Even me! And I wish Churumuri puts out a regular tamil movie review section! Never mind about Kannada movies!

    Churumuri-ge enagide? Yaava Kannada movie-noo sigolva nimage?

  9. Anonymous Guy Says:

    The last Kamal movie I watched was Mumbai Express. We didnt get tickets to some movie and ended up watching this ‘movie’. Worst movie I watched. Ever. Kamal has lost it. Will never watch a new Kamal movie again – will spoil the image I have of him from his old days.

    Is brahminism the main motif in the movie or is it in the reviewers head?

  10. Gaby Says:

    I must say whilst Kamal is a good even very good actor Churumuri is not at all a platform for a review of his movie. There are plenty of other places on the net dedicated for that. I will be called a fanatic I suppose and even a blind bigoted fool for this comment.

  11. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Fanatic, blind bigoted fool.

  12. Gaby Says:

    AG where is the comma / conjunctive after ‘ blind’ ;)

  13. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Hiding with the one you missed?

  14. Madhu Rao Says:

    The movie was taxing ; add to that a language challenged me having to keep track with subtitles. I definitely saw 10 of everyone for a while after the movie had ended.

    I’d much rather advise watching Mr. Hassan’s Sadma, Nayagan, Pushpak 10 times than go thru the hassel of watching this. He is a gifted actor no doubt, but not as gifted as he thinks it is — 10 fold. Err, maybe I ought to change my last statement to ” He is WAS a gifted actor no doubt”. He has not been that gifted ever since he started playing banjo on his heroine’s bottoms and singing in ‘telephone dhun’ leading up to a string of bad movies ..

  15. Sandesh Says:

    “I will be called a fanatic I suppose and even a blind bigoted fool for this comment.”
    Nope. On the contrary you are absolutely right. What the heck is this churumuri turning to movie reviews? If we want information on movies there are plenty of sites to tune into. Moreover since when did churumuri start an exclusive tamil movie review? Why do good Kannada movies not get a review here? I think I will be called a fanatic now ;)

  16. Lankesha Says:

    Chetan, How much did they pay you to post this article ?

  17. Arun Says:

    I happened to see this picture on sat here in london. It’s really worth watching,but go with less expectation. I have appended a reader’s comment from another site whch is worth a read. Definetly we can take pride from the fact that a again south indian movie is setting the standard for film making in india.

    “I’m not sure how many of you thought on these lines, but the below post makes a lot of sense about the film. There are many discussions on the film happening here – about Chaos Theory, Butterfly Effect, God, Religion etc. I’m watching the film again sometime.

    One thing we had noticed is why people didnt get the real subtext and reason for the various roles and hence the title.
    If you knew the real dasavatharams of Lord Vishnu and their characters you can appreciate the script more. Let me explain, starting with the best adapted role:

    1. Krishna avatar – Vincent Poovaraghavan
    Lord krishna is actually a dalit, he is dark-skinned [shyamalam]. He saved draupadi when she was being violated and he was the actual diplomat in mahabharatham. Lord krishna dies of an arrow striking his lower leg. Now look at how vincent was introduced.. he appears when asin is about to be molested and he saves her like draupadi. Vincent is the dalit diplomat, fights for land issue [soil issue to be exact] and dies from the metal rod striking his leg. Oh even five of vincent’s men are drugged at P. Vasu’s.. sounds familiar???

    2. Balarama avatar – Balarama naidu
    This is an easy given. as the name suggests and the role personifies you can easily get it.

    3. Mathsya avatar – Ranagaraja nambi
    nambi is thrown into water in an act of trying to save lord from being thrown

    3. Mathsya avatar – Ranagaraja nambi
    nambi is thrown into water in an act of trying to save lord from being thrown into sea, though vainly. what more clue do you want?

    4. Varaha avatar – Krishnaveni paatti
    During the mukunda song, krishnaveni paatti does varaha avatar in the shadow puppetry. The frame freezes on it for a second. there is the clue. Moreover, in varaha avatar lord actually hides earth so as to protect life forms. Here too krishnaveni hides the germs – life form inside the statue so as to protect.

