Mayank Shekhar's review: Singham

By Hindustan Times

Director: Rohit Shetty
Actors: Ajay Devgn, Kajal Aggrawal
Rating: *1/2

It’s his signature move. The hero, in a massive leap of faith, rises up in the air, flings his legs out, thumps his palm on top of villains’ bobbing heads. Victims fall flat to the ground. They could be buried six feet under, with the same thudding sound. At one point, for lack of a better weapon, he yanks off a street lamppost, goes charging against a bunch of goons zipping off in their topless jeep. Which is unnecessary. His hands (“gaon-wallah haath”) alone could do the job. As they often do: dozens lick dust, in one fell swoop.

You see. He’s the “sher”: there’s fair debate over whether that word is Hindi for tiger, or lion. In this case, it certainly means the latter – a loud one roars from the screen when the hero swaggers in. The filmmakers are clearly proud of their stunt scenes first. Not only is there an action director credited, the filmmaker (Rohit Shetty) takes separate billing for “action designer” in the opening credits. Minor mentions of other influences, say, the Bruce Willis starrer Red (for the swirling cop-car sequence) could’ve been grand gesture as well.

The super-hero is called Singham. What kinda family name’s that? Well, it means the lion in Sanskrit, more importantly, is the title of a Tamil blockbuster this flick’s based on. Which is the way the cookie crumbles.

“Jisme hai dam. Toh fakta Bajirao Singham.” You would’ve heard that in the promos, and wondered, the censors let pass the F-word? Haw. No. Fakta is ‘just’ or ‘only’, in Marathi. It’s Bajirao’s mother tongue. This is in every sense a dubbed regional film – though exhaustingly clichéd, even by South’s cookie-cutter, single-screen standards.

The leading man’s the macho, mustachioed, dark-skinned, young Rajnikanth. He serves a moral purpose for his sub-altern audiences. They pay for the movie ticket. He provides them an outlet: suitable place to vent their general, legitimate outrage against local gundas who pass off for regional politicians.

Super-cop Singham holds the home minister by his neck. The neta bends. Everyone in the room, all of them cops, take turns to kick that fellow’s butt – one after another. Catharsis is complete. Later, the city's entire police force barges into a politician's living room to hack him off; they chase him down the streets, show him his true place of birth. Who else but a desi film hero could do this for us? Public feels vindicated.

Did these semi-literate poetic justices, at some point, stop getting delivered in Hindi films? No. Never. You just didn’t go to watch Mehul Kumar’s Krantiveer 2 last year, now, did you? The budget was too low. It wasn’t hyped up enough. And there were no movie stars in it. They'd moved on.

The ‘80s ‘southern invasion’ though truly started again with Aamir Khan’s event-pic Ghajini (2008). Salman’s salesman Khan for this shirtless stuff. Currently. Ajay Devgn, undoubtedly, is a much superior actor. Salman’s the better looking; who’s also sanctified, beatified by some of the world’s looniest fans this side of Ozzy Osbourne’s den. And his films, lately (Wanted, Ready etc), are inevitably blessed with a first-rate soundtrack. None of which apply here.

Devgn walks to beats similar to Salman’s Dabanng. He beats the crap out of ruffians outside a village theatre. He restores his woman's honour. Besotted, she chases him. Audiences think even more highly of the hero. He beats the crap some more.

By Saturday (of the film’s release), the actor says in an interview to The Hindu, “I will forget Singham.” Good for him. It’s merely the first weekend’s collections the producers were looking at anyway.

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