x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Film review: Singham Returns

Ajay Devgn, as the scowling one-man army, is good as usual. He fights convincingly and that's all Singham Returns really needs him to do

Ajay Devgn reprises his role as the honest and fearless cop Bajirao Singham in Singham Returns. Courtesy Reliance Entertainment
Ajay Devgn reprises his role as the honest and fearless cop Bajirao Singham in Singham Returns. Courtesy Reliance Entertainment
Singham Returns

Director: Rohit Shetty

Starring: Ajay Devgn, Kareena

Kapoor, Amole Gupte

Two stars

There are three Marathi sentences you need to know before you see this film: aai shappat - I swear on my mother (to avenge so and so); aata tujhe bari aali - it's your turn (to get the heck whacked out of you) now; and aata majhi satakli - I've lost my mind now (so somebody is gonna get hurt) - which sums up how you'll feel at the end of this film.

The sequel to Singham (meaning lion), the super-successful 2011 Bollywood film, Singham Returns sees the revival of a conscientious, slap-happy cop (a super-fit Ajay Devgn), who would rather rehabilitate than arrest troublemakers.

A noble thought when it comes to a college biker gang, who get their jollies by flicking the cap off an overweight havaldar (road-traffic officer) with a blood-pressure problem. Not so when he's embroiled in a face-off with a messenger-of-God-type baba with a million devotees, who moonlights as the guru of political corruption.

An inept police officer, you ask? A corrupt god-man? How about stealthy sting operations and mobs burning buses at the drop of a hat? Absurd as these may sound, these are serious issues in Mumbai, that antithetical city, which more than 10 million people - myself included - call home.

Unfortunately, the film, with ludicrous action scenes and lectures on moral righteousness, delivers unreal solutions to very real problems. It must live up to the latter promise of its action-comedy tag then, you hope? Well, no.

And that's where the second film in the Rohit Shetty-directed franchise differs: Singham was set in Goa and told the simple, rather hackneyed story of a good cop versus a bad man, but it was big on the laughs.

Singham Returns, on the other hand, is set on a much larger scale in Mumbai, where the entire police department goes up in arms against divisive politics and black-market racketeering - basically all that's wrong with the city.

The honest and fearless cop Bajirao Singham is now the deputy police commissioner. The story, unfortunately, is just as predictable and the comic relief missing entirely. One supposes it's just the over-the-top action scenes then that a true-blue Devgn fan - the only kind who should watch Singham Returns - can look forward to.

Our man first loses his infamous temper when a dutiful junior police officer is found dead in an ambulance full of money and is falsely accused of corruption. Then he fails to protect his mentor, a noble political leader (Anupam Kher in an insignificant cameo) in a shoot-out. He quits the police force, or so we are told. But he's working undercover all along to expose the fake god-man (Amole Gupte, brilliantly cast) and his wily associate (Zakir Hussain).

Devgn, as the scowling one-man army, is good as usual. He fights convincingly and that's all Singham Returns really needs him to do. Mahesh Manjrekar as the powerless chief minister is wasted as is Kareena Kapoor, who plays a hair stylist and Singham's love interest. Their romance is indifferent at best, as Kapoor's loud, hyperactive Avni screams her way through all of four scenes. The songs are dull and feel force-fitted.

In the first film, Singham could not care less about powerful people, but in this one he does not seem to care about the law anymore - from ordering a lathi charge against religious devotees to shooting people in the backside to get them to confess their crimes, his reformative measures are inexplicably unique.

The saving grace is the Shetty-style cinematography. Sure you know exactly what's going to happen in the end, but the high-speed sequences, cars blowing up and lavish aerial shots are well executed. Shetty's love for long shots shines through, especially in the rousing scene where all the cops of Mumbai come out on the streets.

At 144 minutes, Singham Returnscould have been edited by 20, maybe 30 minutes, but at least it's fast-paced, except when Devgn is walking, which he does a lot - towards a goon he's going to beat up, away from yet another car explosion, etc.

But Singham is a people's hero and the movie - slow walk and all - plays to the gallery, so if you understand its tone (even if you don't speak fluent Marathi) and what it's meant to deliver, you'll enjoy it better. Maybe.

pmunyal@thenational.ae