Monday, December 20, 2010

Katrina Kaif Week Day 2: Singh Is Kinng

I know many of you may be questioning my decision to celebrate an entire week of Katrina Kaif films. While she is one of the most bankable actresses in Bollywood, Katrina has surprisingly few champions among the critics and on the blogosphere.

While I fully admit that there are better working actresses in Bombay, I don’t think anybody else brings to the table what Katrina does. Her reel life charisma reminds me a bit of Marilyn Monroe – womanly yet somehow still vulnerable, a combination that I’m sure is responsible for much of her box office appeal for the masses.

On top of that, a look at Katrina’s films is also a look at a good cross-section of contemporary Bollywood and, so, even if you don’t find her as charming as I do, I think you might still find something of value in looking over her filmography.

Day #1 can be read here.

Please note: some minor spoilers lay ahead.

“Singh is king, Singh is king, Singh is king, Hun har koi jaane.
Singh is king, Singh is king, Singh is king, Duniya de raaje”

The melding of Snoop Dogg and Akshay Kumar in the “Singh is Kinng” title track tells more about the sentiment behind
Singh is Kinng than anything else. While few Bollywood producers set out to make films that actively lose money (despite evidence to the contrary recently), most of them couch their desire for monetary success in softball terms about “stories that need to be told” and “fresh pairings” and “just like Hollywood.” The unashamedly anything for a buck Snoop Dogg was the perfect fit for a film whose USP was essentially Akshay Kumar doing parkour in a turban.

(There are like 4-5 scenes that read exactly like an Akshay Thums Up commercial, so if you like those, you'll LOVE this!)

Singh is Kinng rises above films like Housefull that also aim directly at the pockets of the masses because it also has a message. And that message is “money isn’t everything.”

Granted there are plenty of flashy cars and flashy clothes for poor viewers to gawk at but at the end of the day, the proletariat values of hard work and caring for your comrades are the real winners – which is maybe why the success of Singh is Kinng hasn’t yet been duplicated in Bollywood in recent years.

And maybe films like
Singh is Kinng get to the heart of the divide between film viewers like me and the critical class. I grew up poor and I struck out on my own early. I lived paycheck to paycheck for a long time and there were moments I was desperately worried that I wouldn’t make rent or be able to pay a medical bill. My lifestyle is much more comfortable now but those kinds of experiences aren’t easily erased. When you’ve gone without lunch because you can’t afford to eat, the trials and tribulations of the wealthy folk who populate Karan Johar’s movies don’t seem all that important.

(Oh, Akshay, with your meta-take on your own career...)

Maybe this also explains why I am very forgiving of actors like Akshay Kumar and Arshad Warsi who came from modest means and do not have the luxury to turn down films like
Housefull or Dhamaal because the roles aren’t “serious” or “meaningful” enough. And maybe this also explains why I have a deep sympathy for Katrina Kaif, the hardest working girl in show business, who came from nothing and against all odds has made a nice career for herself.

Before I get too deep into naval gazing, let me run down the plot for those of you who haven’t seen it. Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) is a good-hearted but accident-prone villager. His village is tired of dealing with the damages he causes, so they trick him and his friend Rangeela (Om Puri) into going to Australia to bring back the beloved son of a elderly villager. This son (Sonu Sood) happens to be the KING of a notorious gang.

Circumstances unfold so that the real King is paralyzed and Happy is installed as the new leader. Meanwhile, Happy had befriended a sweet and formerly wealthy florist (Kirron Kher) who tragically lost everything when her husband died but she was too embarrassed to tell her daughter. So, when Happy gets his new position, he hatches a plan to help his friend keep up the illusion of wealth for her daughter Sonia (Katrina Kaif) and her fiancĂ© (Ranvir Shorey). They will live in the King’s mansion and the gang will playact as servants. You can guess that true love awaits for Happy and Sonia but what really sells the film is that Happy gets the gang to renounce their old ways and become better people.

(Aw... she has a life outside of romance!)

