Timeout - Cosmic lessons
by Purnima Coontoor
There are two reasons why I saw this movie; one, it featured the famed south Indian actor Kamal Hassan, and two, in a recent interview the actor had confessed that he was an atheist. So what was he up to, scripting the story, screenplay and dialogues of this film bearing the name Dasavataram, with teasing trailers of Lord Vishnu drowning in the sea? I had to find out.
The story per say is a regular pot-boiler – in this case an NRI scientist is chasing a missing vial containing a deadly virus all the way across the world, with the villain and the police close on his heels. The saga starts in the 17th century when a Shaivite king in Chidambaram down south prises the idol of Lord Vishnu out of its pedestal from the main temple, and throws it, along with a rebel devotee tied to it, into the ocean. The film then cuts to the present, and the vial saga ensues. From New York to Chidambaram, the vial lands up in the most unusual places before lodging itself in a bronze idol of Lord Vishnu. Many people are involved in the chase, before the vial is removed from the idol and consumed by the cornered but vengeful villain who would rather let the world perish along with him. The only antidote for this deadly virus is tons and tons of salt, and just when the hero thinks all is lost, a huge tsunami wave sweeps the writhing villain off the shores of Chidambaram into its deep bowels, effectively de-toxifying the environment. And along with the waves, the stone sculpture of Lord Vishnu immersed in the ocean in the 17th century, is thrown up again.
Corny, maybe, but also an intriguing plot line that compels you to look beyond the surface. Kamal Hassan essays ten different roles in the movie, prominently the Vishnu devotee in the 17th century, the main villain and the present-day scientist, and several others depicting different faiths and nationalities. Each and every 'avatar' is instrumental in reaching the vial to its destination, implying that we are all important cogs in the cosmic wheel. Each person goes through what looks like a trial when he comes in touch with the vial-bearing Vishnu idol, but ultimately benefits. A Sardar gets shot in the neck, but the bullet carries his throat cancer away. An entire Muslim populated area is unfairly herded into a masjid atop a hill for questioning regarding a terrorist act, but they are saved from the tsunami precisely because of this. And so it goes. The hero is a non believer, the heroine is a believer. When all is well that ends well, the hero attributes his success to human effort, while she attributes it to grace, suggesting that the two cannot be mutually exclusive. Kamal playing ten roles signifies universal oneness, that we are one and the same beneath our exteriors, including the villain, who consumed the poison and inadvertently saved humanity. The tsunami sacrifices hundreds but saves millions. Ultimately, the re-emerging Vishnu idol gives credence to the Lord's declaration of 'yada yadahi dharmasya....'- the lord will come back to earth again and again to save mankind from evil.
The film is not brilliant, but is definitely engaging. If you can draw any more cosmic lessons from this film, do let us know.
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