Singh is Bliing review: Akshay Kumar's energy and ballsy women characters make this an entertaining film
It might be just what the doctor ordered to lift your spirits after watching Talvar.
There are two questions that need answers, after you've watched Singh is Bliing — what the hell does Akshay Kumar eat for breakfast to fuel the insane energy he brings onscreen and where was Lara Dutta hiding her comedic talent all these years?
Singh is Bliing's opening credits roll against a remixed version of Sneha Khanwalkar's fantastically peppy "Tung Tung". We see a delirious Kumar cracking out bhangra moves with such gusto that you might just feel your muscles ache on his behalf. There's only one word to describe Kumar's performance as Raftaar Singh: octane.
Whether he's being the stereotypical empty-headed sardar or busting out dance moves or fighting bad guys, his energy is phenomenal. Kumar is proof that ageing is a wondrous thing. He didn't have even a fraction of this onscreen charm when he was in the prime of his youth. It's not just that Kumar looks infinitely better — the death of the Nineties' mullet has been a boon in many heroes' lives — but as a grizzled older man, he's also commanding the screen with far more confidence and grace than he did before.
Kumar plays Raftaar Singh, a good-for-nothing Punjabi lad whose chief qualification is that he's momma's boy. Raftar's father has a friend in Goa who runs a casino. When Raftaar takes Rs 50,000 from his father's cupboard without permission, his dad tells Raftaar that he's got to grow up. How? By marrying an overweight village belle or going to work in Goa. Does this make logical sense? Of course not. But if you've come to see Singh is Bliing with expectations of realism, you're more of an idiot than Raftaar, who lives up to the stereotype of sardars being loyal, bhangra-powered, lovable fools.
In Goa, Raftaar meets a woman who is more than his match. Sara (Amy Jackson) is an arms dealer's daughter who catches the eye of deranged gangster Mark (Kay Kay Menon). What better way to deal with an insane Indo-Romanian stalker than to chill out in Goa, at her dad's friend's bungalow? Raftaar is appointed as Sara's chaperone in Goa. She doesn't speak Hindi. He doesn't speak English. Enter Lara Dutta as the translator, Emily (whom Raftaar and his friends call "imli". Naturally).
Adding heft to the theory that ageing can work wonders is Dutta. On the 'wrong' side of her thirties, Dutta is a revelation in Singh is Bliing. She looks great, even when she's wearing blindingly bad outfits, and milks comedy from practically every moment she has onscreen. Over-the-top moments that should make us cringe and groan become cute and giggle-worthy, simply because of Dutta's fine performance.
When Kumar and Dutta come together in the "Dil Kare Chu Che" — a rare example of a song that is actually connected to the plot instead of being generic — it's so funny that this reviewer started wondering whether director Prabhudheva has found ways of lacing popcorn.
Prabhudeva's last film was the putrid pimple of human endeavour titled Action Jackson. Aside from its ridiculous script, deafening soundtrack and terrible acting performances, Action Jackson was also jaw-droppingly misogynist. One woman's role was to roam around three-quarters naked, for no reason other than to titillate the audience. Another woman existed in the film only to get beaten up. The third was an idiot.
From the director who made that film, you do not expect a follow-up in which the women characters really are heroines. Singh is Bliing may be Kumar's film through and through, but he is ably supported by Rati Agnihotri as his stay-at-home mum, Dutta as the goofy translator and Jackson as the nut-busting Sara. Women blow each other up, stick up for one another and even behave like normal human beings from time to time. In a Prabhudheva film, this is downright shocking.
It's almost as though Singh is Bliing is Prabhudheva's attempt to redeem himself after all the criticism that was (rightly) chucked at him for Action Jackson. Singh is Bliing pokes fun at the male ego again and again. Women take charge smoothly and don't need men to save the day until the very end, when the alpha rises. (Let's not forget this is commercial cinema, after all.) Still, for the bulk of Singh is Bliing, the men are the losers, but they think they're macho and that's the source of many of the film's gags.
Jackson's Sara is a ninja warrior who can pummel a legion of men — including an Indian Khal Drogo lookalike named Boxer, who wears a locket with a boxer dog's face. In case he forgets his name, perhaps? — without smudging her makeup. Raftaar, on the other hand, spends most of the film getting beaten up. Dutta runs circles around the men and has a wonderful sleepwalking interlude. Ladies, let us a raise a glass of tender coconut water to the actresses, Prabhudheva and Grazing Goat Pictures, who are credited with having scripted Singh is Bliing.
It isn't particularly comforting to see the writing credit go to a company. Creative ideas are rarely churned out on an assembly line and it's a shame that the humans responsible for the onscreen fun of Singh is Bliing have to be reduced to Grazing Goat. That said, there isn't much by way of a plot or storytelling in this film. It's essentially a set of well-written comic sketches, featuring recurring characters. There's nothing evolved or sophisticated about this film, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a watch. Singh is Bliing is — and it might be just what the doctor ordered to lift your spirits after watching Talvar.
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