The Lion Roars
It's no secret I enjoy the slew of Hindi films out in the last year or so that feature tough, no nonsense cops as their lead protagonist, from Salman Khan's Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg that started the ball rolling, then Abhishek Bachchan as ACP Vishnu Kamath in Dum Maaro Dum, and now Ajay Devgn too getting into the act as the titular Bajirao Singham. Devgn's star has been shining quite brightly of late, with Raajneeti, Aakrosh and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai from last year that allowed him to flex his acting muscles, and here he goes completely brawny as the cop symbolizing the themes from the lion motif of courage and raw power - even the opening song and dance credits are designed around the lion's roar and paw.
Director Rohit Shetty teams with his preferred leading man Devgn to bring this remake of the Tamil film Singam which had starred Suriya, though in this version it's less of a mano a mano with the main villain Jaikant Shikre, where actor Prakash Raj reprised his villainous role as the chief gangster operating in Goa, whose links with politicians and the upper ranks of the police make him untouchable, so much so that he's responsible for the suicide of an honest officer whom he framed as he was getting too close for comfort in arresting him.
It's interesting to look at the narrative as how a lion got taken out of its den and put into unfamiliar surroundings, forcing it at times into a corner. But like all wild animals, this may result in the animal biting back with increased ferocity. Similar to Chulbul Pandey, Bajirao Singham is a small village cop who represents the law in his hometown through a combination of strength, wisdom and plenty of slow-motion swagger, preferring community policing, and solving the community's problems without smacking down the penal code on offenders. This of course elevates his standing in the village, which comes in useful when he has to summon the big time gangster Jaikant to the station for a conditional bail release.
In what he thought was a promotion for a job well done, Singham gets transferred to the city of Goa, before Jaikant lets loose that it's engineered through the greasing of palms, and now with Singham in Jaikant's town and reach, life becomes a living hell naturally. This toss up between hero and villain forms the bulk of the second half of the film in what would be a simple, straightforward story, made a lot enjoyable through its sheer entertainment value, with really deliberate, over the top action sequences that you'd chuckle at - you know, how one slap can leave a man flying through the air, or how there are many physics-defying moves that would make all would-be villains give up their life of crime when this long arm of the law reaches them. One of the more audacious stunts involves a car flipping through the air while our hero reaches in through the car window and yanking the driver out with one hand, before the car smashes through the ground. Take that, Hollywood!
But all work and no play makes Singham a dull boy as well. In a typical Masala offering, Singham has its fair share of moments away from the pursuit of hoodlums, or goons as the subtitles would have it, for precious romance with Kavya Bhosle (Kajal Aggarwal) and family time both his and hers, and romantic song and dance interludes that are inevitable. Check out the title tune though which is quite reminiscent of Dabangg's exalting song of fearlessness.
It's not all plain action oriented, as I would think some may find it controversial in Singham's unorthodox methods of fighting fire with fire when he discovers the rot in society is something quite beyond one man's ability to combat. I suppose tough cop stories will not go out of fashion from the Indian film industry anytime soon, for its tales of fighting against corruption in all strata and levels of society serving as an outlet in fantasy that can be eradicated completely with the enlistment of help from those who choose to stand up and be counted upon to do the right thing. This becomes that over-arching reminder in the film, despite Singham having to involve questionable methods (which can be easily classified as police brutality in certain countries) as well with the number of belt-whipping scenes, though in all earnestness, politicians such as the ones featured do deserve nothing more than a good smack on the buttocks.
Still, his is a film after all, which allows for our fantasies at having those evil at heart receive their just desserts swiftly and painfully, without too much fuss in going through a system corrupted by the rich and powerful. Singham firmly sets itself as one of my favourites of the year, and it's wishful thinking on my part if Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan can share the screen together once again after London Dreams, to feature two tough police characters in one crossover film. Now that would be a double dose of hard hitting action and no nonsense police action adventure, and villains everywhere better beware! Highly recommended!