For the ten Avatars of Vishnu, see Daśāvatāra.
For the 1976 film, see Dasavatharam (1976 film).

Promotional poster
Directed by K. S. Ravikumar
Produced by Venu Ravichandran
Written by Kamal Haasan
Sujatha Rangarajan
Starring Kamal Haasan
Mallika Sherawat
Music by Songs:
Himesh Reshammiya
Background score:
Devi Sri Prasad
Cinematography Ravi Varman
Edited by K. Thanikachalam
Distributed by Aascar Film Pvt. Ltd
Ayngaran International
Walt Disney Pictures
Narmadha Travels
(United States)
Release dates
  • 13 June 2008 (2008-06-13)
Running time
185 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Dasavathaaram (English: The Ten Avatars) is a 2008 Indian Tamil science-fiction disaster film, directed by K. S. Ravikumar. It stars Kamal Haasan, who also wrote the screenplay and story of the film, in ten distinct roles. Asin appears in two roles and Mallika Sherawat plays a subsidiary role. The film, which had been under production for nearly three years, was produced and primarily distributed by Venu Ravichandran. Primary filming locations included the United States and across Tamil Nadu in India. The soundtrack to the film was composed by Himesh Reshammiya and the background score was by Devi Sri Prasad.

The plot of the film revolves around bringing together the lives of several individuals beginning with the 12th century and ending with the 21st century; the main person being a research scientist who develops a bio-weapon and makes sure that it is not acquired by a group of terrorists. Several other people also get involved in the process and all their stories connect after the striking of a tsunami, thus bringing in philosophical views into the picture.

After delays in post-production, the film was released worldwide on 13 June 2008 in around 1300 prints[1] worldwide including a dubbed version in Telugu. The aspects of the visual effects and the performances of the cast were appreciated while the music was unanimously criticized. A Hindi dubbed version, Dashavtar was released almost a year later.


Bio-scientist Govindarajan Ramaswamy speaks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium about chaos theory and the butterfly effect. He begins by reciting events from the 12th century in Chidambaram, when King Kulothunga Chola II, a Saivite, persecutes Vaishnavites and intends to destroy an idol of Govindaraja. Rangarajan Nambi, a Vaishnavite, protects it and offends the king, who orders Rangarajan to be executed by being pierced, stoned, submerged into the sea with the idol, before being devoured by the shark, thus the king succeeding.

On 20 December 2004, a bio-technology lab in the United States designs a virus intended as a bio-weapon. When they were watching the news of the vial, Govind's pet monkey breaks out of the cage and swallows the virus and dies. After understanding the vial potential, Govind, one of the scientists involved, refuses to give the vial (containing the virus) away due to fear of misuse. However, his boss Sethu has other plans and tries to sell it to a terrorist group when Govind flees with it. Former CIA agent Christian Fletcher follows him and attempts to seize the vial, when it is accidentally couriered to India. Govind sneaks into the aircraft carrying the virus and changes its location. After arriving in India, he is questioned by Balram Naidu, a RAW operative. Govind unsuccessfully tries to explain the series of incidents.

Meanwhile, Fletcher, who has married a woman named Jasmine, arrives in India. Using her as a translator, Fletcher threatens Govind and takes him away in a jeep with a police officer. After exiting the city, Govind escapes from Fletcher and reaches Chidambaram. Fletcher follows him, after getting a cab, along with Jasmine. After Govind attempts to persuade the receivers of the package carrying the virus, it finds itself inside an idol of Govindaraja. In the chaos, Jasmine is killed. Govind and Andal, who is the granddaughter of Krishnaveni, an old woman for whom the package was sent, try to run away from Fletcher, and arrive in a ground where illegal sand miners are working. They try to rape Andal, but Govind defeats them and they sneak out after the interference of Vincent Poovaragan, a social activist, and saves an unnaturally tall Muslim named Khalifula and his family from a car-crash in the process. One of them, a lady, faints suddenly and is taken to a hospital, where Govind procures a cooling box to store the weapon, as it is unstable and its temperature needs to be maintained. He meets pop singer Avatar Singh, who is also there for treatment of his throat cancer. His prescription drugs are in a similar-looking box and before leaving the hospital, he unknowingly switches it with Govind's box.

