Cast: Sunny Deol, Urvashi Rautela, Prakash Raj
Director: Anil Sharma
Rating: Two stars
Hubble bubble, plenty of oil and trouble. Litres of gasoline-‘n’-kerosene are poured out here. But not to flurry. Even when a ghastly Gabbar-Mogambo-Dang-rolled-into-one is splashed with oil, ignited to go up in flames, he emerges miraculously, with his skin smoother than a baby’s bottom. How come?
Ask Anil Sharma, the plastic surgeon-cum-director of 'Singh Saab the Great', which ostensibly strives for blockbuster fame with his 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha' actor Sunny Deol. Twelve years have elapsed since that collaboration rocked the cash counters and all that. However, Sharma’s style is strictly old-fashioned in the pejorative sense of the term. Quite oddly, too, he coerces his lead actor into asking, “Don’t I look like Dharmendra?” How cute is that!
Not content with that stray line of dialogue, the star value of the Deol family, is sought to be exploited some more: Papa Dharmendra and Bro Bobby Deol pop up to boogie woogie ever so briefly in one of those dance-a-thons, as if they were guesting on a 'Nach Baliye' episode. Very eye-boggling, honestly.
Anyway as the title indicates, Sharma’s out to present his eponymous hero as an indestructible hero, endowed with a battering-ram of a fist, a booming voice that could shatter glass, and a scowl which would set any opponent’s jaw atremble. Not surprisingly, then, a kid quizzes, “Why aren’t you wearing a chaddi like Superman does?” An unintended ha-ha moment that. Funnier still, the same kid keeps returning to the scene, infallibly wearing a woollen monkey cap. Everyone else is garbed for summer. Duh?
Be that as it may, Superman or Singh Saab the Great (Sunny Deol, of course) doesn’t faze that Mogambo-Gabbar-etc mega-meanie (Prakash Raj dithering to step into the mojdis of Amrish Puri) at all. Commences a battle royale, which may have you wincing and flinching for a span of 150 minutes. Suggestion: carry a bottle of balm to keep you calm.
And instead of narrating the mini-plot straight and linear, screenplay writer Shaktimaan – is that a pen-name or for real? --- opts for multi-layered flashbacks. Over, then, to a TV journalist (Amrita Rao, efficient enough) who’s sipping coffee without wetting her lips, while authoring the biography of the Great One. Write on!
Initially, this news reporter had treated Singh saab like the bubonic plague. She had suspected that in his capacity of a township’s collector, he was guilty of gross corruption, had escaped from jail after six years, caring a fig about his five ‘saathis’ still languishing in prison. She’s convinced that the tainted collector is hiding his identity behind a hirsute beard. Weird. This journo doesn’t check police records, or even Google.
Ever so slowly but surely, the homework-challenged journo sheds glycerine tears. It seems Singh saab’s wife (Urvashi Rautela) had died, following generous gulps of an iced cola spiked with a powdery poison by that Gabbar-Mogambo-etc. Believe it or faint, somehow a complicated document had been signed by Singh saab to admit that he had accepted a ‘ghoos’ amounting to crores of rupees. And it was only because of a benevolent prison warden (theatre actor Rajit Kapur, no kidding!) -- a Muslim to add a secular tadka -- that our Great saab had been released on completing half his sentence. As for the fate of those five ‘saathis’, forget it. They continue to rot in jail. Tsk.
Once the flashbacks-and-forths are done, journo ensures PR-style coverage for Singh saab on her channel. Cool! Also since ‘badla’ or ‘revenge’ is politically incorrect, it’s re-re-clarified that the agenda du jour is actually ‘badlav’ or ‘change’. Whatever. Next: Ever so cheesily Singh saab and the TV reporter achieve the changeover by a sting operation. Mogambo-Gabbar-etc is videographed, saying the foulest things after cavorting with an ‘item number’ (Vibrating Midriff), which goes ‘Khaike palang tod paan.’ Truly, can lyrics go from bed to worse?
For a soupcon of gravitas, Anil Sharma and his team work in references to Swami Vivekananda, Guru Gobind Singh, Shahid Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi. And throughout, the mission is to woo the north Indian audience, with smatterings of Punjabi and the local colour fringing the stretching greenfields.
Curiously, the senior generation is conspicuous by its absence, the emotional track being filled in by the hero’s harangued sister (Anjali Abrol), rather than a suffering mum or dad. Just as well, because the sister’s kidnap and rescue towards the finale is the most imaginatively designed passage of the non-stop action set pieces. For five minutes or so, you wake up from your stupor, but that’s about it. For the rest of the way, you’re subjected purely to kill kill, bang bang.
On the techfront, there’s nothing distinctive to report. The background music breaks into hysterical arias; Anand Raj Anand’s songs belong to another century. The title song composed by Sonu Nigam, is nothing to sing or dance about either.
Of the supporting ensemble, Johnny Lever returns to cook up half-baked comedy. As for the heroine of the piece, newcomer Urvashi Rautela is pampered with so many smiling close-ups, as if she were da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Plus at the age of 19, she’s a mismatched choice for Sunny Deol. To be fair, she’s sufficiently pleasant and poised. As the sister, Anjali Abrol turns out to be the show’s surprise packet: she’s a natural.
Sunny Deol exudes an extra-strong screen presence but you’ve seen him go through the innocence-to-anger act so many times, that you wish he would re-invent himself pronto. In a nostalgic vein, whenever he has to deal with the ‘corruption’ allegations, you rewind to Dharmendra confronting similar calumnies, with a far more emotional intensity, in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 'Satyakam'.
Come to think of it, you may detect some elements of 'Satyakam' here, related to the theme of corrpution. Snag is that both in the writing and the direction, the topic doesn’t move beyond mouthing the age-old cliches. Which is why 'Singh Saab the Great' leaves you stone cold, despite all that oil, fire and brimstone. Worth a skip.