Saturday, July 23, 2011

Singham: The Lion Growls...

Recently there has been a lot of discussion on my part of Twitter about recycling story ideas, whether it be as a remake or an homage or what have you. And based on those discussions, I think it’s worth mentioning here at the beginning of my review that Singham starring Ajay Devgn is an “official” remake of Singam starring Surya. I haven’t seen the Surya version - although I have seen the trailer - but I can guess that the story and some of the action sequences of Singham are probably pretty close to Singam. Does that make Singham any less boss? No. And if you suggest it, I will call Bajirao Singham to come give you one of his trademarked lion paw smackdowns.

Singham (Lion) is the story of police officer Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn,) who is the cock of the walk of his little village. He settles disputes firmly but fairly and without a lot unnecessary punishment or butthurt. Everything is fine and dandy for our hero in the village. He meets a nice girl named Kavya (Kajal Agarwal) and does his policeman rounds. Well, everything is fine until Singham’s upstanding and incorruptible ways put him on the wrong side of a bara aadmi from Goa - Jaikant Shikre (Prakash Raaj.) Jaikant takes offense at the idea that he has to follow the rules like some common person and instead of just sucking it up and humoring the small town police-wallah, Jaikant decides to ignite a feud against him. Shit just got serious.

There is a lot to like about the Rohit Shetty-directed film; he gets the
masala mixture just right, combining serious social commentary, funny family members, excellent action scenes, and sweet romance. There are three major plot threads that weave in and out - Singham’s feud with Jaikant, Singham’s romance with Kavya, and a widow (Sonali Kulkarni!!!) searching for justice for her husband. In between story points, we get some wonderful Rohit Shetty action pieces - with plenty of cars blowing up, of course! I loved the incorporation of slow-motion into the action scenes a la that fight towards the end of Golmaal 3 and somebody who has seen Singam will have to tell me if they do the same. Besides the action, all the Rohit Shetty flourishes were there - sound effects, silly gags, and quick cuts - but tempered by the overall serious mood. He’s also got a great eye for small details, like making sure that a nothing character is seen in a prison cell in the background of scene long after that nothing character says their one-two lines. And while I had my jaw drop in delight a few times and giggled fairly frequently at gags (that I won’t spoil for you,) anybody expecting Golmaal style gut busting moments will be disappointed.

As for performances, they were universally excellent. Ajay Devgn brings a real gravity and weightiness to his role as Singham. This is really the role he was born to play - a sullen badass who is fighting for good. And Ajay does a great job of showing the different shades of badass - cock of the village walk badass, badass in love, badass unsure of his position in a new city, badass making ‘doing the right thing’ look
so cool, and, finally, badass kicking butt and taking names.* Every time I heard the growl and saw the sunlight glint off the lion on Singham’s belt buckle, I got shivers of delight. Ajay owned this role; he has different strengths from Surya, and it was nice to see that the role was tailored to them.

I was also quite pleased to see how lovingly the camera captures Ajay’s physical form. He is no pretty boy, despite the dripping wet abs in a certain scene. We are encouraged to admire his muscley arms and the way his khaki trousers hug the curve of his butt. And, in a delightful scene where he’s intimidating a perp, Ajay sits with his legs spread wide open to audience. The way the camera captures this makes it clear that the perp has something
quite substantial to be intimidated by.

The strong presence of the female characters was a real surprise but a welcome one. Kajal Agarwal does a fabulous job in her Bollywood debut. Kavya is the polar opposite of Singham - brash and mischievous - but the two have one trait in common, an unflinching honesty. It was quite thrilling to see Kavya speaking her mind straightforwardly to her family and to any
goondas that crossed her path. Kavya is good person without having to be sickly sweet or insipid; she is attractive without having to wear a bikini. Kavya may be the heroine, but she is the one who decides to fall in love with Singham first and she is the one who gets the point-of-view romance song about how great he is. And let me tell you, the scene where we first see Kavya falling for Ajay is priceless. He’s just beaten up some goondas for her and she gets this, dare I say, openly predatory look on her face. Singham doesn’t stand a chance!

And then there was Sonali Kulkarni, whom I adore, as the widow looking to clear her husband’s name. I wish she had more screen time but she was wonderful to see when ever she turned up.

Prakash Raaj, as the villain, matched Ajay step for step. Where Ajay was calm and deliberate, Prakash was all manic energy. During the stare down scenes, the tension was so palpable it made the camera shake... (or maybe that was Rohit Shetty.) Prakash Raaj also has a way with a hand gesture - the subtle crack of a thumb or a twist of a wrist - that means your eyes are glued to him whenever he is on screen.

With Rohit Shetty, I am always guaranteed to find a ton of wonderful actors in smaller roles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good cast list anywhere, so I did my best to identify people. As Jaikant’s second in command, Ashok Samarth lends a nice swagger. He plays conceited very well. Ashok Saraf was wonderful as the gruff policeman who - at only 6 months to retirement - is trying to decide whether to support Singham or not. He really made me feel for a character who could easily have been a throwaway. And Sachin Khedekar gave some of the biggest laughs of the film as Kavya’s daddy... Gautam. Plus, people who are me will get a real kick out of the fact that two of the characters from the Goa of
Golmaal 3 are essentially just transferred over to the Goa of Singham - welcome back Murli Sharma and Vijay Pathkar playing policemen! I also want to give a shout-out to the actresses who played Kavya’s mother and sister but couldn’t find their names anywhere.

Overall, I came out of
Singham feeling full of civic good will. The film, in its own masala way, tackles tough questions of legal versus fair and explores what happens when everybody decides let power and money dictate the morals of the community. There were quite a few scenes of citizens gathering together as one unit. We common folk may not be a match for big money on our own but gather enough of us together and we can defeat the biggest giant - especially if we have a singham leading the way.

* And I’m curious if the belt whipping is in the original, after seeing
London Dreams, I can’t help but wonder if Ajay has a thing for belts...


luscious-words said...

This movie sounds like one I must have as soon as it comes out. I'm starting the count down now! Thanks for this review.

I must tell you I had a shiver run along my spine at the the mention of the belts. This kinkster's heart will go pitty-pat from the sounds of it.


myrna-nora said...

I liked the film a lot, just the end solution wasn't particularly to my taste. But at least it gave me something to think about.

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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