Tamil Features

Dasavatharam: It’s Been 10 Years Since Kamal Haasan’s Most Ambitious Film

It’s been 10 years since Kamal Haasan appeared in 10 different roles sporting 10 different dialects and body languages. Made with a budget of Rs 60 crores, it was one of the magnum opuses of Tamil cinema.


Dasavatharam, a Tamil science-fiction, was released in 2008. It was directed by KS Ravikumar, produced by Venu Ravichandran, music by Himesh Reshammiya and background score was given by Devi Sri Prasad.

After much delay and courting a few controversies, the film had a worldwide release with 1,300 prints. It got Haasan the Tamil Nadu state award for the Best Film and Best Actor.

The plot revolves around a research scientist who has to prevent a bio-weapon from reaching terrorist groups. Several others also get involved and all their stories connect after a tsunami strikes them. The story eventually connects the lives of people in the 12th Century to the ones in the 21st Century. The film also questions the existence of God through the prism of an atheist. Many objections were raised against the portrayal of a clash between Saivisam and Vaishnavisam.

The twists in the plot apart, Dasavatharam is a masterclass in make-up. Make-up was the most toughest thing in the film as it took nearly nine hours for the actor to get the look of all the 10 characters right. According to Kollywood Today, “Kamal Hassan started his day at 3 am, spent time on make up till noon, started shooting at 1 pm and wound up before 2 pm. He would sit straight and drink fluids using a straw with minimum possible movement of facial muscles to ensure the makeup was not disturbed.”

A special prosthetic make-up veteran, Michael Westmore was flown in from Hollywood to handle the make-up. He is the man behind all those Star Trek characters

Major portions of the film were shot extensively in overseas locations which included the US, Tokyo, Malaysia and Thailand. Haasan, who also played the role of a foreigner, took the film in the casinos of Las Vegas and Orlando as well.

The film crossed Rs. 10 crores on the very first day and made Rs 103 crores worldwide in the first week. It has collected Rs 202 crores in the box office.


For the film’s visual effects, Hollywood specialist Brian Jennings was roped in. “The tsunami, which is an integral part of the film. It happens in two locations; one is the fishing village and the other is a lovely home along the seaside. It was very difficult creating and shooting those scenes but we did it very realistically. Very large waves were computer generated. The challenge was to get the quality with the resources I was given. The end result was as good as any Hollywood film. I don’t think the budget affected my work but I was short of time,” Jennings had told Rediff.com.

Though there were six songs in the film, Mukkunda and Ulaga Naayaganea became chartbusters. The history of Dasavatar of Vishnu was shown in the form of a shadow dance. Also, the final song Ulaga Naayaganea gained more attention after the release of the film as all the characters of Kamal Haasan were presented in the same frame.

“I’ve known Oscar Films for about two decades and they have been distributing my films here. When they came and played some shots to me, I was like wow! This is really good. I want to see the whole movie now. I would like to bring Chinese and Indian cultures together,” Jackie Chan had said at the audio launch of the movie.