Posted by: Prashanth Rajan | July 2, 2008

Dasavatharam-Movie Review

Overall Rating 3.5/5

Concept                        4.0/5

Direction                      3.0/5

Music                            4.0/5

Visual Effects                4.5/5

The Ten characters:

1. A 12th century vaishnavite

2.A biotechnology scientist Govindrajan (The protagonist)

3.An American ex CIA agent Fletcher(The bad guy)

4.An Indian detective Balram Naidu

5.A social worker named Vincent Poovaragan

6.A Japanese sensei

7.A 8ft tall Muslim Khalifullah

8.US president George W Bush

9.A 95-yr old Iyengar lady

10.A punjabi pop singer Avatar Singh


Directed by K. S. Ravikumar

Produced by Venu Ravichandran

Written by Kamal Haasan, Sujatha, Crazy Mohan

Starring Kamal Haasan, Asin Thottumkal, Mallika Sherawat, Jayaprada, Napolean

Music by Himesh Reshammiya, Devi Sri Prasad

Cinematography Ravi Varman

Editing by Ashmith Kunder

Run time – 166 MINUTES

Brief Intro and Concept :     Written by Kamal himself, his Magnum Opus has failed to live upto the hype given to it. The movie, loosely based on the ‘Chaos Theory’ starts off with Kamal’s narration and the story begins in the 12th century depicting conflicts between Shaivites and Vaishnavites with Kamal playing the role of a Vaishnavite, being made to drown tied along with a huge idol of the sleeping Vishnu, apparently for objecting against the Chola King(played by Napoleon) as the latter wanted the Vishnu idol to be drowned in the sea. Then the story zooms to the 21st century with our protagonist,Govindrajan, a biotechnology scientist working on a multibillion dollar project(The vial) which he then realizes can be a potential bio weapon capable of destroying nations, and after getting to know that certain people in his organization are going to use it for ‘other’ purposes, he decides to run off with the vial(to safer places). In the process, his friend and his  japanese wife get killed, the death caused by an American ex-CIA agent Fletcher. The death of the japanese wife makes the reason for the entry of a Japanese sensei which apparently hasn’t got anything to do with the main story. You will easily observe that many of the characters have got nothing to do with the main story and it rather becomes extremely boring and fails to keep the viewers entertained. Mallika Sherawat plays the aide of the American villain. Eventually, the story goes places from America to India following the journey of the vial and Govind comes across an orthodox Iyengar family where he meets Asin. The vial then ends up inside a Vishnu idol courtesy the 95 yr-old iyengar lady and the story moves at a snail’s pace from then on. Asin’s orthodox iyengar traits have come of well lest the train scene which could have been avoided. (Asin earlier capped the role of the 12th century Vaishnavite’s wife).

Synopsis: It can be eventually noticeable that the characters of Kamal with no relevance to the main story consume a lot of screen presence which is not only irritable but also makes one yawn. The 8ft tall muslim, the punjabi singer, the social worker to quote make up for a lot of screen presence and make the movie blah blah shit with no story connection at all. Kamal’s apparent disliking of George W Bush can be witnessed in the movie as he makes mockery of the latter throughout the movie. There are also some critical errors in the movie, like even though Bush speaks good American English at the start, his accent fails later and Kamal has reverted back to Indian style English. Ditto with the American villain. And we all know that no punjabi singer can speak Tamil as good as a normal Tamilian , which is another accent blunder. I do not know whether he spoke Japanese the way Japanese do either. The only saving grace was the telugu speaking Balram Naidu, who with his witty comic timing and dialogue entertains. Kamal has excelled superbly in this role and has spoken Tamil the way a telugu speaking person would normally speak. His humor goes a long way in providing relief to the otherwise horrendous pace which can be compared with the way a vehicle would move in Bangalore traffic. The peak of irritation was reached thanks to the song sequence of the punjabi singer and a parallel story of his suffering from cancer which makes up as a sorry excuse for the lack of emotional scenes in the movie. A movie could do without this pathetic emotion and this infact makes one wonder why this crap had to be tolerated at all in the first place.