Fletcher follows them and takes Andal and the Muslim family hostage in their house, from where Govind is blackmailed to bring back the box he is carrying. With no choice, he reaches the place, only to discover that Avatar must have the weapon. The police surround the house, forcing Fletcher, Govind and Andal to flee in a jeep. Shinghen Narahazi, a Japanese martial arts expert, whose sister Yuga Narahazi was earlier killed by Fletcher, follows them. Avatar finishes his last performance and discovers the blunder, only to get shot by Fletcher after having a row.

Govind and Andal flee to reach a construction site, where Govind takes out the weapon before giving the idol to Fletcher. The sun dawns on 26 December 2004. Govind gets an idea from some drainage workers to immerse the virus in a large quantity of salt to destroy it. He goes to the sea, only to be stopped by Fletcher. Shinghen Narahazi arrives and fights with Fletcher. Both Narahazi and a motivated Govind fight Fletcher together and defeat him. Fletcher opens and swallows the virus. Suddenly, a tsunami strikes, washing away Fletcher, and causing great destruction along the coast. Poovaragan's house is struck and he dies in a car after saving a child. Andal, Govind and Narahazi get into a boat. Krishnaveni arrives and cries after perceiving Poovaragan as her long-lost son. After relief measures are taken, Andal argues that god had sent forth the tsunami to get rid of the weapon. Govind responds by asking if god would destroy hundreds of lives to save millions. Then, they are later revealed to have been talking in front of the idol submerged in the 12th century. The scene shifts to the stadium, where Avatar, who had his cancerous growth taken away by Fletcher's shot, along with several others, listening to the speech by Govind with Andal as husband and wife followed by former president George W. Bush as the credits roll.


Kamal Haasan's ten distinct roles. He had to wear excessive make up to portray all his characters except Govind and Rangaraja Nambi.



Kamal Haasan came up with an original storyline and approached a number of directors, to direct it, when K. S. Ravikumar accepted the offer. It began soon after the announcement of Sivaji: The Boss starring Rajinikanth.[2] K. S. Ravikumar and Kamal Haasan came together for the fourth time following their three previous successful ventures, Avvai Shanmughi, Thenali and Panchathantiram. Kamal was set to play ten different roles in the film, making it the first time that an actor has appeared in so many roles in world cinema.[3] Venu Ravichandran signed up to produce the venture securing distribution rights in the process. Pyramid Film Fund had an exposure of 50 percent in the project.[4]

Following nearly a year of pre-production, deciding the cast and the locations, the film began its first schedule on 11 September 2006.[5]

Ashmith Kunder was signed up to edit the film, despite early indications that A. Sreekar Prasad would have landed the offer.[6] The director, K. S. Ravikumar also wrote the script for the film following negotiations with Sujatha Rangarajan, who died before the release of the film, and Crazy Mohan. Jeeva was initially announced as the cinematographer of the film, and he had taken over the role for a day of the shooting. However, the shots taken by him did not appear in the film and Ravi Varman became the director of photography.[7]


Between the announcement of the project and prior to the launch a year later, several actress were signed up, who then either opted out or were removed from the project. Vidya Balan was first signed up and set to make her debut in Tamil films, however due to the long inactivity of the film, Balan opted out citing date clashes with her Bollywood project.[8] Following the removal of Balan, it was reported that each of the ten characters portrayed by Kamal Haasan in the film, would have a female lead opposite them. Actresses who were considered but failed to make the final shortlist were: Mumtaj,[9] Kiran Rathod,[9] Meena,[9] Nadhiya,[10] Kamalinee Mukerji,[11] Nithya Das,[11] Meera Jasmine,[11] and Vasundhara Das.[11] Moreover, actresses Balan, Trisha Krishnan[12] and Nayantara opted out due to date clashes.[13] Furthermore, Shriya Saran was forced to opt out of the project by the producers of her other film Sivaji: The Boss, a film built up as the rival to Dasavathaaram at the box-office.[14]

