Friday Classics: Singham!!!! A Nice Bright Happy Violent Movie

Well, this movie is just as good as I remembered! Okay, middle bit is kind of confusing and boring, but it only lasts about 20 minutes and then we can move on.

When Rohit Shetty is good, he is really really good. It’s not the plot of the film, it’s the feel of it, the bright light and fight scenes that make you go “OH NO WAY!” and hero that is so powerful and perfect it makes you feel powerful and perfect too just by watching him. And the heroine is no slouch either, makes you feel not-terrible about being a woman, like you still have some power and ability to think for yourself. Most of all it makes you feel good about the world, villages are sunny and friendly and filled with honest people, cities are pretty nice too, and everything works out for the best in the end.

Image result for singham poster

In this particular film his message is a simple and hopeful one: “This village belongs to me, and I belong to this village”. Our hero is a brave officer, but only so long as his village supports him. And his bravery is all to serve them. It is a community in which there is one remarkable hero, and he is given a nurturing place in which to grow and use his power to help others.

The other thing I was thinking of with this film was the “tall poppy” theory. That the tallest and most promising talents are cut down, that this is supposed to be “fair” to the community. That the community as a whole (especially those with power) are eager to cut down this “tall poppy”s and leave only the average ones in place.

This is a movie about those superhero police officers that Indian film loves. But the question is, does India love them? Can an honest talented man simply life his life, or must he always be afraid of being cut down? Not by his enemies, but by strangers, those who will leap on any story that tears down those above them, that gives them a sense of superiority by no longer having to look up. And of course the tragedy is, those very people they are cutting down are the ones who could best serve them, who could help and make a difference.

Ajay is the perfect lead actor for this film, he is a hero, you see it as soon as he walks on screen. But he is also “average” somehow. He doesn’t feel like a blessed by fate type who is incapable of being harmed, he feels like a person who needs people, who connects with people and wants them around him and wants to take care of them.

Kajal is okay as the heroine. It’s not as specific a part, although still something probably half the actresses in India couldn’t play. She has to be innocent and youthful, not a career woman type or a “sexy” type. But she also has to be strong and confident and sure of herself and what she wants, not a crying passive type. Kajal plays this kind of heroine to perfection, because Telugu films give her plenty of opportunities for this type, not the sophisticated spoiled city type, or the total innocent village girl, but something in between.

Prakash Raj of course makes the film. This was just as he started to break through and become a regular sight on Hindi cinema screens (before he spoke out against the BJP and got blackballed). And he showed why he was so wonderful, playing yet another corrupt gangster type, but with a wonderful sort of crazed casualness about it. He really doesn’t get angry that much in this film, he is more reflective and kind of amused at himself.

But really, it’s Rohit Shetty. The songs, the action, the shot of a field with workers in it right outside the back door of the police station, it all creates this almost fairy tale feel, a story of good and evil and the right and wrong of society.

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We start with a dark fable. An honest police officer tried to do his job and was framed for taking bribes. The frame was bad, that was done by Prakash Raj’s men. But what destroyed him was what came after, the public and the press hounding him, eager to believe the worst and tear him down. Until finally only his young son and wife were left to believe him, and he killed himself.

And then we get the bright fable. In a little village a few miles away, there is a police officer who is always unquestioningly supported and loved. And he gives love in return. He never files a case because he never has to. He prefers to solve things through peaceful discussion, or even putting up his own money to solve an issue. And when he is threatened, when Prakash Raj implies that he is corrupt, the village gathers around him and defends him. Prakash Raj is stunned at this response, but Ajay gives him a simple answer, “This village belongs to me, and I belong to this village”. His good deeds come back to him a thousandfold, the villagers let him do his job of maintaining the peace, and in return they honor him and appreciate him for his skills, and support him so he can best use his skills to protect them.

This sounds like the worst kind of “back the badge” propaganda, but it really isn’t. It’s not talking about police brutality accusations, or cleaning up the streets by taking on small time criminals, or anything like that. It’s more about public servants and talented bureaucrats. And the jealousy of the private sector, and lack of support from the politicians. Singham, our hero officer, came from a wealthy family. He chose to donate his intelligence and abilities to the greater good of the community. And the community appreciated what he did, had some understanding of his abilities and judgements, didn’t resent his position but saw how it fit into the general pattern of the village life and enriched them all. But in the city, we learn that hardworking intelligent police officers are resented, looked down on, society has adjusted itself to pretend it does not need these police officers, that in fact they are more a curse than a blessing. And the police have adjusted themselves to acting more like a curse than a blessing.

This would be a depressing movie if that’s all it was, wouldn’t it? But, yaaaay! That’s just the middle 20 minutes! Ajay is in his happy little village, with his spunky perfect match heroine. And then he runs afoul of Prakash Raj and neatly destroys him. Which inspires Prakash to bring him to the city and show him his power. The first 20 minutes in the city are terrible, Ajay realizes he has nothing and no one to support him and it breaks him down. His superior officers don’t support him, and nor do his inferior (is that right?) officers. The general public doesn’t trust him either. And Prakash Raj is trying to kill him. But then Ajay gets over it. He learns that it doesn’t matter if he no longer has people to support him, he still has people he should support. It’s all about give and take, and sometimes you give before you can get. And then he loses his fear of consequences or anything else and can return to his heroic nature.

And so we have this delightfully happy film. The first half is a village idyll, the perfect community where everyone cares for each other and Ajay maintains the balance. And then there is the middle dark bit. And then it is all happy again as all the sins come home to roost and Ajay builds his own new community in his new place, reminding the police that they are part of the greater fabric of society and should act like it.

Oh, and along the way, a car flips and spins over Ajay and he pulls the driver out through the window as it flies over him. Also, earlier, he kicks someone so they spin floating in the air, and he can use them as a platform to jump on and set up his kick. Shetty Physics!!!!

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6 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Singham!!!! A Nice Bright Happy Violent Movie

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