    5. Vamana avatar – Kalifulla khan
    remember in vamana avatar, lord vishnu takes the vishvaroopa, that is the giant form! Hence the giant kalifulla here symbolises vamana avatar.

    6. Parasurama avatar – Christian Fletcher
    Parasurama is actually on an angry killing spree and killed 21 generations of the particular kshatriya vamsa. Hence the real KILLER… Guess what thats what our Fletcher is! He comes around with the gun [modern upgrade for axe] and kills everyone around. I have to check if he kills 21 people though.

    7. Narasimha avatar – Shingen Narahashi
    first of all the name itself is a play on the words singam [means lion in tamil] and narasimha [the avatar being symbolised]. Lord Narasimha manifests himelf to kill the bad guy and he also teaches prahaladha. In the movie, he shows up to kill the killer fletcher! and is also a teacher.. Lord Narasimha had to kill the asura with bare hands and hence the martial arts exponent here.. get it?

    8. Rama avatar – Avatar Singh
    Lord Rama stands for the one man one woman maxim, kind of symbolising true love.. Here Avatar portrays that spirit by saying that he loves his woman more than anything and wants to live for her.

    9. Kalki avatar – Govindaraj Ramasamy
    As you know, the hero in kaliyug can be none other than the Kalki avatar!!!

    10. Koorma avatar – Bush
    This is the most loose adaptation I couldn’t clearly comprehend. But if you look at the real koorma avatar, the lord is the turtle/tortoise that helps in stirring the ksheera sagara and bringing out the amruth. This essentially creates war among the devas and asuras. Similarly today Bush facilitates war between you know whom… May be Kamal also indicates that this avatar is a bit dumb like the tortoise…”

  18. Shiva Says:

    I know not what the writer means by “kamal gets away with it”!!

    This movie was one of the worst I ever saw. Where in the world are brahmins in Chidambaram doing what they are shown to be doing in this movie?

    Singling out a caste and mocking it, tasteless dialogues, mindless humor, crappy makeup, lousy story = Dasavatharam!

  19. karihaida Says:

    @Shiva,
    “Where in the world are brahmins in Chidambaram doing what they are shown to be doing in this movie?”
    Not watching this crap of a movie ;)

    alla innonderdu avtara hakbitidre round pigure dazan avtara agtittu..
    talkiesnalli avtarakke ishtu anta ticket martidara ?

  20. Tantric Ninja Says:

    Shiva,

    Don’t advertise your ignorance like this. Its 12th century dude.

    From about 3rd century to 7th century, the saivaits of Tamil nadu (including nayanmars of all castes brahmins, vellalas and pillais) killed hundreds of thousands of Jains. And most of them were killed by impalement. i.e a sharp pole will be struck on the ground and the person will be inserted at the top. slowly the body (still alive) will come down and the person will die in about 3 days. The Madurai Meenakshi temple still has an annual festival celebrating this ‘victory of Saivism’.

    And once the brahmins and vellalas had succeed in eliminating Jainism, they started fighting amongst themselves. The 12th century fracas centered around Vasihnavite philosopher Ramanuja is the one that is being portrayed in the dasavatharam movie’s initial scenes. Kamal character claims to be a disciple of Ramanuja and is tortured by the Saivaite king.

    The growth of Hinduism in Tamilnadu (from a mixture of folk religion and vedic brahmanism) is one of the most violent and barbaric religious episodes in the history of mankind. There is no point in feigning ignorance about that history.

    As a side irony, Savites are fighting among themselves in Chidambaram to this very day. If anyone has been following the news in the last few months, they’ll know of the fight between Dikshitars (brahmins) and Oothuvars (non-brahmins) on whether the tamil poems called Thevaram can be sung in the inner rooms of the Shiva temple there.