Finally, the major female lead role was given to Asin Thottumkal, who was later assigned two distinct roles in the project.[15] The second lead female role in the film went to Mallika Sherawat, for whom Dasavathaaram was her first Tamil language film.[16] Over the course, of the production more supporting actors were added to the film, the first being Napoleon, who was signed up to portray a king in the film. Other veteran actors, Jayaprada, Nagesh, P. Vasu, K. R. Vijaya and M. S. Baskar as well as a bevy of American supporting actors were roped into essay other small roles in the film.[17] Actors, Jayaram and Vadivelu opted out of the film during the production of the project, citing date problems.[18]


Picture of the film set depicting the Vishnu image used in the film

A preliminary schedule took place before the start of the film, which featured no filming, but only the make-up tests, lasting for 25 days in the USA.[19] The make-up used for Kamal's characters proved to create difficulties. It took nine hours to implement the make-up and it failed to stay for a long period of time. To compensate that, he had to rest and take fluids using a straw and at the same time, refrain from making movement in the facial muscles to make sure that it was not disturbed.[20] The technology of motion control was employed for the cinematography in the film.[7] The filming of Dasavathaaram began on 3 August 2006 at Mahabalipuram in Chennai, where the intro song was picturised on a set created by art director Sameer Chanda. The set resembled the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram in Kumbakonam and scenes with Kamal Haasan in an Iyengar get-up, accompanied by over 750 extras, were recorded. Though it was initially planned to be shot in the temple itself, permission could not be obtained as the structure was a heritage site and the shooting was believed to interfere with the activities of the temple. Further plans to use a hundred elephants were shelved after the transport and accommodation for the animals was deemed impossible.[21] However, in September 2006, Sameer Chanda was sacked from the project due to his tendency to employ only workers from Mumbai and not Tamilians, prompting Haasan and Ravikumar to remove him from the project, with his role being entrusted to Prabhakar of Virumaandi fame.[22]

Another team member was sacked in Chengelpet, when a stunt sequence was being captured by the camera; stunt master Kanal Kannan was reported to have used unparliamentarily and corporation words at the workers and that took over the public address system. Angered and humiliated by such remarks, the workers walked out of the sets refusing to work anymore and resumed duty only after the elimination of Kanal Kannan. A new stunt master, Thyagarajan was given the opportunity to take over following the controversy caused by Kannan, who had a similar problem while shooting for Sivaji.[23]

Major portions of the films were shot extensively in overseas locations which included the US, Tokyo, Malaysia and Thailand.[24] A role of a foreigner, played by Haasan, was shot for in casinos in and around Las Vegas and Orlando. A song involving Kamal Haasan and Mallika Sherawat that was to be shot in US was moved to Malaysia due to problems with Sherawat's visa. The crew instead decided to shift to another destination in Malaysia and the song was shot in posh night clubs; furthermore scenes were shot at a lobby of a prominent Malaysian airport.[25]

A Replica of the White House was erected at the Taramani Film City in India, with Haasan's makeup for the role lasting six whole hours to obtain the desired outcome.[25] For the climax, another scene was shot dramatically above the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with the permission of the chief minister, M. Karunanidhi.[26] A tsunami effect was created in Mahabalipuram and shot at a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) area of land in which a 100-foot (30 m) wall was created near Muttukadu. Six machines, which generated 20-foot (6.1 m) high waves, were imported from the US, for a total cost of 35 million (US$520,000).[25] The film's final shoot occurred on 8 October 2007 at Uthandi, a coastal village.[27]


Studio album
Released 25 April 2008
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 44:60
Label Sony BMG

The film was originally announced with A. R. Rahman as the music director of the film. However he opted out of the project owing schedule clashes.[28] Kamal, who quickly wanted the tunes, roped in Himesh Reshammiya, for whom Dasavathaaram became his Tamil film debut.[29] The background score was composed by Devi Sri Prasad. As the film demanded a "stylish and western" quality of music, two reels of music were initially composed and tested. A two-and-a-half-minute theme song was later composed for the promos. The background music in the second half consisted of extensive usage of violins and chorus and the entire score for the film was recorded over a period of one month, in Chennai.[30]