All these drawbacks apart, a lot of appreciation has to be credited to the visual effects and the make-up team( the reputed make up team from the US). The background artwork and music have to be lauded and there has to be a special mention of the hospital scene where 4-5 Kamals share the screen. Great work. But all these positives do not make up for the essence, do they? Wasting tons of creative visual effects on characters with no meaning is one thing, and that at times Fletcher looks like his mask is going to fall off and the lighting effects of the ‘lighthouse’ Khalifullah seemed to have faltered at places. The Tsunami scene has been executed to a fairly good level. There is also a Karunanidhi look-alike and a clipping of the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha. Nagesh, unarguably the greatest supporting actor of Tamil cinema has been wasted in a small role. Occurences of a butterfly flying is funny. The reputed Chaos theory is better explained in the English movie ‘The butterfly effect’. Kamal has a very good concept but he fails to understand one keyword which is the defining factor-Entertainment. People have a feel-good factor only if they are entertained after watching 3 hours odd of moving images. And the movie fails to do just that. Mr.Kamal, if you are trying to base a movie on the Chaos theory, then just stick to that. Instead, it looks like this Chaos theory concept is just a lame excuse for the record of 10 characters,half of which can be rendered useless as they do not sync with the main plot. Everyone knows that you are a pioneer when it comes to acting, you do not have to don 10 roles to further assert on that fact. Not only have you ended up making the movie boring, but the movie fails to deliver on lines of Entertainment. And i feel that some peoples’ thinking that Kamals’ movies are way ahead of the times are rubbish. True, a few of his have really stuck a chord in the minds of critics and has received critical acclaim, but it is wrong to generalize on that by saying that he doesn’t compromise on certain facets for assurance of commercial success. This movie may not be sized measurably in the 2-time National award winner’s bandwagon. The K.S.Ravikumar-Kamal Hassan duo which worked very well for movies like Avvai Shanmughi,Tenali,Panchatantiram has failed for this movie. The movie would have fared a lot better if the focus wasn’t on the 10 roles and instead on the Chaos theory which could have been beautifully laid stress on. Kamal lacks the finesse of Mani Ratnam in putting the concept across and I am afraid that this movie will be perceived as a boring movie rather than an entertaining and concept-based one.

I would like to add that this review is not meant to offend any Kamal fans but myself being a Kamal fan, I could not digest my disappointment after seeing the movie. Not only has the movie failed to live up to its hype, it also made me yawn and my eyes were moist at the time of the Avatar Singh’s emotional cancer scene. Notwithstanding the other drawbacks, the biggest nonsense of the movie surfaced when the doctor tells Singh that the bullet wound caused blood loss cured him of his cancer. Oh! come on! everyone knows and we presume that even you, Kamal must know that cancer isn’t like a venomous snake-bite which can be cured by loss of certain amount of blood( I do not have to explain medical facts regarding this nonsense but I believe that I have a certain amount of common sense)

We all know that for a man of your stature, your movies are way better than those average dandanakka styled flicks and we, being your avid fans go to your movies with expectations befitting your capabilities. Please do not come up with disappointments such as this one again.

On a closing note, I would like to tell you that you can enjoy the movie if you go to see it without expectations of mammoth proportions( probably the mistake which I did). The fact that Dasavatharam received mixed reviews isn’t so surprising to me to say the least. Hope your next venture, Marmayogi, turns out to be promisingly different (which your movies are most of the time as always) and most importantly entertaining as well. All the best, Kamal



  1. I dont know whether you copied this from some where, or you itself typed this. But watever u have typed is really bad comment on dasa movie. You are trying to degrade the movie in a soft way. but thats not true sir. Movie is running full packed houses everywhere. First of all think that you are watching Kamal movie, so you must have some difference from others. You are not watching Rajini or Vijay movie to have masala and commercial stuff. There are lot of people who hate those stuff. There are lot of people who like both commerical and sheer talent. The answer is dasa movie. The way he has mixed the religion and science is wonderful. I accept the fact that some characters can be avoided, but thats wat chaos theory is all about. he wants to inter relate all those wat ever hapens in the whole world. Try to atleast appreciate the some characters which no body can do in this Indian country. Please appreciate the hard work and try to understand wat director/actor says. dont have your own ideas and expectation and go for any movie. Thanks for reading.

