Yesterday I watched the recently released Tamil blockbuster movie Dasavatharam at a local theater here in the Chicago area. I am not really a huge movie buff – but I went there to be entertained, and I was.

If you are planning to see the movie, whether you like it or not is going to depend on your expectations. If you bought the hype, or you are expecting an artsy Kamal flick with great story and a profound message, well – good luck 😉 !

But I also will say – you are to blame yourself! Yes, yes – I know the man’s legacy etc. etc., but give him a break. Let him prepare and serve masala dosa once in a while, and instead of complaining that it is oily, unhealthy, and that you did not expect an onionized dish like masala dosa from this authentic, chaste hotel – just eat the dosa for what it is, and enjoy it!!!

I know that this sounds like bizarro world as this is how one (tr)eats a Rajini flick, but hey that is how this is. Think of it as a much much much (a infinite series) better Vikram and you will love it. The magic is all in your expectations! After all we are talking about movies here – let us not be uptight!

Now on to the movie
(warning some spoilers – although nothing too obvious)

The good:

  • The 12th century scene – impressive, grand. Very nicely done and has a Lord of the Rings type of feel.
  • Generally, a very fast paced movie with non-stop action. The first half in particular is quite excellent. Things do get a little overwhelming in the second half, but after twenty-or-so years in the US, I get that feel during the second half of all Indian flicks – three hours is indeed long for me.
  • The comedy: The RAW inspector character, the grandma etc. – excellent script and characterization by Kamal. Even the comedy of the some of the other minor characters is good.
  • Excellent acting by Kamal – the inspector, the Dalit activist, the Japanese martial arts specialist and the bad dude.
  • The action scenes – the fights, chases etc. are all very very well done.

The bad:

  • The CGI effects are sub-par in places – sometimes too obviously sub-par. In the 12th century scene, when the initial camera shot zooms down along the Gopuram, the walls appear fuzzy and fake. Also, while the scenery as the boats move along the river to the sea is indeed exotic and magical, it was too exotic, too overdone i.e. a bit too fake. I mean that that here the realism of the actual physical characters (and the import of the scene), got eclipsed by the CGI created scene. Also, during the tsunamic scene (quite impressive in many places), the water at times appeared downright fake with too much pixelization – quite bad I thought. I do realize that in general, this is ground-breaking for Indian cinema. However, maybe I have bought the “arrival of India as a global force” in other areas (IT, IPL) too much, as I expected the “best so far” to be better. In fact, I do think they can aim for much higher, and actually get there – now itself.
  • The make-up of most Kamals – it was too fake. Even the voices did not appear natural. They were obviously digitally processed, and it showed – badly. The skin, faces etc. (e.g. grandma, Bush) to me seemed shockingly too fake – seemed to require a lot from the audience to put that aside and just concentrate on the dialog and story (or give credit for the effort). Even the Japanese character, and the Dalit activist, which were very well done in terms of acting, were sub-par in terms of appearance (meaning you could easily tell their appearances seemed “made up” and not natural).
  • The segways – what’s up with that? Goofy and comically out of place!
  • Nepolean’s dialog delivery and pronunciation. Given his character (he still has an impressive demeanor), to me, it must come out flawless. He appears to really struggle through it, and if I am not mistaken, he still messes up on differentiating the Na (mUndru suzhi Na) vs na (iRaNDu suzhi na). Tut-tut-tut! He could have used a backup voice ;)!
  • Music is so-so. I think the music director is not capable of sounding South Indianish enough and it shows – particularly in that song in the mutt. I guess it is melodic, but I bet a Tamil music director would have easily run away with it. Generally songs seemed to me like those from a Hindi movie. The first song (12th century scene) I guess is probably the best of the lot – but I felt that the background score (excellent!) during the 12th century scene, may have added a lot to the drama building up to that song.

Now of course, the story has holes, and I see many reviews complain that the 12th century scene was not “properly tied back” to rest, what is he trying to convey etc. – but hey this is a masala flick, an Indian masala flick! What are we expecting? For an action flick, I think this is more than good enough!

Now people also ask, why did Kamal do 10 roles? Isn’t he simply he showing off? Of course he is! He does really stretch it (and comes up short) w.r.t trying to be so many disparate characters (and also not wanting the audience to see any resemblance to him). Sure, this movie is all about him – just like Sivaji is all about Rajini. But I let him indulge – as overall for me the positive entertainment factor overrides these, just like with Sivaji and Rajini.

My recommendation – definitely can see it once. But just remember that this is a masala flick.