Gimmickry Rules the Roost Here
By MovieTalkies.com, 17 April 2009
That Kamal Haasan is a consummate performer is a fact which is well known. In this Hindi dubbed version of his Tamil movie, Dasavatram, the actor seeks to reinforce this point, by portraying ten different roles. This thriller works to a degree despite the obvious gimmickry as the plot has a certain amount of topicality to it. But the film, which spans many time zones and continents, is too long and repetitive. Its plot lacks coherence, which probably seems to have been the last thing on the director's mind.
Unlike the late Sanjeev Kumar's multiple roles, Kamal Haasan seems to have gone over board in his attempt to make each character look different from the other. His fascination with prosthetic makeup seems to have touched a new high with this movie. The only problem is that the makeup often ends up having the opposite effect and actually looks comic. Incidentally, in one of his ten avatars, he also plays George Bush. The initial response as one watches him essaying these different roles begins with some curiosity, tinged with a certain amount of thrill. But after a while, it becomes much too obvious that the entire film has been so engineered as an attempt to showcase Kamal Haasan, the actor. And this happens at the cost of the film and its screenplay.
The film's story begins in ancient India and then shifts to 2004, where a computer chip containing some deadly biological material, goes missing from a lab in the US. Our protagonist Govind, who is a scientist, realising the dangers that it poses if it falls into the wrong hands, sets of on a mission pf sorts to recover the material. This mission sees him land in a remote temple town of India, where much of the action takes place. Asin makes her appearance in the role of a village belle who helps Govind while Mallika Sherawat is a Pakistani agent. Neither of the actresses impress. Asin is too shrill and loud while Mallika is quite disappointing.
The plot is quite racy as the action shifts and moves through continents with Kamal Haasan appearing at times as a Chinese martial arts expert, a FBI agent,a sardar, a scientist and a temple priest. Then of course, there is George Bush, Manmohan Singh, a tall Pathan, and an old lady. There is no doubt about the fact that the actor has laboured hard at getting his mannerisms and accent right for each of his roles. But like we mentioned before, unlike the ease with which Sanjeev Kumar shifted from one character to another in Naya Din Nayi Raat (he played nine characters), Kamal Haasan's phenomenal effort seems to lose some of its sheen because of the element of gimmickry involved in the entire exercise. One gets the feeling that director Ravi S Kumar had very little scope to do anything more than execute the vision of Kamal Haasan.
There was a time, with films like Sadma, Saagar and Nayakan, when Kamal Haasan's acting was a work of art. Now it seems to have little to do with art. One doubts that posterity would remember him for a Dasavatram. It's still likely to be the Sadmas and the Nayakans which will immortalize him in the annals of Indian cinema as one of most talented actors of current times. But having said that, it is Kamal Haasan and his many avataars who manages to infuse some kind of coherence and pace into the structure of the film. He is the only point of interest in the movie. But it does not make for a very satisfactory cinematic experience as gimmickry seems to rule supreme in this mammoth effort.