'Speedy Singhs' An Old Tune...
By MovieTalkies.com, 24 September 2011
Perhaps director Robert Lieberman should have caught up on a viewing of Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, before he got started on Speedy Singhs. If nothing else, at least then, he wouldn't have made the same movie over again.
Also called Breakaway in its internationally released version, a viewing of Speedy Singhs reveals that there is simply no breaking away from clichés for sports movies starring NRI characters in Bollywood. Whether you take Bend It Like Beckham, or the recent Patiala House, or Speedy Singhs, now, it seems as though every ultra-talented NRI sportsperson has to deal with an angry, non-understanding father who just can't get past the generational gap and let the kid play. Instead of striking it big in football, cricket or ice hockey, as in Speedy Singhs, the father would much rather have his child become a doctor, or succeed him in the family business, or even work at the gurdwara (they're always Sikh).
The similarities between Bend It and Speedy Singhs are uncanny, exasperated by the fact that the father in both films is played by Anupam Kher again. In fact, you have to wonder for a second, whether the Mohan Singh Bhamra of Bend It didn't leave London for Toronto and start life over again as the Darvesh Singh of Speedy Singhs, only to have history repeat itself with a rebel son. In that case, with so many rebellious children, Anupam Kher must be the unluckiest father in films.
If you go by the plot, Speedy Singhs truly offers nothing new, touching upon every trope in the book. Rajveer Singh (Vinay Virmani) is the eldest son of sardar Darvesh Singh (Anupam Kher), who lives with his wife and kids in Toronto, Canada. While Darvesh works in his younger brother Satvinder Singh's (Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi) transport company, dreaming of his son taking over some day, Rajveer dreams only of playing in the ice hockey big leagues. The boy is talented, but his father is dead-set against the sport. Ultimately, the son rebels, putting together a rag-tag bunch of sardars together in a team to participate in the league. To coach them, they find the hockey rink caretaker, Dan Winters (Rob Lowe), who could never make it big himself, while Rajveer pursues Dan's sister Melissa (Camilla Belle). In between, Rajveer and his family deal with racism, brings in a big fat Punjabi shaadi between Satvinder Singh's daughter Reena (Noureen DeWulf) and Sonu (Russell Peters), who Rajveer has to compete with for inheritance. Of course, eventually, everything resolves itself nicely, in the most predictable fashion, with a bow on top.
What works in a way for Speedy Singhs, though, is the light-handed approach that director Lieberman takes with his film. Given the subject matter, Bollywood would have easily made a melodramatic hash of things; take Patiala House as proof. Lieberman, on the other hand, keeps things light, inserting jokes even in serious situations, and doesn't invest too much into building up the conflict between the father and son, or otherwise. Indeed, this approach allows things to move at a much quicker, or, if you prefer, 'speedier' pace than they would have, the film wrapping up in just over two hours.
The film's performances are also a fine plus for it. Vinay Virmani as Rajveer cultivates some interest in his character, with the ease that he plays it with. Though he could do with some polish, for the most part, Virmani stays comfortable in his role. Anupam Kher is fine as ever in his fatherly role. Russell Peters plays a grey character, but manages to garner quite a few laughs. Noureen DeWulf is charming, while Camilla Belle is more than an eyeful, with acting talent to boot. Gurpreet Ghuggi does fine in his role as Uncle Satvinder 'Sammy', while Sakina Jaffrey is great in her role as Rajveer's mother.
Still, performances alone can't save a predictable film. If you look at it, Speedy Singhs touches upon every trope possible with sports films, with a supertalented lead player who puts together a random bunch of people together to form a team, to take on their evil nemesis in the opposing team; a father who doesn't understand and a son who follows his heart anyway, a disillusioned coach who could never make the cut himself, and now lives vicariously through his team, and even delivers a big, inspiring speech at the end pointing out how they've come together.
Though it has some good performances and interesting handling from director Robert Lieberman, Speedy Singhs ultimately suffers because it offers nothing new to the audiences. Moreover, with so many generic set pieces in the narrative, it seems like Speedy Singhs climbed the cliché tree and hit every branch on its way down. Clearly, in this case, Speedy Singhs an old tune...!