Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

August 15, 2014

Khaki pride

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

August 15, 2014

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Amole Gupte, Zakir Hussain, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sharat Saxena

Director: Rohit Shetty

There isn’t one quiet moment in Rohit Shetty’s Singham Returns. This sequel is an orgy of relentless action, shrill dialoguebaazi, and eardrum-shattering background music. And yet, buried somewhere under all that noise is a well-meaning – although misguided – story about the need for corruption-cleansing in the system.

Ajay Devgan reprises his role as Bajirao Singham, upright cop and dispenser of vigilante justice, now promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Police and relocated from a village on the Goa-Maharashtra border to big bad Mumbai city. Our fearless hero locks horns with a fake godman (a deliciously hammy Amole Gupte) and a crooked neta (Zakir Hussain), when it becomes clear that they’re responsible for the death and humiliation of one of his officers, and for the murder of an Anna Hazare-like figure (Anupam Kher) who’d been spearheading a movement to introduce dynamic and committed young candidates into the political fray.

There isn’t much that’s groundbreaking in the script, but Shetty and Devgan have created a leading man worth rooting for. Singham is steadfast in his intolerance for dishonesty and corruption; in one scene at the start of the film when someone offers him a bribe, he lands a stinging slap on the fellow’s face and this classic line: “Main leta nahin, deta hoon.”

Shetty shrewdly roots this protagonist and the film’s conflict in the real world. He taps into our collective cynicism towards politicians and the system, and gives the ‘aam aadmi’ a platform to vent. So far, so good. What’s disconcerting however, is the film’s suggestion that taking the law into one’s own hands might be the only effective solution to fix things. It’s a dangerous message, and Shetty delivers it via rousing scenes that are designed to elicit applause. Even more dangerous.

What I especially enjoyed in Singham Returns were its stray moments of clever, unexpected humor. Twice our hero takes it on the chin when his girlfriend, and an officer in his team, makes a joke about his age. In another scene, when Gupte’s dhongi Baba rattles off lines from the Bhagwad Gita to him, Singham quotes from the Indian Penal Code in response.

But such moments are few and far between in a sequel that takes itself too seriously, and one that subscribes to the “big is better” ethic of filmmaking. So there are more flying cars and bigger explosions, and stunning aerial view shots of action scenes unfolding on the Sea Link. Confrontations between Singham and his rivals are peppered with ‘punchy’ one-liners, and our hero’s signature catchphrase “Aata maajhi satakli” is repeated at least a half-dozen times for effect.

There’s also Kareena Kapoor as Singham’s love interest, in a track that quite frankly feels unnecessary in the larger scheme of things. The usually dependable actress looks lovely, but the film doesn’t require her to so much as break into a sweat to get through her scenes. It’s Ajay Devgan alone, who keeps the film from falling apart, as the plot becomes increasingly facile. He’s in terrific form as the tough cop with a soft heart, and he displays that quality remarkably, particularly in one scene where he’s confronted by the desperate mother of an erring son.

At 2 hours and 22 minutes, Singham Returns feels long and occasionally plodding. There are some nice scenes that inspire police pride, but the predictable story tires you out eventually. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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