Even the most outrageous comedies have a millisecond’s worth of serious moments. Something that makes you go ‘Awww’. But Prabhu Deva’s Singh Is Bliing is a film that makes you wish you hadn’t bought any popcorn. Because it’s impossible to eat while laughing so much. Be it a parting scene, a courtship scene, or even a romantic song. Every sequence ends with a gag. And not some dainty little pun to evoke a cordial smile. If the jokes don’t impress you, Amy Jackson’s butt-kicking will. And if Akshay Kumar doesn’t endear himself, Lara Dutta will.
And why bother with a plausible story when you can laugh for two hours?
Raftar (Akshay Kumar) is a village idiot and the darling son of a wealthy couple. In the opening song sequence, everyone in the village are seen sticking up for this silly slacker. Also, you see bizarre things like cows talking to each other, and a horse dancing on Raftar’s bed. His father is angry because Raftar is unable to do any work without goofing it up. The song montage is eerily similar to The Sound Of Music’s ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’ because we have, again, a hero everyone loves. Despite or because of not being able to do anything right. Because their heart is in the right place.
The father offers him two (supposedly terrible) alternatives – either go work with his friend in Goa, or get married to a girl, who is obese. Raftar thinks out loud – she’s the kind of girl you’re supposed to wrestle with, not marry. This girl is in fact, no bigger in size than Raftar’s mother, whom he adores, and whose motherliness is absolutely central to the plot. It would have been nice if she had said something against this fat-shaming.
Cut to a parting scene, where it’s building towards a modicum of pathos. Tearful goodbyes. Son leaving home for the first time. Just then one of the well-wishers enthusiastically welcomes him home, and has to be corrected. It’s not a welcome party. He’s leaving. These are the moments when all semblance of believable plot and character-identification is soundly stomped by the gag reel.
The camera moves from the sunflower-lit fields of Punjab (always the DDLJ scene) to the dark grey skies and dull green landscapes of Romania. It’s bleak, dreary, damp, and eerie. Sure, you have the foreign girl Sara (Amy Jackson) riding a horse with her hair billowing in the air, and her athletic body clad in a tight bodysuit.
A major plot moment comes up when the villain (Vivek Oberoi) touches Sara’s butt when they are at an important gathering where their fathers – Mafia dons trading weapons – are dividing up weapon sales across the world (“You take Africa, I take Latin America”). And they are showing off their sunglasses (yes, in dreary Romania), and their horsemanship skills. Sara surprises everyone by tossing the guy on the ground and physically dominating the situation. A hundred guns are drawn. The father of the boy tells him to apologise with one huffy look. The boy bites off a sorry. But he’s not sorry. The rest of the film is driven by his revenge for that sorry.
Sara barely talks in the movie. When absolutely necessary, you can hear a curt ‘hrm’. And in all her 5-odd sentences, you cannot take her seriously. It’s because of her accent. It’s some hodgepodge of British, American, French, Italian, and a bit of Australian thrown in. What she does as well as any James Bond and Jackie Chan is beat people up. And look utterly, utterly, cool doing it. We have to love the film for giving us a female fighter who is just that. There’s no sexualisation of her body when she’s schooling the bad guys. Nor do we have the actor stepping in to take care of the ‘real’ business. In fact, there’s always a reversal where the hero is saved by her. And the execution is hyperbolic because of the action, not the gender. Example: Raftar is badly losing to a local Goa villain. Sara innocuously strolls over to a table with a bowl of peanuts, and discreetly flicks a peanut towards the guy just as Raftar is throwing a punch. Boom.
The film toes a fine line with this tricky theme of showing a woman as the best fighter in the film, and keeping the humour situational.
Raftar is assigned as Sara’s bodyguard and guide of sorts, but he speaks no English. So enter Lara Dutta as Emily, whose hilarity lies in being just weird. Unlike Raftar, whose stupidity is adored by everyone around him (as per his heroic privilege), Emily is adorable in herself. She gets her kicks from mistranslating – initially to save her own skin, but later for the sheer pleasure of it. Watching the five of them at breakfast is like watching an Alice In Wonderland tea party. When Sara calls Raftar and his friends ‘Morons’, Emily translates it as ‘Mahaan’ (great). Everybody’s happy.
There’s also that weird logic according to which the hero always knows best, and gets to tell people that. Like when Raftar run into two men trying to molest two women one evening on the beach in Goa. Raftar walks forward and stands there staring until one of the struggling girls runs to him and berates him for not intervening. Raftar picks up her hand and slaps the guy with it (after a few moments of intense passivity). Then he points out that girls also have arms and strength.Moral of the story: girls don’t have to wait around for some guy to step in and intervene.
But there are three problems here. One, supposedly girls are physically strong enough to fight off the men; they’re just mentally deluded and need someone to tell them this secret about themselves. Two, that Raftar (random guy) is instructing these women in what they should do – even if it’s a different instruction from the ‘stay at home’ or ‘have a man around to protect you’. Three, Sara is standing right there and is seemingly forgotten in the scene. Because that moment isn’t about women’s empowerment. It’s about nice guys educating women about their secret inner strength.
All jokes apart, the film, eventually, sticks to the popular, hackneyed notions – The hero has to be the hero. And foreign women are foreign women. They can summon guys out of bed in the middle of the night and still be completely marriageable. Uttering religious chants can turn a placid fool like Raftar into a fighting machine who can throw 50 men off a bridge. While the ultracompetent bride in white wails his name and does absolutely nothing. Also, the one black guy is the only person whose face is literally smashed into bloody gore. Is it deliberate? Is it self-aware? Is it all in good fun? You decide.
Singh Is Bliing Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.