The Art of Bone Crushing

[An edited version of this piece appeared in the DNA on Sunday July 31st]

“Singham” is a throwback to the single-screen, honest-cop-against-the-system potboiler from the 80s and 90s, a formula that as “Wanted” and “Dabangg” demonstrated still has legs, even in these multiplex-friendly, emasculated “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” days. Honest cop set-up by bad guys, heroine being ched-chaad-ed by baddies, “comedy” scene, song sequence, romance angle, corrupt cops, corrupt politicians, honest cop arresting goons, bad cop bailing them out, villain coming to police chowki and offering bribes, villain getting humiliated, villain being beaten up, villain getting back at the hero, hero punching his daylights out; every element of the much-loved formula is arranged in repeated regular patterns like nucleotides in a DNA polymer.

And yet Singham for me had as much kick as a slap from Alok Nath.

The reason is this. The buffed and hulked-up Ajay Devgun. Or Ajay Devgn as he is now called, since he has dropped the “u”—whether it be for numerological reasons or because it makes his name easier to SMS I know not. Don’t get me wrong. Ajay Devgn is a very good actor as he showed in “Gangaajal” where he perfectly played a cop grappling with the dilemma of representing the law in a world run by evil. But in “Singham” where the action is too cartoonish and the plot just too ridiculously cliched, his intense earnestness is an absolute waste, almost as if he is trying to convince us to take the whole thing seriously.

Only two leading men can pull this kind of caper off. One is Salman Khan, who with the twinkle in his eye and the ability to hold his pose theatrically for the camera, adds an endearing element of self-parody to the genre.Which is what, together with its rather intelligent script, made “Dabangg”  such great entertainment.

The other of course is Sunny Deol. Why? Because when one punch sends 100 Kg men 10 feet in the air while they rotate like pinwheels, when jeeps and trucks glide through the air like frisbees , when lampposts are plucked from the ground as effortlessly as if they were flowers, when men slide on their knees over concrete as if on ice or jump straight up in the air like they were on Mars, there is only one man who can make it look like it actually might happen. Sunny paaji.  Because as anyone who has ever looked into his eyes, trembling with wrath, knows, even the laws of physics are scared of him. As far as he is concerned E is not equal to mc-squared but mc-round. Ever since he threw Balwant Rai through the glass door, crushed numerous bones and made them into gruel with his dhai-kilo ke haath, yanked out a hand-pump out of the ground in “Gadar” and laid to waste an entire battalion of the Pakistani army with his lion-like roars, Sunny D has owned this genre of over-the-top, physics-defying violence bringing to it a ferocious “khoon pee jayoonga” “Kasam Ganga Maiya ki ghar main ghuskar maroonga” gravitas that no one else can. Of course with Sunny in, you cannot smile like you would in a Salman movie, you would be too busy holding onto your seats and praying that he does not jump out of the screen and give you one of his back-handed teeth-smashing slaps that he is famous for, if you even so much as snigger.

Ajay Devgn, good actor as he is, can neither make me smile like Salman nor tremble like Sunny Deol and this is why I guess “Singham” left me cold.

So how does one get all warmed up if he be in the mood for bone-crunching action? Here is what I would recommend. Watch the “Ghayal Returns” promo on Youtube that packs within its 30 seconds more soul-shaking delight than the two hours plus of “Singham”.

30 thoughts on “The Art of Bone Crushing

  1. funny. I was hoping to watch it tonite, maybe I’ll leave it off for until later.

  2. fuck man! deli-beli,dementia,pakistani lady bombshell?
    lacking imagination?

  3. “And yet Singham for me had as much kick as a slap from Alok Nath.”
    Sums it up nicely 🙂

  4. GB, What about Prabhuji??? Surely he ticks both the boxes… Salman’s theatrics & Sunny Paaji’s thunderous punches!!!

  5. I somehow loved the movie…the reason salman khan could not have pulled off this plot is because the movie has comical moments, but the ending is quite cold-hearted..the twinkle in salman’s eyes would have actually spoilt it (thoug I’m a biiig salman fan)…plus the beAuty of the movie was the side characters who had funny scenes and devgun’s angry man act which together brought in a unique blend of being funny n cold..

  6. I am not sure what to make of your review, Arnab. Maybe because I saw the original Singam in Tamizh. Maybe it was all lost in translation. So here are my thoughts on the original.
    Of course it is escapist and is not a multiplex movie for the IT/BT/KPO types from OMR Chennai. But first about the star – Surya is the son of Sivakumar, a rare smaller than life lead role player, the kind you will not find in the Hindi movie industry. Sivakumar, apart from acting in some very offbeat roles (particularly in a movie by K. Balachander) was a devoted stage actor too, acting simply for the fun of it, well after he had become a popular movie actor. Surya and his younger brother Karthi are papa’s (mama’s boys) and lead a life so clean that it makes every Alok Nath character from the Rajshree stable, look like a libertine. Back to the movie. Singam is the account of the engagement of a two families – one recently urbanised and the other still rural – with the development of society and its economy – the families are quite clearly Nadar families, although the film never says so, and so the endless references to Tuticorin and the district. Singam the cop makes a name for himself behaving more like a sarpanch and using consensus to stave off conflict over property but uses his fists where it is a matter of crime. And no it is not simply the big bad city that is full of sexual harrassment goons, small towns too have them as we can see. When Singam is transferred to the big bad city, he is cut off from his community moorings, but finds resonant professional values to guide him in building his team and getting on with his his job. We see how the humble Inspector and his dedicated team use the little resources they have – a trusty wireless network, mobile phones, quick thinking, and the ever present PC in mufti who knows his beat like the back of his palm, to apprehend crooks and moles. That scene with the female crook who tries to lure Singam into an ambush was masterfully executed. This is indeed how the Tamil Nadu Police have developed over the last 30 years, to become one of the two best forces in India. Delhi is the other one. Singam wipes out the criminal gang and then decides that he wants out, and retires to his village to mind the grocery story. How quaint!

