'Singh Is Bliing': Film Review

Courtesy of Eros International
Loud, generic comedy sequel lacks the goofy brilliance of the original

Bollywood action-comedy superstar Akshay Kumar reprises his role of a country bumpkin in this sequel to "Singh Is Kinng."

Ace dancer and choreographer-turned-director Prabhudheva is known for dancing his way into cameos in his films. His random appearances are always a welcome treat, and his footwork is consistently fabulous. As for his cameo in his latest, Singh Is Bliing? Put it this way: when the director of a film makes an appearance peeing at a urinal, it can’t bode well.

This uneven effort pales in comparison to the original 2008 sparkler Singh Is Kinng, which was directed by comedy maestro Anees Bazmee and featured a Bollywood song by Snoop Dogg.

Read more: Film Review: Singh Is Kinng

Singh Is Bliing fails to satisfy, but the film nevertheless opened Oct. 2 in the number-one spot at the Indian box office and marks the biggest opening to date for both Prabhudheva and star Akshay Kumar, and is the director-actor duo’s second action comedy after Rowdy Rathore.

Kumar, a dependably likable action and comedy superstar, has had a banner 2015, with a strong performance in the mixed martial arts drama Brothers, an official Hindi-language remake of Gavin O’Connor’s Lionsgate release Warrior; and Fusion, a live musical show that toured the U.S. to sellout crowds.

Read more: Film Review: Brothers

Over a 28-year career as an actor and producer, spanning thoughtful political drama and satire (Special 26, OMG – Oh My God and the upcoming Argo-esque Airlift, based on real events), Kumar also has welcomed the occasional scatterbrained comedy (Entertainment, Hera Pheri), and his warmth onscreen can mollify even the most cynical viewer. He won’t squander all of that good will here, but viewers’ loyalties are sure to be put to the test.

Singh Is Bliing finds Kumar loosely reprising his role of Raftaar, a clumsy Punjabi village bumpkin with a heart of gold.

The hard-partying Raftaar infuriates his father one time too many, and is offered an ultimatum: either marry an obese village woman named Sweety, or hightail it to a beachside resort in Goa to work for a mob boss. Raftaar wisely boards the first train to Goa, where he finds his new job is quite agreeable, consisting largely of kowtowing to his boss and keeping tabs on Sara (Amy Jackson), the daughter of another mobster. Meanwhile, an Indian crime boss (Kay Kay Menon) in Romania develops a crush on Sara, and Raftaar finds himself having to fight off criminals while defending her honor.

It’s hard to imagine why the filmmakers even wanted to make this movie: its characters and story bear no connection to Singh Is Kinng, and the main character inexplicably even has a new name (Raftaar, instead of Happy). Where Happy was happily married off to a gorgeous criminologist (Katrina Kaif) at the end of the first film, Raftaar is unconvincingly paired with the vapid English actress Jackson, who is building a modest career in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films. Indo-Canadian porn actress Sunny Leone makes a cameo.

Prabhudheva and frequent collaborator Shiraz Ahmed have slapped together a cacophonous pastiche of toilet jokes, high energy brawls and half-hearted love scenes, and their wafer-thin screenplay manages to conjure up a reason to include a heroine who doesn’t speak Hindi.

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Nearly a quarter of the film takes place in Romania — an irrelevant point except for its film production labor costs, said to be the lowest in Eastern Europe — while the alarming number of scenes objectifying, or downright insulting, female characters mark Prabhudheva as a prolific misogynist.

There is one bright light — Lara Dutta, the charismatic former Miss Universe turned actress whose return to the big screen after her 2011 marriage to Grand Slam-winning tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi is welcome indeed. Dutta plays Emily, a prim and bespectacled English-Hindi translator hired to make life easier for Amy, but who displays a far more risque alter ego after she’s downed a few.

Kumar and Dutta emerge as the only sparkling gems in this decidedly bling-free joint.

Production: Grazing Goat Pictures Pvt. Ltd.

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson, Kay Kay Menon, Lara Dutta, Sunny Leone

Director: Prabhudheva

Screenwriters: Shiraz Ahmed, Chintan Gandhi

Producers: Akshay Kumar, Ashvini Yardi

Director of photography: Dudley

Editor: Steven Bernard

Composers: Manmeet Singh, Harmeet Singh

Costumes: Esha Amin

Unrated, 139 minutes