Singham Returns was released on Independence Day to reiterate the fact that cinema in India will never be independent. The only form of cinema that will find a release and be successful at the box office is bound to the shackles of mainstream Bollywood. There will never be an indie Gandhi – there will only be a mainstream Bajirao Singham.
The thing about films like Singham Returns is, they never surprise you. If we consider the Expectations vs Reality split screen from 500 Days of Summer, Singham Returns plays out exactly the same in both the sides of the screen. You walk in expecting a mostly tacky, completely stupid movie with no sense of footing, charm or humor, and you get exactly that. Director Rohit Shetty has certainly had a wonderful box office run over the past few years with his brand of cinema, and no one can blame him for sticking to his formula. But after a point one can’t help but humbly request Mr Shetty to offer us something other than a product that renders a blinding migraine.
Singham Returns is a sequel to Singham like Backdoor Sluts 9 was a sequel to Backdoor Sluts 8. It’s the exact same film, with a bit more action. There is a bit of horror too, like Kareena Kapoor’s acting and character development, or the computer graphics. Plus there are added layers of social commentary, moral science, women empowerment and existential angst.
None of those aforementioned elements are executed with subtlety, because Mr Shetty believes transferring information to audiences requires direction and sound executed at approximately the intensity of the sun’s core. Social commentary is delivered via bawling vidhwas. Moral science is rendered via a screaming and beating mother. Women empowerment is established right before showcasing Kareena’s supremely dumb character which is ultimately offensive to women. Existentialist angst is produced by Mahesh Manjrekar playing a politician who has no choice but to be corrupt. Most of the angst is actually yielded within the bodies of the audiences when they realize they’re watching yet another 80’s film in 2014.
For a commercial film Singham Returns is pretty serious. Our hero (Devgan) has an actual case this time around, and it’s personal because he’s following the trail of his dead colleague. Singham zooms from one town to another as he closes in on the villain – a Nithyananda type baba (played by a gynormously hammy paycheck mugging Amole Gupte). It’s as if Shetty realized after finishing the film that it is too serious for its own good, and then decided to add more ‘jokes’ to make it more family friendly.
The attempts at comedy are cringe worthy at best and ear fungus at worst. Most times the film resorts to the lazy tactic of making Singham fire loud bullets and say Ata Maajhi Satakli over and over again till the audience finally yells out a sarcastic clap and cheer. Bhai does that schtick better and Mr Devgan needs to realize that no one else can match Bhai’s Bhainess, and even he sucks most times at it.
There are some other people in the film like Anupam Kher, Zakir Hussain and Sharat Saxena but the flipping cars in the film have more nuance than any of them. All of the action scenes are just horribly shot with a camera that shudders as if it’s either caught by the balls or pneumonia. One scene on a bridge where Devgan slams against a car due to an exploding rocket’s impact is quite nice. ‘Action Designer’ Shetty will assure you that it has no connection whatsoever to the scene on a bridge in Mission Impossible 3 when Tom Cruise slams against a car due to an exploding rocket’s impact.
There is one scene in Singham Returns that sort of works. Singham realizes that policework and the law are just pawns in a political chess board, and are as such useless. So he takes off his Vardi, convinces thousands of other cops to strip as well, and marches over with his gang to the gunda’s place to take matters in his own hands since the law won’t help him. It’s the moment when the film goes Full Retard, and Shetty should just have gone into that mode directly instead of trying to make a serious movie with serious issues.
The remainder of the film is either a solid injection of boredom or a pain as severe as getting your pecker stuck in the zip and screaming Ata maajhi atakli. Choose wisely.
(First published in Firstpost)