A certain degree of dramatic excess is only to be expected in a Bollywood action flick. But Singham, aimed at those who like their cinema stirred and shaken in familiar and simple ways, is a rare cop-and-crook drama that carries little excess baggage.
But for a stray over-the-top scene here or a corny piece of dialogue there, it wears the look of a lean, mean and smartly packaged entertainer. For one, Rohit Shetty?s nifty reworking of the 2010 Tamil hit of the same title nurses no pretences. It is an out-and-out potboiler. Unabashedly designed for easy digestion, Singham is none the worse for it. It is loud, overtly melodramatic, underlined by much heroic bluster and packed with a series of crackling confrontation scenes between an upright and very, very angry cop ? the cornered lion of the title ? and a power-crazed criminal who runs a slew of illicit businesses in the garb of respectability.
It could quite easily have turned into yet another turgid turn-off. It is anything but. Singham is refreshingly crisp and utterly uncluttered all the way through to the bitter end. It does take a few minutes to warm up, but once it does, there?s no stopping Singham.
An honest young policeman shoots himself in the head when he is falsely hauled up for corruption. The cop?s widow publicly accuses the local extortionist Jaikant Shirke (Prakash Raj, reprising the role he played in the Tamil original) of causing her husband's death. But, given the enormous clout the criminal and wannabe politician wields, he goes scot-free.
Away from the city, in a small outpost on the Maharashtra-Goa border, another no-nonsense cop, Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn), is on a one-man mission. He is a friend in need, a willing do-gooder, a mediator between feuding villagers and the violent nemesis of all wrongdoers in town. He puts away his service revolver when he fights. His blows pack the punch of a tiger?s paw and his belt is a whiplash that serves to rub insult to injury when his prey is down and out.
When Singham's path crosses that of the gang-lord, he wins the first round hands down. The humiliated baddie goes on the rampage. The cop is transferred to the city. Singham walks into the lair of the hunter, tides over a few initial hiccups, and then, egged on by his girlfriend (Kajal Agarwal), declares all-out war on the criminal and his evil empire. What?s the big deal? To be honest, Singham has little to offer by way of original ideas. In fact, the film makes repeated allusions to other cop films ? Zanjeer, Dabangg and Ajay Devgn?s own Gangaajal. It revels in the clich?s that have forever been a part and parcel of the genre. Yet, Yunus Sajawal?s screenplay and Shetty?s treatment manage to deliver many moments that catch you by surprise.
Shetty plays up the epic quality of the good vs evil clash without letting go of the strong streak of humour that is the Golmaal director's obvious forte. Thoroughly entertaining and consistently watchable, Singham delivers more than your money?s worth. If a feral analogy could be applied to a film, Singham is like the roar of a lion, unsubtle, unambiguous and power-packed.
The film draws much of its fizz from the outstanding central performances. It is difficult to imagine any other Mumbai actor lending quite the kind of conviction that Devgn does to the character of the teed-off lawman. Devgn?s eyes do the talking; the six-pack, mercifully, remains a footnote.
Just as impressive is the mercurial Prakash Raj, who flips from menacing to comical and then back to menacing with such effortless aplomb that you can only sit back and marvel.
But the real soul of Singham is provided by the slew of Marathi actors in the cast, who breathe life into even the most minor of characters. Especially worth a mention is Ashok Saraf as a cynical and ageing constable who decides to give redemption a final shot.
Singham is an old-fashioned but rousing Hindi commercial film that pretty much restores one?s faith in this often-maligned brand of cinema. It has super-duper hit written all over it. No matter how dismissive you might be of films that have no space for shades of grey, chances are that Singham will disarm you, if only for a bit.