The soundtrack was released on 25 April 2008 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, which became the largest audio launch for a south Indian film.[31] Prominent film personalities across the world attended the event, with Jackie Chan, in his first such appearance, being Hollywood's ambassador for the function. Other prominent regional Indian artistes such as Amitabh Bachchan, Mammooty, Vijay and Madhavan attended the launch. Then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi attended the event. The event hosted by Shobana, was attended by all the artistes of the film apart from producer Venu Ravichandran, who avoids to attend public events.[32] The soundtrack album was acquired by Sony BMG, purchasing their first Tamil film, for a record of 20 million (US$300,000).[1] The music was released in four languages: Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam.

The soundtrack received mixed reviews from critics. Behindwoods wrote, "In spite of donning many roles Kamal Hassan has used only six songs for the movie. So the story could be expected to be a tightly edited one and should not drag. Though there are no duets here, the songs themselves could become hits if the storyline packs a punch. One must add that the songs have a decidedly 'Hindi flavour'." and rated the album 3 out of 5.[33] Indiaglitz summarised, "Dasavatharam music is here to rock.".[34] Rediff, however, gave 2 out of 5 stars and concluded that the album was "a mediocre listening experience."[35]

No.SongSingersLength (m:ss)Lyrics
1."Ulaga Nayagan"Vinit Singh5:34Vairamuthu
2."Kallai Mattum"Hariharan, Chorus5:28Vaali
3."Oh...Ho...Sanam"Kamal Haasan, Mahalakshmi Iyer5:31Vairamuthu
4."Mukundha Mukundha"Kamal Haasan, Sadhana Sargam6:32Vaali
5."Kaa...Karuppanukkum"Shalini Singh5:06Vairamuthu
Himesh Reshammiya, Mahalakshmi Iyer3:47Vairamuthu


Two days prior to the release, the film was shown to film personalities of Indian cinema at Four Films Cinema in Chennai, with the film receiving praise.[36] The film earned a total pre-release revenue of 500 million[37] from selling all its rights. Sony India distributed the film in North India, whilst Ayngaran International sold the film to cinema halls in the United Kingdom, Singapore and the Gulf.[38] Canadian rights for the film were bought by Walt Disney, becoming the first distributional venture of an Indian film by the production house.[39] Narmadha Travels acquired the rights from Aascar Films to distribute the film in the United States of America.[40] The satellite rights of the film were sold to Kalaignar TV for 45 million.[41]

The film was dubbed and released in Telugu on the same date, with later release dates set for the Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali and Bhojpuri versions. The Indian censor board certified the film on 24 April 2008, giving it a "U" (universal) rating, after 9 cuts were made and letting the film run for 166 minutes.[42] The film released worldwide with 1,300 prints in all the respective languages. Tamil Nadu had 275 prints, Kerala had 85 and Karnataka had 80, with 190 prints released overseas. The Hindi version Dashavtar had an unusually high 410 prints in North India. The Telugu version had 260 prints in Andhra Pradesh[1][43] including 45 prints in Nizam region. The film opened in 25 screens in Hyderabad.[44]


Assistant director Senthil Kumar filed a case against the film at the Madras High Court. He claimed to have created the story of Dasavathaaram, in a script titled, Ardhanari alias Clones, and that Kamal Haasan and Venu Ravichandran had "stolen" the script and left him out of the credits, violating the copyright act.[45] On the basis of this complaint, the Chennai police queried the actor and later accepted his explanation with the high court sending notices to Kamal Haasan and the producer of the film, Venu Ravichandran announcing an interim stay on the release of the film. The film was allowed to continue with its schedules, but the case was delayed till later in 2007. However, in September 2007, the Court dismissed the petition of Senthil Kumar against Kamal Haasan in the case, clearing the legal hurdles for the film.[46]

Following the audio launch on 25 April 2008, Mallika Sherawat received a police complaint against the issue of improper attire at a film function. Hindu Makkal Katchi, a splinter group of the Hindu Munnani, lodged a complaint with the police, saying that Sherawat's attire at the function to release audio-CDs of Dasavathaaram, in which Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had been present, had "hurt the sentiments of Hindus". The actress was accused of wearing a mini-skirt and exposing her back in front of the chief minister.[47]