  2. what does george bush says in the endd of the movie in tamil. i didnt catch it

  3. I just found this blog and I felt it very interesting.

  4. @ sup – thanks nice blog…. very informative
    @ zack- bush just waves his hand. i dont remember him saying anything. i ll let u know if it is otherwise
    This is my own review.

    as i have said, his concept was brilliant. the way he has explained through chaos theory is amazing. but the movie gets a little boring in midway and thats exactly what i laid stress on. instead of laying stress on each character’s reason, they could just played a little part in the main character’s life(like how sensei saves scientist at end can somewhat be linked to butterfly effect). but for a man of kamal’s stature, it is not wrong on us fans to expect a more perfectly chiselled master-piece from him-like making it a bit more entertaining-that was my point. NO one in Indian cinema can accomplish what he s trying except Mani.
    Those who criticized the movie have probably not understood the butterfly effect. but i have understood it since i have seen the movie ‘The butterfly effect’. All i am trying to say is the personal lives of some characters could have been shortened to an extent( esp Avatar Singh), hence making it a little less boring and more entertaining. Anyways kudos to Kamal.

  5. I think the movie was very very good. With all due respect i completely disagree with most of ur points :P. I think the movie is very deep and has many levels. Unless v recognise all those itll b difficult to appreciate. At the end of the day this movie is used as a medium to once again reiterate kamals point of view that fanaticism of any kind (religious or otherwise) should always be compromised when it comes to working towards the good of humanity. Weve seen such messages from kamal before in movies like Anbe Sivam. This movie goes along the same path.
    Uv said tht the movie could do without the “pathetic scenes” about avatar singh suffering from cancer. Ill tell u y those scenes were essential.
    In the starting of the movie kamal plays an orthodox iyengar who refuses to compromise on his beliefs and principles and his work even when it endangers his family. When Asin appeals to him to accept Lord shivas name for the sake of her and her son he refuses. Hes ready to die for his beliefs and his lord. But the result of that was his death and the death of Asin [:(( ] leaving the child orphaned. His uncompromising stand leaves two people dead and a child orphaned. Symbolically he denotes how religious fanaticism(of both the chola king and the priest) and uncompromising natures result in death and destruction. These are the very causes of wars today.

    So as avatar singh when the doctor gives him a choice between living longer but compromising on his passion of singing or continue his singing but live shorter, kamal chooses the former saying tht his family and their love is more important to him and hes ready to give up his beliefs and passions for that because at the end of the day what matters is compassion. Contrast this choice with the choice the 12th century kamal made and its results. Kamal is trying to tell the importance and value of human life and love over rigid beliefs.

    He reiterates this again and again in the movie. Thats why u find Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian-SC/ST, Buddhist characters in the movie. All about pluralism

    And kamals accent for avatar singh was impeccable. Just like how punjabis speak tamil. I know this cos in the aftermath of the tsunami the collector or DSP for one of the districts was a Punjabi and iv seen his press conferences. And his Tamil was pretty good.

    What was the role of the giant? i dont think it was to show just a tall man. I think it was to show his giant heart. His height was simply a metaphor for his implicit good nature. To throw more light on a community under the needle of suspicion.

    Again and again kamal touches on the need for pluralism and religious tolerance and the need for compromise. When the old granny claims the body of vincent to be her son her relatives tell her it cannot be so because vincent is dark, to which she replies thats just on the outside but hes fair on the inside. A metaphor again for his good nature. The butterfly was shown to denote the chaos theory.

    The movie deals with a large number of issues and noone else has ever tried to tackle so many issues in one movie. kudos to kamal fer pulling that off.

    The movie symbolically travels a full circle. So a kamal who was rigid and uncompromising in the beginning turns into a man who values humanity more than anything else towards the end. The idol that was submerged in the beginning returns to land in the ending. That denotes how the meaning of god was lost in those early days because of religious fanaticism and how when he realizes that compassion and love is more important the essence of god is returned once again to the earth/land.

    There are a lot more things i can go on talking about but i think this comment is very very long already 😛 , so ill stop. Basically what im trying to say is things arent how they appear literally and every scene and character has a purpose and if we identify those then the movie is truly a delight watching cos hardly any indian movies are made that have such deep meanings in every scene. A very intelligent movie.

  6. @ Ulag,

    In fact, one can keep writing the relation between each scene and whats happening and with the each thing involved. If you start seeing how the story is woven, it is impossible to believe he came up with something so deep yet so easy. The main thing which overshadowed everything from “just a movie” point of view was the fact that the characters didn’t have time to develop and they really looked like as if they were there just for having Kamal in ten roles.

