Mayank Shekhar's review: I Am Singh

By Hindustan Times

Director: Puneet Issar
Actors: Gulzar Chahal, Amy Rasimas
Rating: *

Shaking his head in frustration, the hero complains against racial attacks on sardars by Americans, "Their history and geography is so poor that they can't tell between Arabs, Afghans and Sikhs?"

It's a valid point. The insular average American can confound the neo literate. How the Chinese would be as a super-power is a scarier thought still. Though you do suppose for a second, what the hero is trying to say is, if they'd attacked the Afghans and Arabs instead, it'd still be okay. That's not true. He has Pakistani friends as well. He also tells us in no uncertain terms that he believes in "no voilence, no terrarizam."

His mother explains from a park bench near Ground Zero how world-history, once divided between BC (Before Christ) and AD (After Death), is now split between Before and After 9/11. Every human being has been connected to the event. She shares her connection: three Sikh sons, one killed in racial attack, other one missing, the third (the hero), down from India, currently investigating what happened.

Here's what happened. Members of a highly demented, loud Shakespearean skinheads group attacked them. While we're never sure where this film's set (we keep shifting locations), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), we can tell, are terribly rude, racist and incompetent. They make for just as terrible actors.

This After 9/11 situation isn't unique either. One after another, the movie provides us with Aaj Tak type television recreations of various other similar hate crimes against Sikhs, from Arizona to California.

What does the hero do? To start with, he wakes up the sleeping Sikh patriot within him. He imagines warriors holding their swords, marching to the battlefront, with fire lighting up the line of defense, as an angry bird casts its shadow on the troops. After this, he goes to court!

He has to protect his pagdi (turban, pride), his parivaar ki izzat (family's honour). We get the point. No, you don't. The film's audience, apparently Americans, as you know, think Osama bin Laden was Sikh. They need serious education. The characters knock some sense into their heads, read out page after page from Wikipedia, in Hindi and English, on philosophy, history, teachings and scriptures of Sikhism. Skinheads growl from another location. You take notes, and watch. There's nothing else to do. "I am proud to be a Sikh," hero yells. Skinheads growl some more. Breezy item songs thankfully punctuate the cacophony.

There was this hate-crime Bollywood film set in the UK that had a curious title, I Proud To Be An Indian few years ago. Was it from the same director? Oh no, that was Puneet Sira. This one's Puneet Issar, the actor-director who shall go down in history as the stuntman who punched Amitabh Bachchan in the stomach, nearly killed him on the sets of Coolie (1983). A falcon Allah Rakha was a popular character in that bizarre movie. It's there in this one too: the computer-generated angry bird, I told you about. So is Puneet Issar, by the way.

He walks on to the screen, chanting in his inimitably croaky voice, "I'll be the victar in the turban case." This Sikh character was suspended from LAPD because of his turban. He should be commissioned again, right away. Send him back to the cops, please.

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