Movie Review: Subhash K Jha speaks on Dashavtar

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By Subhash K. Jha Bollywood Hungama News Network

12 hours after I saw the amazing camera chameleon Kamal Haasan transform into ten utterly different characters my head is still reeling

"Is that also him?" my daughter kept asking about every character, man woman or child who popped up in this action-reaction drama on the dynamics of destiny, karma, religion, politics and global terrorism.

Matrix meets maya in thunder land would be an apt description to this film which very honestly, defies allotting.

Phew! Got that? No? Well, you still have to see Dashavtar to know what the astounding Kamal Sir has attempted and failed to achieve in this woefully ambitious tale of greed and lust for life…and I don't only mean the emotions that motivate the characters.

The actor who's also the screenwriter of this flamboyant tale of rebellious warriors, international gangs and parochial accents, is also motivated by a lust and ambition for more, more and more of himself on screen. He doesn't just hog footage. He swallow it up without a burp.

On-screen megalomania is not a good thing for the wellbeing of a film. When the actor becomes several sizes larger than the vehicles invented to accommodate his restless talents, it's time for the actor to slow down and consider why cinema flourished as an art-form in the first place.

Was it so that one day an actor of Kamal Haasan's stature could monopolize screen time to the detriment of all narrative equilibrium?

Indeed the actor's audacity takes your breath away. Right before our stunned eyes Kamal Haasan transforms into characters ranging from an old cantankerous woman to George Bush. The funniest of them all is an impersonation of a pompous parochial Bengali government agent (whose ring tone is R.D Burman's Jaane-e-jaan tu kahan main yahan in Bengali) , assigned to bring a global terrorist (played with snarling lip smacking relish, who else, Kamal The Chameleon) to book. They chase one another on land and in space. They create mayhem but no pace or space for the narration to breathe in any semblance of grace.

This is an epic that loses control over its resources. A Tamil maestro of the performing arts, doing a Bengali accent is as outrageous as Jaya Prada playing the wife of a cancer-stricken Punjabi Bhangra-pop singer.

Oh, didn't I tell you? Kamalji also does a Punjabi. And why not? Dashavtar is an ode to Indianess in all its gory glory. It starts several centuries ago and ends in 2004 with the Tsunami waters creating a havoc and catastrophe(impressively staged) far more containable than what this film has achieved.

Dashavtar Dashavtar is one chaotic messy and exasperating mass of mammoth ambitions gone awry.

An ongoing theme in Kamal Haasan's entire cinema is the opposition between religion and cynicism. As in real life in this film the actor (in one of his dus avatars) or is an agnostic who ironically has to run around with a Krishna statur that has a deadly vial secreted in its clay body. Wow, God meets the NASA!

For company the agnostic has the hysterical Asin screeching and fretting like Kajol on drugs. Then poor Mallika Sherawat appears to perform a snazzy cabaret to an indeterminate Himesh Reshammiya tune and gets impaled to the nearest wall like a comic book Amazon who forgot to let us know she could and would go from oomphy to grisly without bothering about the strange range of moods that this bizarre film covers.

Don't blame her. It's the atmosphere of constant hyper-activity that Kamal Haasan with some help from director Ravi Kumar creates. Some of the aerial action sequences are no doubt breathtaking. And a couple of Kamal Hassan's avatars especially the Japanese samurai and the wizened senile woman looking for her long-lost son are outright awesome.

By the time the old lady thinks she has found her son, the director has lost the plot. Completely.

This film is more a triumph of prosthetic excesses than creative passion.

Dashavtar is not a bad film. It's worse. It's an insufferable self-indulgent film.

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