The release of Singham Returns on Independence Day in India feels wrong. Rarely does a movie try so hard to be patriotic but feel so cynical and almost anarchistic. When a country’s political, judicial, and religious leadership is depicted as so corrupt that the establishment of a police state seems preferable, the problems are far too big for one man, even if that man is Bajirao Singham.
While Singham is supposed to be a morally perfect dispenser of divine justice, he advocates a system in which he and his fellow police officers are judge, jury, and executioner. His methods are themselves criminal, so Singham relies on sympathetic politicians and reporters to turn a blind eye. It amounts to a conspiracy to protect an unelected individual who has assumed the ability to decide life or death.
Maybe it’s just that the release of Singham Returns comes at the end of a week in which an unarmed teenager in a small town in America was killed by the police in public, and that the protests that followed were greeted by police with tear gas, sniper rifles, and the imprisonment of skeptical politicians and media members. Whatever the reason, the solutions offered by Singham Returns seem terrifying.
Following his successful cleanup of Goa in 2011’s Singham, supercop Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn) is promoted to Mumbai. His former teacher, Guruji (Anupam Kher), wants to eradicate political bribery and has a slate of young reform candidates poised to challenge in the upcoming elections.
In order to keep the black money flowing, corrupt politician Prakash Rao (Zakir Hussain) and the crooked evangelist Babaji (Amole Gupta) threaten Guruji and his candidates. But Singham won’t allow such intimidation on his watch.
Like all Bollywood supercop characters, Singham’s only character flaw is that he’s unmarried. Apparently, every character who carried over from the first movie to the second has forgotten about Kavya (Kajal Agarwal), Singham’s fiancée from the first movie, who is never mentioned.
Instead, Singham is fixed up with Avni (Kareena Kapoor Khan), the sister of one of the candidates. The totality of Avni’s character is that she is irrationally jealous and eats a lot. This is an embarrassing role for an actor of Kapoor Khan’s talent.
Kher and Pankaj Tripathi — who plays one of Rao’s goons — give two of the film’s noteworthy supporting performances. Dayanand Shetty is also entertaining as Singham’s big deputy, Daya.
Devgn’s performance is fine, but his character is not. Singham quickly resorts to violence when provoked, and his wrath is indiscriminate: directed at obvious villains, but also at their victims and brainwashed minions. He lashes out, even when it hurts his moral standing in the community. He advocates the murder of those he deems guilty, independent of any judicial system.
Sure, there are plenty of explosions and enough fights to make you wonder if director Rohit Shetty bought his “slap” sound effects in bulk. Singham Returns isn’t boring. It’s just hard to cheer for a superhero who seems so undemocratic.