“Dasavatharam” is a show of grandeur. Kamal makes it beyond the ordinary. His sheer audacity, magnificence and histrionics are simply spellbinding. And creativity is given new dimensions.

The film opens with a bird’s eye view of Chennai and takes the audience to the past the 12th century. In Chidambaram, Vaishnavaites and Shaivaites are in perpetual conflict with the former taking the position that Lord Vishnu is supreme and the Shaivaites being steadfast in their faith in Shiva. King Kulothunga Chozhan (Napoleon), a Shaivaite, forces Nambi (Kamal), a staunch Vaishnavite, to worship Shiva. As Nambi rebels, the king sentences him to death. On the orders of the King, his soldiers throw Nambi into the oceans tied to a stone image of Lord Vishnu. Nambi’s wife Kothai (Asin) also dies from shock.

From this 12th century episode, the story takes twists and turns and moves to the 21st century. Action begins in the United States where Govindaraj is part of a team of scientists working on a virus. If exposed to the elements it can spread rapidly and kill millions of people. Coming to know of it, baddies (again a team led by Kamal, this time as Christian Fletcher, a former CIA agent) try to acquire it to use it in a bio-war. By mistake, the virus comes in a parcel to India. Govindaraj and Fletcher come to India looking for the parcel which has reached Chidambaram. Suspecting that Govindaraj has taken away the deadly virus, US President Bush (he too is Kamal), asks the Indian Government to apprehend him. In his journey to find the parcel containing the virus and destroy it, Govindaraj meets Andal (Asin) who is a staunch Vaishnavaite, Krishnaveni Paati, a 90-year-old woman; a tall and innocent Muslim youth, Kaifullah Khan; a Punjabi pop singer, Avatar Singh; a Dalit leader, Vincent Poovaragan; a Japanese martial arts teacher Shingen Narahashi; and an intelligence official (RAW) of the Government of India, Balaram Naidu (all Kamals). The virus eventually falls into the hands of Fletcher. Who swallows it and dies when the intelligence official corners him with a gun. Then tsunami strikes Chennai inundating a stretch of the seashore in Chennai. Poovaragan (Kamal) drowns in the sea while being engaged in rescue operations.

Kamal brilliantly portrays the ten characters. As Nambi, he stands erect. When the King offers to let him off if he says “Om Namashivaya”, Nambi kisses death chanting “Om Namo Narayana”. This episode is heart-rending.

Kamal shows his versatility in all the roles. Every frame is an experience in itself. Each of the characters played by Kamal has a different skin tone and a different make-up. The lingo also varies from character to character, making each role distinctly different.

Humor and fun, pathos, sentimentality and emotions are all woven into the screenplay.

Asin does a double role for the first time in her career. She looks realistic in the role of a Tamil Brahmin girl. Yet, her attempts at Brahminical patois are grating. .

Bollywood bombshell Mallika Sherawat appears as a CIA operative (translator). She aids Fletcher and gets trampled by an elephant. Featuring in a couple of dance sequences, she fills the glamour quotient.

Napoleon dazzles in the role of King Kulothunga Chozhan. Jayapradha, Santhana Bharathi, M.S. Bhaskar, P. Vasu, R. Sundarrajan, Ramesh Khanna, Erode Soundar, and Pandu provide good support.

The man behind the sleek visuals is Ravi Varman who is the only Indian cinematographer who has won an international award. The entire film has been shot in super 35MM and 4K Camera which has made it looks visually stunning.

Andrew Dixon, the stunt co-coordinator of the film, along with Kanal Kannan, choreographed some never-seen-before stunts like aerial fly-by-wire rigging, exciting car chase scenes as well as motorcycle stunts. The aerial shot of Tamil Nadu in the climax scene is the first since 1942. The climax tsunami scenes and some complex visual effects by Hollywood’s Brian Jennings are mind-blowing.

Himesh Reshammiya’s tunes lack a regional touch. The song “Ulaganayagane” is a chartbuster. Vairamuthu’s lyrics serve to glorify the hero. “Kallaimattum” is a situational number rendered by the ace singer Hariharan with his usual verve. “Oh Sanam” is catchy. “Mukundha Mukundha” is the pick of the lot. Kamal himself sings as an old lady. Devi Sri Prasad has done his best in re-recording. He gives the movie the right feel. .

That Kamal has uncanny ability to put across strong messages is proved once again in “Dasavatharam” which encompasses contemporaneous messages on environment, science and faith. Religion has been explored at length instead of using it as a tool.

Sharing the credit with Kamal for presenting such a monumental work are director K.S. Ravikumar, who slogged for nearly two years to put it together, and producer Aaskar V.Ravichandran.

Notwithstanding many flaws and loose ends, the film provides maximum entertainment.

Banner: Aascar Films
Cast:Kamal Haasan, Asin, Mallika Sherawath, Jayapradha, Rekha, K R Vijaya, Nagesh,
Nepolean, Santhana Bharathi, M S Bhaskar, P Vasu, R Sundarrajan, Ramesh Khanna, Erode Sounder, Pandu
Direction: K S Ravi Kumar
Production: V Ravichandran
Music: Himesh Reshammiya & Devi Sri Prasad

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