Singh is Bliing isn’t a movie so much as a collection of colourful bits (the real bliing is in the cinematography) in the style of what one may call a nautanki or a vaudeville performance – and for a while, that’s the film’s strength. Some bits are brilliant in the way a Mr. Bean episode is brilliant when you are in the mood. Director Prabhudheva is alert to slapstick possibilities and he keeps the running gags… running. Every time a car is put in reverse, it knocks down a couple of people – that sort of thing. It’s a breezy Shammi Kapoor premise about a well-off but irresponsible young man (Raftaar Singh, played by Akshay Kumar) who’s packed off to Goa to… um, become more responsible. Let’s not question the sense in that. After all, Raftaar thinks he can put a wig on a dog and pass it off as a lion. Like many things in this movie, this scene shouldn’t work – except it does. Prabhudheva sets up the gags well, and makes us wait for them to explode. Sometimes, literally. There’s a female assassin prowling around with a bomb.
We keep getting comedies all the time, but they try too hard, with actors mugging madly. Singh is Bliing has a different vibe. It’s silly in a relaxed, good-natured way. We like these characters, even if some of them, like the absent-minded uncle, are underused. We might have seen more of him had the film stayed in Punjab. How I wish it had. These films work best when set in warm, Indian climes – though I do wonder if Punjabis are as annoyed with these stereotypes (drinking tall glasses of lassi, scampering about in mustard fields, going balle balle at the doctor’s when he asks where it hurts) as, say, Tamilians are with the heads full of jasmine flowers and mouths full of idlis. But this Indian-ness, this we-are-like-this-wonly vibe, is essential to the success of these films – especially when faced with a non-desi heroine.
In Goa, Raftaar runs into Sara (played by a red, one-strap swimsuit emerging from the ocean… er, Amy Jackson). She speaks no Hindi. He speaks no English. So there’s a translator (an amusing Lara Dutta), who becomes the go-between – even during a song in which Akshay appears to be mimicking an epileptic train. In contrast, the other duets (the conventional ones, with just hero and heroine) are boring affairs. But there’s a twist. Sara isn’t just arm candy. At least for a while, she gets the stunt scenes – she’s an accomplished fighter. The film is really about her journey. The hero, on the other hand, does what Sonakshi Sinha usually does in Prabhudheva’s films. He’s also the comic relief, though Lara Dutta chips in as well. One bit has her sleepwalking and dropping coconuts on the sensitive parts of amorous men. I learnt something new about myself when I burst out laughing. Apparently, I am like this wonly.
At some point, the film changes its mind about being just a series of sketches. An actual plot kicks in. Sara asks Raftaar to find her mother, who disappeared from her life when she was a child. So okay, I thought. Maybe this mother has had a sex-change operation. Maybe she’ll run into Raftaar in the men’s loo. But no. The film is serious about this. She owns a nursery (the kind with plants) and showers love on a little girl, a substitute for Sara. No one seems to have realized that this is the exact opposite of comedy. It gets worse when the story shifts to Romania, where a gangster named Mark plans to marry Amy. Kay Kay Menon has fun as Mark. He seems to be starring in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali production inside his head – he practically sings his lines. But poor Akshay is stranded. He thinks he’s going to marry Amy, and wades through a song sequence buying a suit and flowers. I wanted to yell at the screen: For heaven’s sake, he’s a buffoon. Stop treating him like a character. As the buffoon, Akshay lights up the screen, but his amazing energy isn’t enough to tide us over long stretches of this sentimental nonsense. Why can’t we make just pure comedy – without action, without missing mothers, without villains? I’d have ended up happier had I walked out during the interval.
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