One of my favorite running themes in Bollywood films from the beginning through about the 1970s was to hate the crime, not the criminal.
Singh is Kinng plays directly to that theme with the character of Sonia. Lovely Katrina Kaif doesn’t just play the beautiful and spoiled love interest, she has a career and passion for things that aren’t romance and fashion – namely criminal law. One of the things I really love about Singh is Kinng is that even though Sonia doesn’t have much screen time and could easily have been a throw away character, she actually gets non-romantic and non-family based character development. Sonia had approached crime and law from a privileged perspective – we in America might recognize it as the Republican perspective – criminals are not just people who do bad things, they are bad people.

Neha Dhupia’s character Juliet sets Sonia straight: You don’t get rid of crime by killing criminals, you get rid of crime by teaching criminals that there is another way to be.

And speaking of Neha Dhupia,
Singh Is Kinng does something else I love in Bollywood movies – a giant gang full of all my favorite character actors, including a lady gangster. One of the reasons I get so annoyed at people like Ajay Devgn and Shahrukh Khan talking up how they want Bollywood’s special effects to be as good as Hollywood’s is that it negates the contribution of the community. Take a film like Kanthaswamy - coming from Hollywood, the superhero would have been a lone hero and his effects would have been CGI. But in Indian popular film, the hero has a gang of helpers and they all work together to do some superheroing.

Are blue CGI people really better than a gang with Sonu Sood, Javed Jaffrey, Neha Dhupia, Yashpal Sharma, Kamal Chopra, Manoj Pahwa, and Sudhanshu Pandey?

Manoj Pahwa, a busy man indeed.

Neha Dhupia!

Sudhanshu Pandey!

Yashpal Sharma!

Kamal Chopra!

And my man Javed Jaffrey. Look,
Singh is Kingg is so down with me that it gave Javed Jaffrey a SONG.

Would I replace them with CGI monsters? I don’t think so.

Still, I know some of you are going to dismiss
Singh is Kinng as another silly Akshay Kumar movie where he runs around and does parkour and comedy shouting. That’s is perfectly okay. The film does work on that level, too, but the whole reason I write my blog and wanted to do this week is to give voice to opinions I don’t see reflected elsewhere. Lots of people will write on the films of Anurag Kashyap or Mani Ratnam but I think the most interesting messages are found in films that don’t claim to have any at all.

(Also, going through my notes, I have actually written on
Singh is Kinng twice before on my old blog. I come it honestly, I guess.)

But, let's discuss the lady of the week... Katrina!

Look, I know she's not the world's best actress but what Katrina can do that few others in Bollywood can right now, is play
heroine. And not your soppy Yash Raj designer outfit and song montage heroine, Kat can go hardcore masala. Just check out this old-fashioned meeting.

The initial sighting...

A slow motion hair toss...

Close up on those deep brown eyes...

And a distinct, 'oh, shit, I guess I have to deal with this guy' look that any good
masala heroine gives before falling in love with the hero.

Kat adds to this a nice dose of the physical... and I don't just mean sex appeal, Katrina uses her whole face and body when she is acting, which is maybe why she pair so nicely with Akshay, who is also a very physical actor.

All this cheezy stuff? Katrina
sells it without being embarrassed or self-conscious.

And she does it with a big grin.

Don't you want to have fun, too?

Stay tuned for more Katrina Kaif goodness this week!


Christine Menefee said...

Oh, thank you for this! I just re-watched this film again last week - it's in that special collection of mine along with other medicinal classics such as Zoolander. I love its silly goodheartedness. And I like Katrina Kaif, too. You do a very good appreciation of her here. For me she just radiates intelligence, good humor and pluckiness in these absurd roles and dialogs that she gets. She and Akshay Kumar are a great comic jodi. Looking forward to the rest of Katrina Kaif Week.

batulm said...

I agree with you completely. I think both Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif are the stars they are, because they seem to have so much fun with what they are doing. They are right there, 100%.

belly rings said...

Sing is King is good romantic movie with comedy and action drama also.In this movie Music is so good and roll of ketrina and Akshay are best in movie.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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