  7. this relates to prash’s den
    i think ur not an intelectual preson,so u cnt understand the film .thats all i want to say
    .a beter advice is try to see movie again and mingle with those characters u will enjoy the film

  8. @ ulag
    kamal had already explained in narration itself that a butterfly’s flapping can cause a earthquake on the other side of the globe. Hence i thought it wasn’t necessary for that butterfly scene.
    I do care about how many messages that this movie sends across, but i am more interested how these messages and interests are presented. Thats all the point of my post.
    Sometimes if some people try to convey too many messages, then there is a high probability that there can be some poor execution in getting those messages across. That can be apparently found out.
    i have put the main interest of this post as it entertaining the viewers . Sure, the message that it conveys is important, but all I am saying is that it needs to be put in a more appropriate, entertaining way. (non boring). Sure, a lot of people out there usually get the feeling that those who have criticized the movie haven’t understood the movie, but it is not so. If people aren’t getting entertained after watching, then what’s the use of the movie?
    People don’t go to see movies to try and understand each and every message that it conveys, but they go there to get entertained. Surely, i have said that it is a brilliant concept, but all that i have said that there is a more fitting way to put that across..
    I can appreciate that this movie sends out a lot of messages, but i do not agree on the factor that this is entertaining. ( entertaining does not mean commercialization). (see mani’s films).I would have changed the outlook of the whole post if the movie’s messages had been presented more properly without it being boring.
    i have understood why there have been particular scenes in the movie, all i am saying that your regular movie-goer isn’t actually looking for understanding to a deep extent what the movie conveys.

    thanks for ur comments. i will advise you to see the following movies before seeing dasavatharam.
    1.The butterfly effect(Eng)
    2.Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil)- see how mani gets the message across and entertains at the same time. no scene in the movie is boring.

    By the way great spellings you have got there.

  9. I dint say that its giving only messages without entertaining. Since you questioned the need for certain scenes (like avatars) i was just trying to explain why those scenes are important to the movie.

    I thought it was very entertaining too. Balram Naidus role of a bumbling Raw official at the core of the movie was very hilarious. The shenanigans of the old grandma was really funny too. The love-hate relationship between Asin n Kamal provided a lot of laughs. There was enough action too for action buffs. Add to that a thriller concept and i thought the overall entertainment package was very well met too.

    I think just as Supreeth pointed out there a lot of ppl who have gone for the movie concentrating on his avatars. For them it was a let down. Cos all the reviews i read in papers are about how Kamal is splashing himself in every role to feed his ego. I think that was a wrong approach to go for this movie. The remaining roles should have seen only from the point of view of a supporting cast and one should not have expected it to develop into anything meatier. The focus should have been only on Govindrajan and the story of how he escapes with the virus. When i read the newspaper reviews i feel tht, tht focus has been lost and replaced by an obsession with kamals ten roles. Yeah the movie is titled Dasavatharam to advertise his ten roles itself but it shouldnt be the focus. The story is the best part – An edge of the seat thriller.

    Im one of Mani Ratnam’s biggest “FAN”atics….and till a few days back i too was preaching that kannathil muththamittal was the best tamil movie ever and i would have eaten crow rather than admit otherwise 😛 . But no, to be fair, i think Dasavatharam is just way better. Not only is it a good entertainer but its a very intelligent movie too.

    But again to each his own. I had 2 reasons for thoroughly enjoying Dasa, and one of them was prolly because i went to the movie sans any expectations.

  10. ya, im from andhra so sorry for speling mistakes .
    and the thing i want to xplan is abt do people dn’t recieve msgs?
    its acctually wroung thing people from andhra recieves msg from movies and its happen really in the film bharatiyudu(indian),oke okkadu and lot of shankar movies.
    even direcor shankar said people from tamil nadu critisize my movies but from andhra they really follow them.

  11. @ bhargav
    shankar tries to make movies with a message, but ends up commercializing it(to make for a safe formula). I do not want to spark another debate, but Mani is way too good at hard hitting message movies. If u understand Tamil, see some of Mani’s movies. They are way too good.Because i doubt if Mani’s movies are dubbed in Telugu the extent Shankar’s movies are.

  12. shocking news it was to hear from the closer sources? Really, this is turning to be the worst amongst all of affairs. Prabhu Deva, father of three children (Recently one passed away) is in love with Nayanthara, the leading actress. That sounds quite absurd but you’ve got to believe. Although it was earlier considered to be rumors, certain channels of outside Tamil Nadu have confirmed it. And of course, tomorrow morning you’ll find this one on the headlines of all newspapers.

    Sources have again revealed that concern has been shown from both of the sides and soon divorce will be done between bonded relationships.

    Now Prabhu Deva has fled to unknown place stating that he has some works on Hindi project. Meanwhile Nayan too is missing in town and seems to have gone for abroad. This has evoked yet more on this issue.

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