This cop is a killer. He implements the laws applicable to the khaki-vardi with a passion that makes corruption seem like a mosquito that a human repellent can exterminate. His ways are unconventional. And he seethes and fumes when faced with diabolic corruption.
Last we saw, it was Rajeev Khandelwal playing the anti-establishment cop’s role in the brilliant Shaitaan. This time it’s a huge star getting into khakee. Meet Ajay Devgn as Bajirao Singham an honest-to-goodness cop who believes he has been given the law-enforcer’s job and he better take it seriously.
Hurling through a cavalcade of regionally-flush references Singham is the kind of rustic boorish kinetic action thriller where a cleaner social order is seen to be brought about by the power of the fist. Give or take a gun. Or a Devgn. Devgn playing the one-man army invests the clichéd role with a kind of cultural specificity which allows him the leeway to get verbally regional without losing a pan-India flavour. That’s the magic of mass entertainment cinema that this film celebrates with panoramic verve.
We don’t need to comprehend Marathi to get the powerful subtexts of Devgan’s virulent attack on corruption. Fortunately Devgn isn’t the kind of actor who needs to scream to make himself heard. He effectually offsets Prakash Raj’s theatrical villainy bordering on big time hamming.
It is significant that the entire cast comprises Marathi actors, giving to the frenetic rustic proceedings a sense of arrogant chauvinism. Only the villain played by Prakash Raj is a South Indian actor of tremendous histrionic range. Give him anything to do. And he does with impassioned concentration.
A lot of the lines that the politician-villain is compelled to utter bordered on self-parody. Chunks of the action and drama are cannibalized from the Amitabh Bachchan‘s ‘angry’ series, without the bridled indignance of the central character.
Yes, Singham is frustrated and embittered by the corruption that’s crept into the socio-political system. But he lacks the vitality to transmute the cop’s impotent rage into a potent cinematic language. We don’t feel for his concern for a clean social order. We just wonder whom he will thrash next, and how.
Partly, it is to do with the kind of shallowness that Singham’s love interest portrays. Jaya Bhaduri in Zanjeer and Smita Patil in Ardh Satya made a brief but telling impact on the way the enraged hero looked at the seedy world. Newcomer Kajal Aggarwal is a bundle of shallow take-away expressions, the cinematic equivalent of a home-delivered pizza, without the spicy toppings.
What sustains the narrative’s velocity is Devgn’s uncalculated moves as an action hero. He brings a kind of reckless inevitability into every blow that he delivers on the goons. There are some entertaining supporting performances, Sachin Khedeker as the heroine’s cell phone-fixated father is a hoot.
In all fairness the action sequences (Jai Singh Nijjar) are entertaining and humorous. The fights don’t take themselves seriously. However the homilies on a need for integrity in the civil services seem like unwanted concessions to self-importance in a film that seems to revel in a kind of free-floating message on how to stay clean in a cesspool of corruption. Yup, Rohit Shetty packs in a punch.
You can’t but smile at the infinite pleasure which the director partakes from the age-old language of commercial Hindi cinema in all its flamboyant glory.
Singham is a cop’s film with balls.