To be up front, Singh in Bliing has no connection to Kumar’s huge 2008 hit Singh is Kinng, other than both movies feature Kumar as an ethnic Punjabi character. In a way of life where well-placed, strategic name-dropping can set expectations—realistic or not—and pre-sell an allusion of success, Singh is Bliing wants to finish first in that school of cinematic succession. Shallow in writing, skin deep with acting chops and yet nailing some pedestrian comic timing, thanks to Kumar’s presence, Singh is Bliing gets to the finish line and has the last laugh.
For Raftaar (Kumar), coming of age as the scion of his Punjab village’s biggest land-owning family means only one thing —more partying with his equally dead-beat friends and stealing opportunities to break out the bhangra at the drop of a hat. Threatened with disinheritance or worse —being married off to a village tart he doesn’t like—Raftaar accepts his father’s (Yograj Singh) offer to travel to Goa to work for his father’s friend (Kapoor).
Arriving in Goa, Raftaar fibs his way into landing a job as a bodyguard even though he does not speak English—a key job requirement. The linguistic challenged Raftaar’s gig gets a booster shot of complications with the arrival of his boss’s gorgeous daughter Sara (Jackson) from Europe. He does not understand English and she is not savvy with Hindi. As a go-between, they hire the mousy translator Emily (Dutta), who may have a trick up her sleeve. Just about everything goes haywire when Sara’s European past, and her having crossed paths with the lecherous Mark (Menon), catches up with her in Goa.
For comic-adventures with a short leash on storytelling, the primary visuals are setting, setting and more setting. We go from striking eastern European castles and medieval walled hamlets to sunny beaches in Goa to golden grain fields of Punjab bursting with new crop at the bat of an eye. With just a touch of flair from director Deva’s almost-constantly moving filming style, it somehow all gels. The scenery and color saturation are pleasing. The action starts soon enough after Mark arrives to make mischief and that too is engulfed by the breezy delivery paced by the action sequences.
To add accent to the visual motif, having appropriate eye candy on hand can help tremendously. The beauty quota of the three leading actors—Kumar, Jackson and Dutta—amounts to one young female beauty queen and model (Jackson), one male hunk with super-model looks (Kumar) and one former Miss Universe (Dutta). With this much visual nibbling within reach, there is little room for complaining.
Newcomer Jackson is a young British beauty who was spotted by Indian filmmaker A.L. Vijay, who offered her a lead in his Tamil language Madrasapattinam (2010). After appearing in several movies from South India, including S. Shankar’s mega-budget I (2014), and with no prior acting experience or family connections to movies whatsoever, Jackson has become a sensation. Virtually unknown in her homeland, she is mobbed by Indian fans as soon as she arrives on the sub-continent. From her stints in modeling, Jackson knows camera angels and lighting—and so far those factors have helped her get a footing in Indian movies.
The only drawback to this sizable-budget movie is the music. None of the tunes stand out as chart-busters, even though “Singh & Kaur,” voiced by Manj Musik, Nindy Kaur and Raftaar, offers a brief respite. Having multiple music directors on the same soundtrack has not worked especially well for Hindi movies over the years and that is not about to change.
Perhaps the most notorious element to the packaging of Singh is Bliing was an early publicity poster that featured not only a slightly different title (Sing is Bling, with one I in Bling) but also a turban-clad Kumar holding a gun. Bowing to religious groups, Indian censors made the filmmakers revise the poster, though the poster remains widely available online. Even with the musical limitations in tow, Singh is Bliing still scores with no hits, no homeruns and yet no major errors either.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.