In Gadar, there was a popular song ‘Main nikla gaddi leke’ where a turbaned Sunny Deol talked of having left his heart at some turn. As he drives in as Singh Saab The Great on a Bullet, one gets a feeling that he has indeed left his heart somewhere. Having missed the desi action train, retrofitted by Salman Khan, who has meanwhile emerged as the successor of Dharmendra, Sunny seems a loud pack of punches trying hard, too hard to regain his lost territory with his trusted director Anil Sharma.
When the director accords greatness to his protagonist, right from the title, you know what you are getting into. Sharma’s strength lies in conjuring up an emotional turmoil so that when the hero goes on a rampage we don’t ask why he doesn’t take a course in anger management. Here, recycling the basic premise of a revenge formula, Sharma shows how an honest collector of a small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh suffers when he takes on a feudal lord-turned-politician (Prakash Raj) in his own bastion.
After a lacklustre start, which seems to be staged to put Sunny in the Dabangg space, Sharma manages to create an emotional swell when Singh goes into a flashback. From his sturdy fist to his fascination for tareekh, writer Shaktiman has slipped in Sunny’s strengths to recreate nostalgia, to renew interest in a hero who is fast being reduced to a joke by an irreverent generation. There is old-fashioned banter and melodrama and for once you can feel the Sunny of yore. Newcomer Urvashi Rautela proves a competent foil in the game of loud expressions. When Singh loses his beloved because of his integrity, eyes well up and you look forward to the retribution, considering Singh is part of the system.
However, from here on Sharma slips. Social activism and peaceful resolution of conflict are not his territory. All that talk of bringing a change in the dark forces is cosmetic as both Sharma and Sunny are eager to let the punches do the talking for the most part. It is hard to imagine Sunny running an NGO, but Sharma has dared to do it and the consequences are unintentionally funny. Amrita Rao looks the part as a journalist but is let down by poor writing. Prakash Raj, who looks suitably slimy in the first half, gets tired of chewing up the scenery and throws up his name time and again to no avail.
By the third act, Sharma runs out of ideas, and as a result, Sunny is reduced to a bull in a china shop. After managing to evoke emotions in the name of the wife, when Sharma repeats the same with Singh’s sister it seems the job of a director who takes the audience for granted. By the time he desperately invokes religious passion to salvage the climax, the audience have already lost interest in the proceedings.
Singh Saab The Great
Director: Anil Sharma
Cast: Sunny Deol, Urvashi Rautela, Prakash Raj, Amrita Rao, Johnny Lever, Sanjay Mishra
Storyline: An honest officer uses punches and persuasion to change the corrupt and powerful.
Bottomline: Not great by any stretch of imagination