This was the third Tamil movie that Ive gone to a theater to watch in USA and as they say, three was definitely lucky. The first was Sivaji: the Boss and the second was Bheema (What a waste of money that was!!). This was my first movie since I came to Arizona and let me tell you that, that alone was not the only ‘firsts’ about the movie.
The story: As you might have already come to know from various other, more prominent, film reviews, the story is not much. The crux of the story can be precisely put in a single phrase as ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and can be extended a little bit for better understanding by following it with the phrase ‘and the reason is, most of the time, too complex for any mortal mind’.
Govind (Kamal Hassan with less makeup) is a biological scientist in US who tries to stop his associate from conspiring to sell a viral strain to antisocial elements where it can be used as a biological weapon against humanity. A few milli-litres of the infected solution, which is stored in a tiny vial, has the potential to wipe out cities and as Govind is chased by a hired ex-CIA/assassin Christian Fletcher (Kamal hassan again with quite a lot of makeup) to get hold of it, into several near death situations, the vial gets accidentally sent to India and the action spills over to the sub-continent. What happens to the vial and how religion, science, nature and 10 roles of Kamal Hassan seamlessly work together to result in a ‘happily ever after’ moment is the more than two and a half hours of feverishly scripted and intricately executed celluloid feast of a film, DHASAVADHARAM.
Kamal Hassan has mostly produced movies of very good quality over his long and impressive career as an actor and director, but this movie, in which he has done story, screenplay and dialogs along with 10 different roles- a record for any actor in main stream movies, must be one of his crown achievements. This is special, not merely because of the challenges that he has imposed on himself for the various roles he took in movie that has broken a lot of barriers that seem to have encased and crippled Tamil films, but the fact that it was not a one man show (relatively) as it is a typical case in any big star movies.The film is packed with thrilling action scenes, especially the mostly natural looking chase sequences-a rare sight in Tamil movies, ever winding plot that keeps you engaged throughout and some extremely impressive sets and locations that take you to the center of the story.
The movie travels to a number of geographical locations as the story moves through various subplots, revealing one character-played-by-kamal after another. Kamal takes it upon himself to perfectly match every one of the 10 characters he has played, including a 90+ year old woman, with the language, accent, posture and timing that make them as realistic as any other cast member. From Fletcher to Kalif Ullah, from Balram Naidu to George Bush the actor has stamped his authority and while doing it, appears to be, at ease. Especially his performance as Christian Fletcher is one for the ages. Putting up makeup is one thing. But becoming that person takes substance. It’s as if the man has knobs which he can turn at whim to modify his characteristics and become anything he wants.
Asin Thottumkal requires a special mention here. Too often it can be noted in Kamal movies that every other cast member is shadowed by his prominent presence (performance, rather) and it can be very hard for any actor/actress to be noticeably visible in his shadow. Asin, playing dual roles as Kothai Radhain ancient times and Aandal (a fierce agraharam devotee of Perumal) in current world, does it with aplomb excelling in portrayal of her character and, backing it with a very impressive agraharam-tamil accent, revealing not the fact that Tamil is not her first tongue. There were so many characters in the film, given that Kamal himself was involved in 10, and the mere fact that I remembered Asin after the movie was over was not just because she looked great but it was also her great performance. Like her or not, one must say, well done, Aandal.
The director, K.S Ravikumar, has done a very good job with the movie. Instead of giving each character a small 5 minute presence, which is the usual formula in such types of films, kudos to the director for making all the 10 characters stick till the end. The movie never slacks in projecting a multitude of things to the audience. From the hi-tech work place of Govind to the beautifully crafted performance arena of Avtar Singh it’s hard not to get impressed.As for characters, I personally enjoyed Balram Naidu with his typical regional accent and attitude and George Bush, who was brilliantly portrayed exactly the way I percieve him. I also enjoyed the fact that the songs were cut short as the story moved there by merely accentuanting the situation rather than playing full length and making us forget the story itself.
The negatives about the movie, as usually the case in Kamal Hassan films, were not the absence but excess of things. One thing in definite excess was the panning camera which was used more often that not and induced sharp headaches to more than few in our outfit. Excess use of sloppy computer graphics gave us an excuse to close our eyes to soothe the headache. One definite excess glamor girl- Mallika Sherawat; she might well have found her best part ever in Jasmine (a performer in a Las Vegas gentleman’s club), but seems completely out of place when it comes to acting. How did the director come up with a ‘Stripper working in Las Vegas who was initially trained by Pakistan’ is any body’s guess.
Looking back at the movie, headache aside, I would have to say it was money well spent and I would give it 8 out of 10.
Highlights: Kamal Hassan (all 10 of them), stunt work, editing and direction and Asin Thottumkal.
Distractions: Mostly mediocre and, at more than a few instances, annoying camera work and CGI, Mallika Sherawat.
Until Next Time…..