It isn?t a ball game in the first place. It?s called hockey all right, but any similarity that it might have with the field game played with sticks is only coincidental. Yes, for one, the fast-paced body-contact sport isn?t played with a ball!
That is about the only real surprise that Speedy Singhs is likely to spring on you, and that too only if you aren?t familiar with the game of ice hockey.
The underdog sports movie is an old cinematic trope and American-born Canadian director Robert Lieberman?s shot at the genre adds up to pretty standard fare: predictable, clich?-littered and woven around a premise that skates on thin ice.
Speedy Singhs, made from a screenplay authored by lead actor Vinay Virmani, does touch upon questions pertaining to cultural identity, the immigrant experience, the right to be different and the freedom of individual choice, but only in the facile, superficial manner that Bollywood extravaganzas are usually known to adopt.
Speedy Singhs is a pile-up of classic dog-eared cliches that rob the film of any possibility of striking flashes of revelation.
Cliche No. 1: An obstreperous bunch of non-resident Punjab da puttars ? these Brampton boys have a point to prove to naysayers in their community and in the rest of Canada ? are the good guys. In their midst is the protagonist, a clean-cut Sikh boy, Rajveer Singh (Vinay Virmani). Ice hockey is his passion.
Cliche No. 2: The White boys, brawny ice-rink bullies bent upon intimidating the desi team out of the game, are the sort of blokes you wouldn?t want to meet in the park after dark. To counter them in the arena, the services of a burly kabbadi player are enlisted and he is pushed into the role of a hatchet man.
Cliche No. 3: To restore the racial balance, the script throws in a no-nonsense coach, a disgruntled and failed ice hockey player Dan Winters (Rob Lowe) who is Canadian and Caucasian. He takes it upon himself to mould the ragtag Sardars on skates into a champion outfit on ice.
Cliche No. 4: Another telling blow for the cause of cross-cultural assimilation comes in the shape of the coach?s comely sister, Melissa (Camilla Belle, a Katrina Kaif lookalike) who provides the romantic interest. She doesn?t date quitters, she announces grandly. And before you can spell ice, her Indian suitor, on their very first date, takes her to a restaurant owned by a Patel. The spice is too much for her. If only some of it could seep into the film?s core.
Cliche No. 5: Rajveer has a support system provided by a sympathetic entrepreneur-uncle (Gurpreet Ghuggi). He is the man with the money and the wherewithal. The eponymous ice hockey team owes its existence to him.
Cliche No. 6: The uncle?s lovely daughter (Noureen DeWulf) is engaged to a motor-mouth lout (Russell Peters), who is madly in love with her. On her big fat Punjabi wedding day, the girl has second thoughts about the man in her life. The ?nail-biting? drama is, however, short-lived.
Cliche No. 7: This is the father of them all. Our hero who wants to make his mark in the favourite sport of his adoptive country has a disciplinarian dad who wants the boy to abandon ice hockey and take charge of the family transport business. Torn between the trucks his uncle owns and his personal passion, Rajveer seeks to pull the wool over his father?s eyes. All hell breaks loose. But all?s well that ends well.
Looking for any strokes of originality? Banish the thought. Speedy Singhs is a resolutely one-sided game.
The film comes perilously close to skidding off the edge time and again. If it doesn?t, it isn?t for any great merit in the script. It is just that the film?s ambitions are so limited that even when it hits the wall and collapses, it manages to pull itself up and return to the safety of its constricted sphere of operation. Speedy Singhs isn?t interested in going anywhere in particular.
If you happen to be in the mood for charity, you could actually look at this entire concoction quite differently. Speedy Singhs derives its plot conventions from a multiplicity of genres. It?s a sports flick, a family drama, a Hollywood rom-com and a fluffy, feel-good Bollywood ride all rolled in one. Take your pick.
Lead actor Vinay Virmani, likeable on the screen, turns in a competent performance, as do Kher and Lowe. American actress Camilla Belle, Canadian stand-up comedian Russell Peters and Indian-American actress Noureen DeWulf do their best within the limitations of the screenplay. But as with much else in Speedy Singhs, they end up being caricatures.