Over the past couple of years, my wife and I have attended a part of the Fantasia Film Festival up in Montreal. It’s a movie fest that stretches over three weeks from late July to early August. They show over a hundred feature films during the fest, most of them falling in the horror, science fiction, and Asian action genres, although there are some more serious Asian films thrown into the mix, along with a smattering of straight ahead, lower-budget, American action flocks. Most of the film showings are packed, with a number of them selling out. And the audiences are wonderful.
We started out our week of films by watching a Japanese feature, NOWHERE GIRL, a live action movie directed by the same guy who made GHOST IN THE SHELL many years ago. The movie began slowly, and oddly, and became odder still. It is the sort of film that has a central revelation that changes the very nature of everything in the movie, and can’t be talked about without spoiling the film, but at the end of it we (and a couple folks around us) decided that it actually worked and was well worth our time.
The next movie was SINGHAM RETURNS, an action film from India. The simplest description of this film would be to think of DIRTY HARRY with a disco score and dance numbers. And it’s the sort of movie that really benefits from an enthusiastic audience.
Singham is, of course, an honest cop fighting against a corrupt system. He had a team of honest cops behind him, but, whenever it is time for real action, Singham goes it alone. You know the big action is coming because the twangy guitars start up (sort of like the theme from SHAFT) and a mostly female chorus begins to shout “Singham! Singham!” These scenes are helped immensely when the entire audience starts to clap along to the beat.
Then, of course, Singham punches out the bad guys. But he doesn’t throw your every-day, garden-variety punches. Oh no. When Singham hits someone, they twirl around or go flying across the room, all to the ecstatic chant of “Singham! Singham!” It’s pretty great.
There’s a plot in here somewhere, mostly about bogus holy men who are criminals in disguise, and the female lead (eventually Singham’s fiance) has great comic timing. But the audience waits for those moments when Singham has had enough, and he says (in English) “I am losing it!” Cue the twangy guitars and chanting chorus, with the entire audience clapping along. The bad guys don’t stand a chance.
After watching this movie, I spoke to someone who had seen SINGHAM RETURNS in the states, and thought it was just an average Bollywood film. But seeing this film with a packed, cheering crowd made all the difference. I would like to watch it again sometime, but I’d have to invite a dozen friends over, and encourage them to clap and cheer at every opportunity.
The film’as final dance number, which plays as the credits roll, features maybe a hundred eight-to-ten year old boys, all dressed like Singham, and all shouting “I am losing it!” to that Bollywood bhangra beat. It makes the film even better.