Award-winning South Indian super star Kamal Hassan is easily one of the finest actors India has ever produced. In Dasavatharam, to be released here on June 5, Kamal Hassan plays the role of ten different characters. Besides acting, Kamal Hassan also wrote the story, screenplay and the dialogues for the film. The film co-stars Asin and Mallika Sherawat, and has Himesh Reshammiya scoring for a south Indian film for the first time in his career. Dasavatharam is touted as India's most expensive film to date and is expected to be released in Hindi as Dashavtar. The film is also dubbed in French.

Excerpts from the interview with Kamal Hassan:

The unique selling point (USP) of Dasavatharam is supposed to be the ten characters you play in the film. Could you briefly tell us about it?

The USP of Dasavatharam is not talking about the 10 characters but acting it out for you. So, I am not telling you about my characters. What I can tell you is that while I am acting a few of these characters you will see me as my normal self while the idea behind at least seven characters is not to let you recognise me. The language, voice, storyline and background of each character are different. I don't think any actor in any part of the world has acted 10 such radically different characters in a film. I have tried my best to make your time worthwhile and let's hope I have succeeded in it.

How was your experience of preparing and playing these characters?

I have been living with Dasavatharam for the last two years and to put all this together in a film of three hours is an amazing experience. We started our first schedule of 25 days with no shooting or acting but just make-up trials under the Hollywood make-up artist Michael West. For 20 days I would put on make-up for 12 hours and later we did five days of shooting photographs. When we returned with the photographs, my producer and the team were surprised by the outcome and convinced by this film. I have gone through all the difficulties when I started preparing for the role initially and later playing these characters was akin to speaking a language fluently.

Could you please explain the "chaos theory'' you are depicting in Dasavatharam?

I don't want to elaborate too much on this theory. This theory is under the skin of the film and you will find little veins, tissues and muscles, every layer of it. One is the chaos theory — we are all connected to everyone in the world. None of our acts will be without effects. One act will collide with another. It is like what you learnt in physics — where one object crashes into another object and produces something else. This is basically our sensibilities, insensibilities, crime, disregard for society and good deeds. In religion, it is called good karma. It all comes around because there is some physics to it but we are not talking about it in bombastic terms as people will come for entertainment and will understand it in the process.

There were reports of conflicts with your director K.S. Ravikumar on the sets of the film. Please comment.
Working with Ravikumar is like working with a sibling. We have quarrels on the set and people who see us on the set may think that it will end badly, but it won't because all our arguments are meant to make the film better. There are no egos involved and if he doesn't understand something he doesn't step aside from the situation until the argument is over. The same applies to me. Here it is not about winning but about moving together as a team. We have been enjoying the process of filmmaking, not just Dasavatharam, but also in our previous four films together. I think this film is the ultimate test of our friendship, energy and intelligence. We hope we have passed the test.

How did you choose Asin and Mallika Sherawat as your heroines in the film?

We chose Asin purely on commercial grounds as she is a rising star, but when you see the film you realise that choice was not merely commercial but aesthetically also. She did a fabulous job. She worked hard in every frame and inch of the film. Mallika has the potential to captivate audience with whatever she does. We wanted to utilise it for the film.

Did you face any problem while shooting with Sherawat who is known for her movie star tantrums?

I heard she throws tantrums on the set but I didn't experience anything like that. So we can't take anyone's words for granted when we haven't experienced anything like that. Fortunately, she was professional and co-operative.

What made you choose Himesh Reshammiya to compose the music for the film?

Actually, A.R. Rahman was supposed to do the film but somehow things did not work out. We wanted to sign a big music composer from Bollywood and we found out that Himesh Reshammiya is ruling the roost. To be honest, I was sceptical about him as I am with anything that is new. We weren't sure whether he would match our expectations. All these talks were unnecessary as the proof of the pudding is when you eat it. Here was the pudding and with the first spoon I tasted, I was convinced. The first song we wanted was a 12th century song, from the era of the Chola dynasty. He brought about the sound for this piece as if he was living in Tamil Nadu, understanding the nuances of Tamil music. I knew instantly that the music department is in the safe hand of Himesh.

Finally what can your fans expect from this film?

Basically, I am a cinema fan and I have given you what I would like to watch as an intelligent cinema fan. Your intelligence will not be insulted, your time will not be wasted and you should watch the film because we worked hard to give you a completely entertaining film.

Hassan's versatility

Making his debut as a child artiste in 1960's Kalathur Kannamma, Kamal Hassan has played to perfection a variety of characters such as lover boy, serial killer, underworld don, undercover cop, classical dancer, dwarf, fundamentalist, mentally challenged man, blind violinist, old nanny, revolutionary, butcher, lecturer, bull-fighter and the list goes on. In addition to these characters he has played a double role in Hindustani, a triple role in Appu Raja and quadruplet in Michael Madhana Kamarajan. Now he goes one step further with his latest Tamil flick, Dasavatharam, where he plays ten characters.

1. A 12th century Brahmin
2. A young man
3. US President George W. Bush
4. A Sikh man
5. A Sri Lankan Tamil
6. An old lady
7. A doctor
8. A police officer
9. A Japanese and
10. An Afghan