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Saturday, December 3, 2011


(Published in The New Sunday Express on 4 December, 2011, retrieved from http://expressbuzz.com/entertainment/reviews/iam-singh/340028.html)


Cast: Gulzar Inder Chahal, Puneet Issar, Rizwan Haider, Tulip Joshi

Director: Puneet Issar

Rating: Awful

What happens when Puneet Issar and a bunch of newcomers indulge in some Mahabharat nostalgia, shift it to the Sikh context, hark back a decade in time, and use dialogues from four decades ago? Well, apparently, I am Singh.

The first few minutes focus on various angles of the Statue of Liberty and New York, and then play all the videos from 9/11 that we saw on TV ten years ago. An old woman in a graveyard promises to tell us the story of how 9/11 messed up her life. We assume she lost her kids, or one of them turned terrorist to avenge the death of another, and somehow we’ll end up in 2011. No.

Auntyji, who was depressed at the start of the film because some Ku Klux Klan type gang in biker costumes and action figure poses attacked her family thinking they were Arabs, suddenly decides to enlighten us about racism ten years later. Oh...kay, then. Oh, by the way, these bald dudes are so stupid they try to make history by becoming the only people to illegally emigrate from America to Mexico.

Now, the Singhs – well, that’s what everyone in the film is called, but nevermind – have a palatial house in Chandigarh, but two of the sons wanted to go to Amrika. They went, danced at a bachelor party, made babies, and got beaten up. So, Auntyji and Bhabhiji call up Ranveer Singh (Gulzar Inder Chahal), who’s sleeping in Chandigarh, from Los Angeles, because all the other men in the family are wounded.

Ranveer, who pulls off the remarkable feat of being simultaneously wooden and twitchy, chooses a Merc from his fleet, goes to the airport, reaches the US and rushes to hospital. Uncleji is in critical condition, recovering from a head injury. His turban’s still on, but is a different colour from the one he had in the flashback to the attack, so we know nursing care in Los Angeles is excellent.

The police snap at Ranveer, when he asks for the body of his brother. His other brother’s missing, and turns out he was “illegally detained” by police for “possession of a deadly firearm”. I mean, dude, they actually illegally arrested him for grabbing the gun the killers of his brother used to kill his brother. Oh...kay.

Now, he gets a black eye in prison for refusing to remove his turban, and so his son doesn’t want to wear a turban. It’s all about the Turban – no, that’s a song in the movie. Like, really. Fateh Singh (Puneet Issar) who makes a throaty entry into the lives of the Singh parivaar, is a supercop who’s forced to resign because the Senate passed a “No Turban policy”. And when he finally wins – duh, of course he does – we’re treated to a three-way split screen of him striding along as It’s all about the Turban plays. And what sucks is, that’s not the worst part of the film. Daler Mehndi and Mika feature individually in two different item numbers, so I don’t know what the worst part of the film is.

Back to the main plot, though. Ranveer wants to know kyun Uncleji and Bhaiyya 1 and Bhaiyya 2 were attacked. Enter Rizwan Haider, played by an actor of the same name, a Pakistani who’s suspected of being a terrorist. He painstakingly recounts the details of the deaths of several Sikhs and Muslims all over the nation, revenge killings by the ignorant bald dudes (they’re called “racist badmaashon”) who don’t know Indian Sikhs and Pakistani Muslims are not Arabs or ‘Iranis’ or Iraqis. I mean, those guys are the real terrorists! Each death is acted out several times; a montage won’t do. The film plays out so much like a K-serial that unless it was designed to sink black money, there’s absolutely no justification for it being twice as long as it need be. Well, ideally, it needn’t be at all.

The movie operates on one principle – Punjabis are not Arabs, and therefore are not terrorists. They mention Khalistan, but only to say it shouldn’t be mentioned. And this whole thing is repeated so often, it’s like flogging the ghost of a dead horse flogged twice over and hung out to dry.

The Racist Badmaashon scream away, the LAPD’s in cahoots with them, the Singhs recount and translate the lessons of their gurus, and two hot lawyer-activists in knotted shirts hit on Ranveer and Fateh with so much come-hither-ness you half expect it to turn into a porn flick. There are repeated references to Gandhi, and to the armies of Guru Gobind Singh, complete with a poorly animated eagle. As a Sardarni friend mused, “This boy is confused. He’s going on about ahimsa and Guru Gobind Singh, who made us warriors, in the same breath.”

The movie has gems of wisdom on offer – case in point, “gunde bahut khatarnaak hai.” Arre, sach mein?! And after trying to convince Americans that South Asians are as American as anyone else, the immigrants yell, “you trained Al Qaeda, you created Osama”. ‘We’ know when to dissociate ourselves from ‘you’. No wonder we Indians get on everyone’s nerves. Sigh.

Verdict: This would only work as a primary school Annual Day play, ideally staged for a geriatric audience.

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