can a priest fight?
Many have had this doubt. How does Rangarajan,
a pious Vaishnavite priest fight off a number
of soldiers? Too much of a cinematic liberty,
many opine. But, there is an explanation, deep
in Tamil culture and caste hierarchy (where each
one was married to the ancestral profession by
birth), there were a sect of Brahmins called the
Ammathyayans whose profession used to be war.
It might sound hard to believe but yes, there
were warriors among Brahmins, too. And, coming
from an industry where cinematic liberties regularly
insult the intelligence of the audience, this
should more than suffice as an explanation.
Where’s the story?
When did Kamal promise one? True, the plot can
be summed up in one line, but the complexities
are numerous. It is a delicate explanation of
the Chaos Theory where every incident, however
good or bad it may seem to us, has its
role in the grand scheme of things. The movie shows
how the 10 characters act in such a way, that the vial
carrying biological weapon of mass destruction, that
could be neutralized only by common salt, is brought
to the seashore just minutes before the tsunami. A bit
earlier or later could not have had the same effect
as that of the huge waves rushing in. The design of
the universe was to annihilate the bio weapon and the
characters were merely pawns who played their destined
roles, some hurrying and others delaying the journey
of the vial, so that it reached the sea at just the
right time. The way complaints about the lack of a story
have been rising makes us think whether Kamal was supposed
to have contrived the plot such that all 10 characters
are brothers who were separated in their childhood and
brought up in different corners of the world and recognize
each other with a family song or a birthmark unique
to the family! It would have definitely been a story
then –only the movie would have looked like a
1970 Bollywood melodrama!
Is the budget justified, why do the songs look
Many don’t seem to be able to see the 60 crores,
they say that it hasn’t translated into grandeur
on the screen. Maybe, they failed to notice that almost
90% of the frames of Dasavatharam have more than one
Kamal, all the scenes have more than one for sure and
most of them have at least three and we don’t
want to elaborate further. One is a 90 year old woman,
there is a pot bellied cop, a mean Yankee, a 7 footer,
a Japanese etc… The amount of graphics that would
have gone in to get the movie in shape is good enough
to justify any budget. And about the songs, do they
have to look out of the world?
Dasavatharam is fiction, not fantasy. It is firmly grounded
in realities and bound by the confines of the Chaos
theory (which some might find difficult to swallow).
In a cross country chase for the possession of a vial
that is a weapon of mass destruction, where is the place
for a song shot in the plush meadows of Switzerland
or Austria? Yes, K.S. Ravikumar and Ravivarman would
have made it look good and it might have made a few
people believe that the 60 crores were well spent, but
think of what it would have done to the movie. There
might have been a strong temptation to include a Kamal-Asin
duet and we must applaud the crew for resisting it.
The songs of Dasavatharam are as natural as they can
be. First, a soulful chant by a 12th century priest,
a raunchy number by a strip club dancer, a devotional
song in the true tradition of Chidambaram and a stage
performance by a pop star. The song in the title tracks
has no bearing on the movie, it’s just a postscript.
Every song is just as it should be, not an ounce more.
There are only few instances in Tamil cinema where songs
remain so true to the script.
The ladies are exasperating!
Many are of the opinion that one lady is finished off
far too early and the other hangs in for too long. There
seems to be hardly any reason to complain about the
supposedly premature end of Mallika Sherawath’s
character. It is a mishap that occurs during a risky
attempt to grab the vial in a crowded place, there is
nothing out of logic. Only Mallika Sherawath fans who
expected her characteristic glamour to parade on screen
should find reasons enough to moan. There are also others
who feel that that her club song was a bit unwarranted.
Well, where would you expect to find a girl who accepts
an offer for a transcontinental chase with a man she
hardly knows the moment she is offered some money -
at a bank counter or at a supermarket?! It has to be
some place like a dance bar.
Asin, poor lady, has received brickbats for being so
obsessed with Lord Krishna. Some feel she ought to have
been slapped by Govind half way into the movie. Slapping
ladies is a stereotype that Tamil cinema can afford
to do without. Besides, expecting a biological scientist
like Govind to be chauvinistic enough to slap a lady
(that too one as good looking as Asin) and snatch the
idol would be unrealistic. If you watch the movie you
will notice that Govind never wants to get into a fight,
even when faced by grave danger, he is always running
away from violence. He doesn’t seem to be able
to slap the man who is trying to kill him, let alone
a woman who is an innocent bystander.
The beach quarrel?
This is definitely the scene that has been beaten badly
and bruised by many people. They find the small talk
at the site of a monumental disaster irritating. Granted,
a tsunami hit beach is not the place for petty quarrels.
But think of Govind’s frame of mind. For him and
Asin, the tsunami was a timely deluge of common salt
that prevented the death of millions across continents.
They, in their opinion, have just witnessed the escape
of mankind from a disaster of proportions that could
dwarf the tsunami. After days of tension, their minds
are now at rest knowing that the deadly ‘ebola-hanta
combination’ has been neutralized by NaCl.
There is an old fable. A line was drawn and a man was
asked to make the line smaller without erasing off any
portion. The man simply drew a bigger line beside it
and the first line indeed looked smaller. Here the tsunami
was the small line and the bio-weapon dwarfed it. Only
Kamal and Asin knew about it, hence the relaxed state
of mind and small talk.
Why weren't the following appreciated?
Finally there are certain things about Dasavatharam
that seem to have been missed in the flush of criticism.
No two characters except Rangarajan and Govnidarajan
share the same height and voice. If Apoorva Sahodarargal
had one normal man and a dwarf, Dasavatharam has all
ranges starting from the hunchback to the giant. The
voices range from the husky, to the shrill. It is the
kind of variety and dexterity that has never been seen
in world cinema. It also has to be remembered that the
movie is based on the chaos theory, something that requires
understanding. If such a concept has been incorporated,
along with a bio-weapon message, an environmental edge
and narrated in such a lucid way that even a layman
is able to connect, the maker has to be someone special.
How often do we hear of scientific theories contributing
There is the technical aspect which does seem to have
received a fair amount of appreciation. However, we
cannot help but mention the climax fight between Narahashi
and Fletcher as a masterpiece in graphics. Of course,
as said above, most of the frames of Dasavatharam are
technical showpieces by themselves, not because they
are out of this world, but because they have made everything
look so real. Finally there has been talk about how
the characters of Dasavatharam don’t stick to
the mind. Some say that only Boovaragan sticks while
others remember Balram and so on. But the fact here
is that most people know the characters that they say
have not stuck to their mind, they identify the ‘non-stick’ing
characters by name or appearance. That is proof enough
that a mark has been created. For instance, Rangarajan
Nambi does not appear on screen after the initial 10
minutes. He is non-existent for the next 150 odd minutes
and yet many remember to criticize the way in which
he fought off the soldiers!
It is easy to get carried away in the wave of criticism
and not appreciate the real class of the movie. The
fact that so much has been talked about the movie tells
us about the impression it has created. What has to
be realized is that we may have to wait decades before
we see anything even remotely close to this. It is tough
even for a genius and dedicated professional like Kamal
to keep making efforts like this. One has to just open
up one’s mind to see all that is wonderful about
Dasavatharam and please don’t appreciate it for
charity, only for Kamal Haasan or because someone asked
you to be a sport. Dasavatharam is a creation that deserves
By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun Gopinath.
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.