In May 2008, the film was criticised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which claimed that the film has portrayed the clash between Saivism and Vaishnavism which prevailed in the 12th century in the film in an objectionable manner.[48] However, following the accusations, Venu Ravichandran announced that the film contains no controversial scenes and added that the film, based around the Hindu religion, will convert atheists to theists.[49] The charges were cleared on 29 May 2008 insisting that Dasavathaaram did not portray Hindu culture in bad light.[50]


The first look was released in April 2008.[51] The film's trailer was released publicly on 23 April 2008, a day after it was shown to special guests, which included M. Karunanidhi at a screen.[52] The first exclusive screening of the film, prior to release, was held on the morning of the audio launch on 25 April 2008, to visiting guests Jackie Chan, Vijay, Mammooty and Amitabh Bachchan, all of whom were full of praise for the film.[53]

The film was shown subsequently to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi by the request of the producer on 8 June 2008.[54]

Critical reception

Dasavathaaram received mixed reviews; most critics felt that the plot was confusing, and that Kamal Haasan's ten roles were forced, with only three relevant to the plot.[55] Sify called the film "average", stating that it would "fall short of the huge expectation and hype it had generated." The reviewer also criticised the make-up, lamenting that "Kamal's prosthetic makeup, especially as George Bush, Fletcher and Khan, is a bit of a dampener" but claimed that Brian Jennings's special effects, "mainly of the climax Tsunami scene, are top class by Indian standards". The reviewer praised cinematographer Ravi Varman, noting: "[He] may take a bow, as his camerawork is glossy and superb", but noted that some of Haasan's characters like Avatar Singh and Khalifullah Khan were "unnecessarily stitched together to make it a perfect 10."[56] Behindwoods rated the film 3.5 out of 5 and said, "In short, with unexpected twists and turns missing in the film, Dasavatharam is a make-up magic show that disappoints as drama and satisfies as a technical showpiece." but concluded, "Watch for Kamal!"[57] IndiaGlitz said, "This is a movie that has highlighted a highly talented and passionate actor in his entire splendor. At the end of the film one tends to ask....has Kamal Haasan been so spectacular that he has overshadowed the script and story this time?"[58]

T S Sudhir of NDTV wrote, "Dasavathaaram, unfortunately, remains just a film with its USP of 10 Kamals. This Kamal does not blossom the way he did in Indian or Nayakan, Appu Raja, Mahanadi, Avvai Shanmughi or in Thevar Magan" and further stated, "One of the best in the business falters with the film's story and screenplay."[59] Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India rated the film 2.5 out of 5 and said, "EXPERIMENTS aren't always successful. Like Dasavatharam , Kamal Haasan's ambitious venture which sees him playing ten roles which include a take on George Bush too. Daring, we'd like to insist; only the make-up and the fake appearance borders more on the comic."[60] The Deccan Herald said, "The ten roles are awfully disparate: they are more like pantomime characters. Kamal appears too flabby and jaded. Sorry, Appu Raja (or shall we say Michael, Madana, Kamarajan) it’s time you start being your age. From start to finish there is a severe decibel assault aided and abetted by Himesh Reshammiya."[61] OneIndia said, "After watching Dasavatharam- the so-called magnum opus of the year- an ardent fan of Kamal Hassan will ask why indeed it is called a magnum opus in the first place. Why was all the hype, tension, cases, expectations and unnecessary expenses wasted on this average film. Once again, Kamal fails to attract Tamil audiences with his own script." and gave the verdict, "Not up to expectations!"[62] Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu said, "The film would have worked even better had the narrative been tauter and more purposive post-interval" but concluded, "All in all, Dasavathaaram shows that Kamal Haasan has once again taken great pains to make his cinematic projects convincing. The effort has paid off."[63] On the contrary, Rediff praised the film as "spectacular" and a "super human effort", rating it with 4 out of 5 stars. The reviewer concluded that the film will "go down in the history of Indian cinema as a unique experiment in the commercial circuit".[64]


