When The Avengers was released in 2012, there was a clamour among Bollywood fans to see our own superheroes come together to protect us. Nine years down the line we finally have a genuine crossover, but it's not the superheroes coming together but super cool cops joining hands to foil the nefarious plans of the evil.
The possibility of having such a crossover can be attributed majorly to one factor, i.e., the success and popularity of the first cop of the franchise, Bajirao Singham. Released in 2011, Singham was a remake of the Tamil blockbuster of the same name. What seemed like a routine story from the trailers was an absolute fun ride. At a time when the news headlines were filled with reports of scams, an honest cop willing to go to any lengths to provide justice to the wife of a slain officer resonated with the audience. There is always a relatability factor when a grounded police officer coming from a small town takes on a bigwig. The film also followed a similar template where the hero, living an unperturbed life, locks horns with a powerful politician who makes his life hell. And just when the hero feels helpless, a chain of events makes his resolution stronger and, eventually, the hero overcomes all the obstacles one after the other. The cop exposing his vulnerable side to the lead heroine (Kajal Aggarwal), about feeling like an outlier in the corrupt big city, was a welcome surprise in one of the film's best scenes. Even the philosophical message about how having fewer needs leads one to stick to one's values was encapsulated quite well without sounding too preachy. There was a strange level of gratification the audience felt when Ajay Devgn whipped the baddies with his belt or when he showed a corrupted politician his true place. It was a reminiscence of the '70s era when Bachchan would take on the establishment that had wronged many innocents. It proved that the quintessential no-nonsense cop would never go out of vogue if done smartly.
Ajay Devgn, known for his intense performances, was pitch perfect as Bajirao Singham. The actor is known for emoting through his eyes and looked every bit the masculine hero who could take on dozens of goons at once, while also being proud of his roots.
But the iconic character wouldn't have attained the cult status had it not been for the amazing characterisation of the antagonist, played brilliantly by Prakash Raj. He was sinister, but you couldn't hold your laughs when he imagines himself hanging from the ceiling fan. The climax was easily the highlight of the film (dare I say it eclipsed even the original version's climax) with a subtle use of humour that was refreshing to see rather than the stale, done-to-death action sequences seen in the majority of commercial films. It re-emphasised the fact that when you have a well-written villain, it enhances the aura of the lead hero.
While there have been multiple cop films that have tried to cash in on the success of Singham (including a mediocre sequel) none of them have quite been able to match the charisma of this one. It'll be interesting to see whether in the future, the Singham franchise tackles more serious issues like reform in police forces, or the nexus between the state and police, in an elaborate manner than it being just a sub-plot. There is so much more that the makers can do with this iconic character, who has such a large fan-following. And I am sure director Rohit Shetty is aware of the legacy that the franchise carries for him. He should come up with better plots than the ones we have watched over the past few years.