  7. the photo and and title remind me interestingly of a new chinese movie. Its called wu xia and has high standard martial arts by donnie yen. Go watch it and you will know what bone crushing and nerve wrecking mean. agree with your post.
    your fan

  8. Now am not going to Watch it 😛 (Thanks 🙂 )..Not that I had much enthu about this Movie but was thinking because of Ajay Devgan…!!

  9. oh, you are so correct about Salman Khan. his charm- its in his eyes. watching Bodygard from the stalls in Paradise will be a relishing experience.

  10. Spot on! I’m a die-hard fan of the 90s style of filmmaking but Singham really did have ‘as much kick as a slap from Alok Nath’. It has been 3 years since Ghajini (which I think revived the genre) and even though we all knew there will be bad remakes, I didn’t expect it from Ajay Devgn. Cannot wait for Ghayal Returns and Bodyguard.

    PS – When are you planning to write about Hina Rabbani Khar? We’re waiting with!!

  11. ‘Singham’ frankly was far better than Dabangg. Those who think that ‘Dabangg’ had something called ‘storyline’ are too much blinded by Salman awesomeness. Plus Devgn’s acting skills are far superior than Salman. He can pull off versatile roles with ease.

    Infact, ‘singham’ is the reason why i am sure ‘bodyguard’ and future salman knan cliche movies wont hit the jackpot.

  12. Was that line about a single punch throwing 10 people weighing 100 kgs in the air taken from the wikipedia entry on Gunda?

  13. Agree with you on the review though.

  14. Oh no.
    I came here expecting a full blooded dhoni bashing article but what i get in return is “i am nt from IIT but my articles come in DNA” boring movie review
    Too bad arrrrr-nab

  15. life is not fair for sunny .. singham would be suited for his brand of action .. maybe someone somewhere is thinking of a film for him

  16. You are so true about that self-parody thing about Salman. I normally do not watch over the top bolly flicks – but caught Dabangg First day it came out. Not a movie you would watch with your wife/GF – but go in as a gang of boys and you are bound to have fun. That comical style and self-parody made a very entertaining watch.
    BTW I remember Sunny Deol shouting at some corrupt lawyer who put him in jail and that guy dying of a heart attack – forgot the movie.

  17. Singham is not to be watched on DVD or in a typical multiplex. The old world charm can only be relived in an old world theater (with bells and whistles of course). That I did and enjoyed it thoroughly. One of the most unintentionally funny movies that I have seen in recent times.

  18. Art of bone crushing.. August 1, 2011 — 9:52 pm

    Was shown live today from Trent Bridge.
    NOW is the time to pop in that WC highlights dvd

  19. @Kaangeya, cent percent agree with you- I also watched the movie in its original Tamil avatar- by the same name SINGHAAM.
    Was a good potboiler & nice fun- with Surya’s fine acting, dancing & figthing skills & comic timing to boot..was worth every penny of my money.

    Dont know about the latest Hindi version, but if it is half as entertaining as the original, dont c why ppl shld give it a miss

  20. Before this movie, the only Singham I had heard of was Anton Stanislaus Bala-Singham. 😀

    OK so, the Tamil movie “Singham” is better than the Hindi “Singh”-am I getting that right?

  21. Still SINGHAAM made a mark at the boxoffice and a niche on the critics paper.

    Goes to say Indian males can never ever have enough of khans or deols. The anger, theangst with drama, even if worn by Ajay Devgan post “phool aur Kaate”days still reminiscent the image of angry young man against system.

    Larger than life images runs the theaters these days.Fight against skin wins.
    I haven’t seen it.Nor i plan to! Because rather than be morally correct and scratch my brains i had rather scratch my itch!!!!

  22. “Sinkam” in Tamil means LION… tht was the “title value” it had and also, there were many dialogs referring to “LION” and what will happen to other small animals in the jungle when the King decides “enough is enough”.. I am sure all this was lost in the translation.
    Moreover, in Tamil, it was written and directed by HARI who specialises in this type of mass-single hero films with a large HUF(Hindu Undivided Family) backdrop… He was responsible for giving mass-village-rural HITS for this suave youngster SURYA. Sinkam, in tamil, was the “mother of all masala films” and I ma sure the hindi version waasnt a patch on the original. I wld seriously suggest to catch up with the tamil version on youtube…

  23. // BTW I remember Sunny Deol shouting at some corrupt lawyer who put him in jail and that guy dying of a heart attack – forgot the movie. //

    @Sidhartha, ha ha ha,this is a gem.. please tell me the which movie it is.. I wld order a DVD now..

  24. naam ! Jalebi Bai August 7, 2011 — 9:03 pm

    Great one. Loved it. Can you also review Anupam Kher’s “Agaah The Warning” ?

  25. You list Salman Khan and Sunny Deol and miss out on Rajni 😛

  26. yeah!wat about the abba of all? our rajnikant???

  27. I guess I’ll pass. The movie is not worth anyones time. Horny/ desperate/ both girls may like it though.

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