Dasavathaaram received the Best Film Award and Kamal Haasan received the Best Actor Award at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards.[65]

Box office


Dasavathaaram completed a 50-day run on 2 August 2008.[66] It completed a 100-day run on 20 September 2008 in four screens in Chennai.[67]

The Chennai Corporation had given the producer special permission to hold five shows daily, which helped the film to garner the extraordinary opening. In the second weekend too, the film registered at least 95% at multiplexes and 80% in single screens.[68] The film grossed 96 lakh (equivalent to 1.9 crore or US$280,000 in 2016) from 17 screens in Chennai in the opening weekend.[69] The film grossed 21 crore (equivalent to 41 crore or US$6.1 million in 2016) all over Tamil Nadu on its first weekend. It grossed 60 lakh (equivalent to 1.2 crore or US$170,000 in 2016) outside South India in the three-day weekend.[70] The film grossed 91 lakh (equivalent to 1.8 crore or US$260,000 in 2016) in a fortnight in Mayajaal multiplex.[71] In Sathyam Cinemas multiplex, the film grossed 90 lakh (equivalent to 1.8 crore or US$260,000 in 2016) in a fortnight.[72] The film stayed at No.1 position in Chennai box office for five consecutive weeks.[73] In Chennai, the film grossed 6.35 crore (equivalent to 12 crore or US$1.8 million in 2016) in three weeks,7.53 crore (equivalent to 15 crore or US$2.2 million in 2016) in four weeks, 8.55 crore (equivalent to 17 crore or US$2.5 million in 2016) crore in five weeks, 9.44 crore (equivalent to 18 crore or US$2.7 million in 2016) in six weeks and around 10 crore (equivalent to 20 crore or US$2.9 million in 2016) in the lifetime run.[74]

Dasavathaaram grossed 90 crore (equivalent to 176 crore or US$26 million in 2016),[lower-alpha 1] in three weeks worldwide, excluding its takings from North America.[76]

The Hindi version Dashavtar opened to a poor 5–10% response.[77] Dashavtar netted 1.93 crore (equivalent to 3.8 crore or US$560,000 in 2016) in six weeks in North India and was declared a "Flop".[78] The film grossed 2 crore (equivalent to 3.9 crore or US$580,000 in 2016) in Kerala in the first week.[79] In a fortnight, the Telugu version earned 3.5 crore (equivalent to 6.8 crore or US$1.0 million in 2016) share in Nizam, 1.5 crore (equivalent to 2.9 crore or US$430,000 in 2016) in Ceded,1 crore (equivalent to 2.0 crore or US$290,000 in 2016) in Vizag,96 lakh (equivalent to 1.9 crore or US$280,000 in 2016) in East and West Godavari, 75 lakh (equivalent to 1.5 crore or US$220,000 in 2016) in Guntur and 70 lakh (equivalent to 1.4 crore or US$200,000 in 2016) in Krishna.[80]


Dasavathaaram grossed $4,632,719 and was ranked No.7 in the opening week, becoming the first Tamil film to reach the Top 10 at the International box office.[81] In Malaysia, the film opened in second place, having collected $601,000 from 58 screens on the opening weekend[82][83] and $1,720,780 in nine weeks.[84]

Dasavathaaram was released in the United States with 42 prints, an unprecedented record in U.S. movie history for a South Indian film. With print sharing facility, it was screened in 50 cities across the country. The collection on the opening weekend in the USA was $500,000.[85] The film grossed $750,000 (3.25 crore in 2008),[lower-alpha 1] in the USA as lifetime business.[86]

In Canada, it was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, the first Tamil film do so. In the UK box office, it collected £126,747 from 19 screens on its opening weekend, debuting at number 12, the third highest position ever for a Tamil film.The life time overseas gross was US$13,450,700 which makes it one of the highest grossing south Indian film overseas.[85][87]


A spin off film Sabaash Naidu, based on this film's character Balaram Naidu (a RAW operative) is scheduled to release on 2016.[88]


  1. 1 2 The exchange rate in 2008 was 43.4 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$).[75]


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