Which is the best avatharam?
First, let me express my surprise that such a debate has not been thrown up all these days, at least not in the open. But now, a month after the release of Dasavatharam, it might be the right time to launch the argument. Which of the 10 avatars on screen is the best? Comparison is not the most just of things to do, especially in fields where art and creativity are involved.

Here we do not have the numbers to substantiate statements, but the fun and diverse views that we get when we attempt comparing and creating lists like the top 10 movies of all time, the top 10 songs of all time, are immense. Some might consider this unfair, some might consider this unnecessary, but for most people this should be an engaging exercise- which was the best avatharam?

Let’s carry out a first round elimination.
Dasavatharam Govind

Govind-the scientist, even though this character was the story’s main protagonist, it was a far too routine and unchallenging role for an actor of Kamal’s caliber.

President Bush- many might beg to differ on this one. Yes, the role was one of the best on screen caricatures of a political leader and some of his wisecracks/blunders were really funny. But the screen time given to President Bush seems far too little to enable a fair comparison with other characters.

Dasavatharam Bush
Dasavatharam Rangarajan Nambi

Rangarajan Nambi- a majestic portrayal of a man who would not give up his faith even for his life, the character did give us glimpses of Kamal’s emphatic screen presence but this one too has to take a bow for the same reason as President Bush.

Done with the eliminations and now we are left with seven. Fletcher, Balram Naidu, Avatar Singh, Kalifulla Khan, Krishnaveni paatti, Shingen Narahashi and Vincent Boovaragan. The choice can really be tough. Let’s try and dissect the performances one by one and try to arrive at a consensus, which in most cases are next to impossible, but we shall try.

Dasavatharam Kamal
Dasavatharam Fletcher

First there is Fletcher, sophisticated, stylish, mean, hardy, nasty and ruthless, Kamal has turned out a neat performance here. The accented English, especially his inventive way of naming Chidambaram are the strokes of a man who thinks closely about every line he utters on screen.

Never has a South Indian looked this convincing as a Sardar as Kamal did in Dasavatharam, even while speaking the regional language. It must be agreed that the role did not demand much from Kamal, apart from appearing convincing as a Sardar, which he did to perfection.

Dasavatharam Sardarji
Dasavatharam Shingen Narahashi

You can be forgiven for thinking whether this is really Kamal Haasan himself. When Shingen Narahashi first appears on screen, for a second one thought that this was some Japanese martial arts master. If the movie hadn’t been named Dasavatharam and if we hadn’t known that Kamal was playing 10 characters we would have probably sat the entire length thinking that this guy was closer to Jet Li than to Kamal. Body language adapted to perfection.

‘Attire makes an actor’ is a quote that I heard some time back. Here it is the make up. All accolades for Krishnaveni paatti should go to Mr. Michael Westmore’s make up. All Kamal had to do was to sit through the make up session (which might have been a grueling 6 hours or so) and deliver his lines in front of the camera. Of course, delivering lines is not easily done, especially when one is pretending to have a 90 year old back that is bent in an arc and talking in a cracked, croaky voice that can make you go hoarse the moment you attempt it.

Dasavatharam Krishnaveni paatti
Dasavatharam Vincent Boovaragan

Who is this dark man who wants to stop sand quarrying? His Tamil is not the normal Chennai slang, it is different. Vincent Boovaragan should go down as one of Kamal’s classy performances. Carrying off a message in such short screen time with such effect is what sets the good and the great apart.

The tallest man in Dasavatharam, I believe has been unfairly dwarfed by many critics. Yes, Kalifulla Khan does look like the weakest link in the make up department of Dasavatharam but the character looks a very carefully etched one. Most critics have opined that Kalifulla looks a bit flat and unimaginative. I feel that is how Kalifulla was intended to be, the most innocent person that you would come across in your city. It was not for Kalifulla to deliver witty one liners or strong statements like other characters in the movie. He was a child at heart and spoke straight from it.

Dasavatharam Kalifulla Khan
Dasavatharam Balram Naidu

I have kept the best for the last and I think most of you would agree with this. The previous characters have not been arranged or rated in any way but this one wins hands down - at least I think so, as the best avatharam. Balram Naidu of RAW. The man from Andhra Pradesh whose Tamil has you in splits. Balram must go down as one of the funniest characters in Tamil cinema.

Be it his body language, dialogues or their delivery, especially the ‘terrific scientist or scientific terrorist’ part, everything radiates the touch of a genius. The character has been so thoughtfully made that the converse (Balram Nadar from Tamil Nadu) made the Andhra audiences’ bellies ache with laughter in the Telugu version.

So, that’s my take. Balram’s the best, followed by Kalifulla. The rest…well, it’s too difficult to decide for me. Do you want to try?

Respond to

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