    And this Dikshitar community is one of the most incestuous communities in the world. (no, i’m not talking of incest among immediate family members). They have been marrying their children with their cousins for several generations. Maybe to maintain racial purity or something. Ofcourse with disastrous genealogical consequences.

  21. karihaida Says:

    @Tantric Ninja,
    I guess you making such blanket statements is proof of the “disastrous genealogical consequences” ;)

  22. Krishna Says:

    indulgence is not always a problem. but dasavatharam is indulgence with an attitude and loads of look-at-smart-me cockiness. call a no-brainer entertainer exactly that. it becomes an ordeal when you have to handle both the mediocrity as well as the misplaced “intelleligence” of the man behind it. give me apoorva sahodarargal or michael madan kama rajan, any day. those days, he was not channelling his attitude and ambition on an unsuspecting audience, the way he has done with dasavatharam.

    btw, some of the photographs displayed in this entry are not from the movie. just photoshop-generated possibilities by fans, much ahead of the release :)

  23. Ishweshwaraih Says:

    Arun,

    “Lord krishna is actually a dalit, he is dark-skinned [shyamalam]. ”

    Krishna is a dalit how come. Dalit means the broken people. In what way was Krishna or his people broken. He was born in a royal family and was brought up in another one.
    Krishna was dark. So what. Was he ever discriminated because of his skin colour. More than that he was patronised by all people and they all wanted to be on their side.
    I think Krishna’s childhood friend the impoverished brahmin Sudama was a Dalit.

  24. Poornima Says:

    No kannada movie has been discussed at such a great length as this tamil movie in ‘churumuri’. Jai Karnataka !

  25. Mysore Peshva Says:

    *Tantric Ninja*

    Please cite a source for your claims (first four paragraphs). They seem outrageous…

  26. DHRUV KRISHNASWAMY, 3STD, A SECTION Says:

    Dashavatharam was a stupid film I will give it 1 star

  27. Yella Ok Says:

    Much as I am pained to see so much space dedicated to a trashy movie, Gaby and Mayura, etc, there is one question that we should ask ourselves. How many times have we written about Kannada Cinema or talked about it after watching a good one?

    Maybe it is the lack of contribution to Churumuri that not many kannada movie reviews or articles appear.

    Could the readers of this blog actually write about kannada movie reviews. Whether churumuri should publish somthing on tamil cinema is another point.

  28. Bangalore Boy Says:

    Worst movie I have ever seen….this review is misleading…

  29. Arun Says:

    Ishweshwaraih,

    Dalit-Belongs to lowest social and ritual class in India (From dictionary). It’s no coincidence you had mentioned Sugama-Brahmin as dalit. Krishna identified himself as shepherd-dalit. Hope it makes sense.

  30. Vitlan Potli Says:

    It is appalling to know that kannadigas pay good money to watch a tamil movie and to add insult to injury blog about its merits and de-merits.

    Churumuri just lost it. It chooses to post an article about a movie by a over hyped and over-rated guy whose idea of sex appeal is wearing his pants so waist high and tight. It makes one squirm with unease. Makes you think; given kamal a chance he would have pulled his pants all the way up above his mouth and opened the zipper fly to deliver his dialogue.

    Wondering if any tamil blog would discuss any kannada movie however good or bad.

  31. Tantric Ninja Says:

    karihaida, Mysore Peshva

    >> Please cite a source for your claims (first four paragraphs). They seem outrageous…

    Ppl could have easily looked up online. But they get a kick asking for proof.

    Sources:

    1. Impalement of Jains by Saivists.
    2. Ramauja’s persectution by Kulothunga Chola”
    3. Chidambaram Thevaram fracas

  32. Hiker Says:

    @Yella Ok
    >>How many times have we written about Kannada Cinema or talked about it after watching a good one

    How many times (in the recent times) has the Kannada cinema industry come up with something as different as Dashavatharam? Yes, Dashavatharam may be total trash but it is a daring attempt by a terrific actor.
    Where are the Raj Kumar, PuttaNNa type of movies? All we get is some crap where the actors don’t even know proper Kannada.

