Saturday, June 21, 2008

"dasavatharam" and 'dashavatar'





south indian actor-director kamal hassan's magnum opus 'dasavatharam' was released last week. he is also the story,screenplay and dialogue writer.direction is by ravikumar. in chennai alone it was being shown in 21 theatres for over 135 shows a day.by the end of the first week it is estimated that about three lakh people would have watched the movie.it has been released in other states as well. the rs 70 crores project is supposed to be the costliest tamil film ever made surpassing the earlier record made by superstar rajnikanth's shivaji.i saw the last show last saturday at inox.the 190 minutes' movie had english sub-titles though i did not need it. and i returned with mixed feelings.

kamal is a talented actor. no doubt about that. his acting was spectacular and also downright absurd and comical at times. many of his critics consider him to be a narcissist, self-projecting ,vain and hugely egoistic.casting himself in ten roles in the same movie is a projection of his highly bloated perception of his own image,according to them. and with a weak story line, the movie at many instances bordered on the absurd and ludicrous.the movie turned out to be as confused and complicated as its protogonist.the critics got yet another opportunity to lambast him.

having said that, what is the movie all about? an international plot about apocalypse? why so much of hoopla and hype? what message does it convey, if any? is it only for entertainment for the moviegoers? or is there any purpose or intent or a messsage- subtle or otherwise?

according to hindu religion, lord narayana the supreme lord, descends on earth in difffernet incarnations(avatar), when evil overtakes good. he sets things right, accomplishes his mission and then returns to his abode till dark days reappear forcing him to descend again. he has taken nine forms so far and his tenth form is yet to manifest. the word dasavataram(das+avatharam-ten roles) is used as a metaphor for the title of the movie.in ancient times in the then bharathavarsha there used to be an artiste called bahurupi.as the name suggests he was adept in donning many roles all rolled into one.

kamal hassan's ten roles are:

1) rangarajan nambi,a 12th century staunch vaishnavite,who refuses to accept the suzeranity of lord shiva over the universe as forced upon him by the great chola king,an ardent shaivite. he gives up his life trying to save the idol of lord govindaraja chanting 'om namo narayanaya'

2) george bush,president of usa, who is fighting an unending war against terorists who have brought the world to the brink by using biological warfare

3) an indian born american scientist govind ramaswamy who comes to india in search of a deadly virus-inducing chip that has been stolen from his laboratory and which has the potential to destroy all mankind

4) ex cia agent fletcher hired by terrorists who is also after the same chip and is chasing the scientist

5) research and analysis wing(raw) agent balaram naidu

6) a pushto speaking eight feet tall pathan

7) a centenarian tamil iyengar woman,krishna veni patti, who suffers from alzheimer's and hides the chip inside the murthy of her lord

8) a punjabi pop star avtar singh suffering from cancer

9) a japanese martial arts teacher who is on a mission to avenge his sister's death in the hands of fletcher and

10) a darkfaced srilankan activist,vincent poovaraghavan who fights the sand mafia and eventually gets killed by the tsunami.

finally,of course, the chip is destroyed and the culprits are brought to book.

while kamal hassan is convincing in some of the roles like the vaishanavite priest, raw officer, krishna veni paatti and activist vincent, the other roles both their masked faces and their acting border on the profane and sheer stupidity. the movie begins with the scene of the temple of lord govindaraja, the argument between the chola king and the temple priest rangarajan nambi resulting in the forced removal of the lord's main idol and its ultimate drowning in the sea alongwith nambi. for every action there is a reaction. and that all people in a way are interconnected from generation to generation. one may say this is the message of the story. the law of karma takes shape at the end of the movie. 800 years later, a fault in the bottom of the ocean created the dreaded tsunami in december 2004. if you are a believer in the theory of chaos you might subscribe to this story line. laughable as it may seem, karunanidhi, tamil speaking george bush and manmohan singh are brought on a common platform to share their concerns on international terrorism.

asin acts as the brahmin girl attached to her perumal(lord vishnu's moorthy) ,mallika sherawat as fletcher's accomplice( kitsch in some scenes) and jayaprada as the loving wife of popstar avatar singh.excepting asin,the others have hardly any role to play.the special effects are excellent.more than 11 companies have worked on creating this spectacle.himesh reshammiya's music is below par,though the song mukunda mukunda went well.camerawork by ravi varman (or jeeva?) was outstanding.in particular, the removal of lord govindaraja's idol and the process of immersing it into the sea and the finale when tsunami strikes were beautifully picturised.

in sum,a spectacular visual effect,action-packed, alone cannot carry the movie through. with a weak and confused story line, bad make-up resulting in unrealistic and farcical portrayals, lack of crisp editing ends up as a marathon exercise somewhat wasted. it dazzled only to disappoint. it may still cause the cashbox in the boxoffice to jingle. but it will not go down as a winner.

there was a special screening arranged for karunanidhi.he was so impressed that he gave kamal a kiss and hug.there were accusations of plagiarism by one senthil kumar who alleged that the script of 'ardhanari' had been copied.the court rejected the petition asking for a stay on the release of dasavatharam saying that the two stories are entirely different. and of course the controversy regarding the vaishnavite/saivite clash.many hindu outfits protested against what was being shown.their petition too got rejected.

and it can happen only in india. on the day when dasavatharam was released,dashavatar an animated magnum opus in hindi directed by bhavik thakore was also released. it is based on the ten avatars of lord vishnu. i have to see whether this animation by phoebus media and the characters come anywhere near ratatouille or beowulf. there are voice-overs from shreyas talpade,tom alter,roopa ganguly and sachin khedekar.

do we need superman when we have vishnu as a super-duper hero morphing into his ten incarnations with ease and elan?