0.5 Stars (out of 4)
Hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Muslims and others deemed sufficiently “Arab-looking” in the wake of 9/11 are some of America’s greatest embarrassments. Yet I’m not sure I Am Singh is the movie the victims of those attacks would want to represent their side of the story.
I Am Singh is a boring, poorly acted sequence of lectures on Sikh history and American moral failings that insults the intelligence of those who watch it.
The movie is held together by a thin excuse for a plot, cobbled together from real-life examples of crimes committed against American Sikhs. The presumptive lead of the film is Ranvir (Gulzar Chahal), an Indian Sikh who flies to America after his family is attacked by a gang of skinheads in Los Angeles. One of his brothers is killed, the other falsely imprisoned, and their father seriously injured.
I say that Ranvir is the presumptive lead because he disappears entirely during the climax and is frequently benched in favor of subplots. Ranvir’s biggest competition for screentime comes from Fateh Singh (Puneet Issar, the film’s writer, director and producer), a member of the “U.S. Police Force” fired for wearing a turban.
Issar doesn’t seem to have enough confidence in his story’s ability to convey his moral message. He has characters deliver all of their important dialog looking straight into the camera, just so there’s no confusion about who the message is really directed at. The effect is comical.
It’s almost as a comical as the sheer volume of closeup shots of actors faces. I didn’t count, but it’s probably close to one hundred. Frequently, the camera zooms into closeup, making the movie feel like a Mexican soap opera. I couldn’t help but think of this:
The acting is horrible across-the-board, but kudos to the non-Indian actors for being especially bad. The two blonde human rights lawyers deliver their lines woodenly, while the skinhead leader with the eye patch that won’t stay in place insists on shouting at subordinates standing a few feet away.
The audio dubbing is frequently out of sync. For some reason, many of the white American actors have Australian or British accents despite the action taking place in L.A.
Laughably poor execution aside, I Am Singh runs into its biggest problems when it veers into hypocrisy. America is alternately characterized as beacon of morality that simply lost its way and as an irredeemable nation of hateful morons. Such generalization is exactly what the movie is trying to condemn.
Overall, I Am Singh represents a huge missed opportunity to introduce a wider audience to Sikhism.
- I Am Singh Official Website
- I Am Singh at IMDb
- The Pluralism Project Report on U.S. Hate Crime Trends (2005)