  33. DHRUV KRISHNASWAMY, 3STD, A SECTION Says:

    I disagree with Sudarshan JAYARAM that the tsunami was haywire I am his nephew so thanks CHOW…………..

  34. oochara Says:

    If you’re connoisseur and a tamilian, then Dasavatharam is a must watch.

    BUT, understand that Dasavatharam means 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who is none but Kamal, and then each incarnation had its own story, before you step inside the theater. Or the movie is not bliss to the ignorant. (Thanks to ARUN)

    I just finished watching the movie and now I’m tripping on it. The last time I went back home from the theater drugged by the movie I had just watched, was Upendra & Co’s H2o. I had by then become an Upendra-Addict and a convert. Eponym movie Upendra, its antecedent “A” had all taken me on the best trip of my celluloid generation.

    For one it assured me that there was a “director” in the kannada movie industry in my generation. And he was sui generis.

    Dasavatharam brings forth that parallel-thinking like that of Upendra’s movies. But Upendra’s genius went so far that he had warned cine-goers from the very beginning that his movie is ‘Only for the Intelligent.’ Basically because he wanted audience to come back for a second sitting, after they had willfully accepted they did not understand the movie for the first time or had wryly learnt what the movie meant from their grey-celled peers.

    Kamal’s assumption overrides his cinematography. His audience would strive to make the connection without wanting to come back only for lack of awareness/PR on the concept. And go home less intelligent, with lot of laughter, awe, confusion, incomplete frame of mind subsequently a headache even.

    However, what glued me is the typical comedy that comes with Kamal, like intellectual vulgarism that came with Upendra’s. Like them or hate them! That apart the storyline is completely genuine and Indian in nature, like the English movie Seven that talks about seven deadly sins or Upendra’s Upendra aping Indian mindset. Dasavatharam though genuinely scripted for Indians with Vishnu mythology, is mostly a crippler’s narration unlike the other two.

    Yet, it is worth watching.

  35. vinoth Says:

    It’s really a nice movie in which kamal tells some more GKs and acts very nicely.

  36. tarlesubba Says:

    anybody seen minchina oTa yet?
    i was waiting and finally the d-day is here. cant wait to see.

    when the hindu gives somebody north of the cauvery half a decent review then it must amount to something.
    http://www.hindu.com/2008/07/12/stories/2008071250710200.htm

  37. tarlesubba Says:

    i must have watched cyanide (B\L) about a 10 times. tara rocked and so did rangayana raghu. well, tara rocks even otherwise. saw an otherwise parvagilla movie called pandurangavittala or something. tara was hillarious. i mean quality fun. yeshT chennagi bhaashe nuDithaare aake anthini. very authentic. classy hengsu.

    eega kfi-ge jayamaalammana savari/saarthya. may she take kfi to great heights.
    keLakanDalli ide nanna abhimaanada koDuge.

    my day was made when creator of that piece of that music, manikanth kadri, himself favourited it. but please do leave do leave you frank opinions and comments. i know, maana maryaade illada maarukaTTe, but a man has gotto do what a man has got to do.

  38. tarlesubba Says:

    gulabi talkies.

    churumuri start a movie blog no? like you have kosambri for food, why not gulabi talkies for films? namm filmsu, avugaLa charitre, nammoru film-alli minchinddu, heege. plug into heggoDu and you might get some fundas on majidi and bertolucci and kurosawa also.
    majidi. devaru, devara darga, never knew can make movies like this. yabba!

    talking of gulabi talkies, guess who’s, unsurpisingly, caught fancy for taayi Vaidehi’s work? KaasaravaLLi maastara!!
    trust maastara to grasp the pulse. jayamaala, soundarya, taara, vaidehi he knows, with a legacy of of akka, abakka, chenamma and obavva, diga’s have always had there women on top.

    but meDam vaidehi is a godess herself. i dunno much but when she said, makkaLiddare kaNe akka manetumba, i was sold.
    sister, sister, does that cut thru you or wot.

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