Right towards the end of ‘Singham Returns’, a dialogue is bunged in. It is borrowed from a popular long-running TV show involving a certain Inspector Daya and a door about to be battered. Everyone in the audience cracked up. It was a relief, even if momentary, because the rest of the film is a drag.
Not for the lack of Rohit Shetty-style pyrotechnics. The sequel to ‘Singham’ is chock-full of the usual car-on-jeep action. Explosions go off at regular intervals. Shoot-outs—one really well-shot– occur frequently. Like last time, invincible cop Bajirao Singham cracks a carbine single-handedly when the going gets tough. He also strides in slow-mo down rows of cheering extras when he is not rising out of the water, droplets dripping down his bare rippling chest, male eye candy to his admiring lady love Avni ( Kapoor).
It’s all there, including the strictly kindergarten level plotting. This time around, the bad guy is a godman ( Gupte) who wears white robes and does ‘kaali kartoot’ which includes rape, plunder and pillage. And the good guy is an elderly statesman ( Kher), who is setting up a new party with ‘yuva khoon’. Between the two is the brave cop Singham, whose chief job is spraying bullets and stopping the baddies in their tracks.
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When a superstar’s leg is pulled, even if mildly, you are grateful. Because you know everyone is in on it, the star, the director, and the audience. Devgn’s very buff Singham is also smartly made the butt of an ageist joke, with both his colleagues and his girl poking fun at his looking ‘older’. We smile. But it is choked off right there, and a distinctly worn Devgn goes right back to being dour, and heavy-footed.
Gupte’s manically over-the-top 80s style ‘dhoort sadhu’ is just right for Shetty’s comic-book style. That’s what worked in Shetty’s previous outing ‘Chennai Express’, in which Shah Rukh Khan busily sent himself up with a nudge-and-a-wink. His leading lady, Deepika, was even more fun. The film was broad and corny, but it worked because of the irrepressible lead pair and the director’s determination to not ruin all that rapid-fire Tamil by translation, and the addition of dollops of cheese.
Here, the action shifts to Mumbai, with the film ratcheting its Maratha pride to the max. You can put yourself out to catch some contemporary political references ( an old Gandhian `neta’ with shades of Anna gathering young people who want to change India ), but it becomes too much effort after a while. It’s difficult to believe in Kapoor’s motor-mouth ‘mulghi’, but she is so clearly there just to deliver her scenes and scoot, and so cheerful while she’s at it, that you don’t really mind.
Somewhere in there is a line that Ms Kapoor is made to mouth, about `family audiences’. This is clearly the director poking fun at the tyranny of ‘the family audience’. You wish there was more of it. The rest is drearily by the numbers.
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