Wednesday, April 22, 2009



Without the gimmick of Kamal Haasan slapping on prosthetic make-up and playing every major role in the film, Dashavtar (the Hindi dubbed version of Tamil Dasavatharam) has quite a standard issue thriller plot.

Govindrajan (Kamal Haasan) a scientist in the US wants to prevent a vial containing a deadly virus from falling into the wrong hands, and escapes with it, with an ex-CIA assassin Fletcher (Kamal again) and his slinky moll (Mallika Sherawat) hot on his heels.

He lands up in India, has the Intelligence team led by a Balaram Naidu (Kamal, yet again) chasing him. At some point, a senile old woman (Kamal too), puts the vial into an idol and her hysterical granddaughter Andal (Asin—not Kamal for a change!) joins Govind on the run.

The film could have been wrapped up in a cool, snappy, 100 minutes, and the ‘ Don’t mess with Nature’ message delivered equally effectively, but because Kamal Haasan wants to play more roles, it extends to a sleep-inducing three hours. He keeps adding needless characters like a Sardar singer, an Afghan giant, a Japanese man, an environmental activist and, quite memorably, George Bush.
The director KS Ravikumar —and script writer Kamal-- keep the film moving, however, from one action/chase sequence to another, with just a few pauses for breath—a comic gag here, a song there.

The most stunning part of the film is the prologue, set in 12 Century Tamil Nadu, where a Vishnu devotee Rangaraja (Kamal, who else?) is tortured by the Shiavite king, strapped to the huge idol of Vishnu and thrown into the sea. How this connects with the present, and the ‘thunderous’ climax takes some frantic connecting of dots—but there is Chaos Theory involved.

Dashavtar is an expensive film, it has some spectacular effects and action scenes, but ultimately, there is the discomfiting thought that it was made to indulge an actor’s vanity. Stunts like Kamal as an American battling Kamal as a Japanese martial arts expert. At the end, you see Kamal Haasan in a make-up chair, getting all that rubber goonk slapped on his face… and not all if it is well done. The assassin, the old woman and the Afghan, in particular, look like hastily stuck on Halloween masks. The best—and the one the actor seems to enjoy most --is the regional chauvinist Naidu.

It could have been a fun ride, but the way is lumbers on, it is like reading a good book for a school assignment—punishing.

Chowrasta: Crossroads of Love

Darjeeling is clearly the star of Anjan Dutta’s Chowrasta: Crossroads of Love, a beautiful hill station that time seems to have left untouched—or at least not severely altered.

It is at Chowrasta in Darjeeling, that a few stories interconnect, with a former tea planter and now writer Jimmy (Victor Bannerjee) with suicide on his mind, meets with some of the most uninteresting characters imaginable (all speaking with weird English accents).

There is an actress Nandana (Rupa Ganguly) with a problem kid Rick(Neil Bose), a whiny ex-husband (Saswata Chatterjee) and a new lover (Arijit Dutta). There’s a couple that has eloped and the screechy, nagging wife (Aparajita) gives her laidback husband Sunny (Naved Aslam) and the audience a really tough time.

There’s a terrorist (Atul Kulkarni), who is in need of money, and happens to kidnap Rick—who is quite happy to be away from his parents and keeps demanding a particular brand of biscuits (paid product placement?), so that you actually start feeling sorry for the inept criminal.

Everybody just talks and talks (typical of Anjan Dutta’s films like Bong Connection and Bow Barracks Forever), and utter some unintentionally hilarious lines. Like Jimmy advising Sunny to serenade his wife, which will get her “panting like an Alsatian.” There is also some faintly obscene car analogy and a particularly gross one about a rhino horn in the backside (this is for the terrorist’s ears). You wonder what kind of writer Jimmy will make, when he also spouts “dancing in the daffodils” kind of words.

At 90 minutes, this one seems too long, and but for the lovely scenery and a stray interesting scene-- like Sunny’s serenade, or Jimmy’s attempt at “flying”-- it would be quite difficult to sit through.

Meri Padosan

Carrying on from the string of duds last week, coming out because of the multiplex-producers fight, is Prakash Saini’s Meri Padosan, that would find it impossible to get a release in normal times; it will still have to struggle for an audience.

It is set mostly in a studio basti, where little bungalows are cheek by jowl, and windows are left tantalizingly devoid of grills or curtains. In this voyeur’s haven lives a grumpy accountant Viju (Sanjay Mishra) and his pretty, dolled up, wife Kavita (Sadhika Randhawa).

Three bachelors move in next door (Sarwar Ahuja, Khayali, Snehal Dabhi) and ogle at the wife. The one of them, an aspiring filmmaker called Shyam Gopal Varma (!), enters a filmmaking contest with a reality-show kind of movie, in which he creates misunderstandings between the couple, so that he can shoot the ensuing fireworks.

It’s expectedly tacky, sexist, and quite unbearable, despite the potential of the plot (borrowed from a foreign film). A couple of the lead actors are just about passable, but some of the others seem to have been picked up from the bottom a particularly muddy talent pool.


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