A sequel (or prequel but as it is Singam II we're talking about, I'll stick to sequel) to a successful film is always a tough act to follow. The challenges are many. The film has to take the story forward convincingly, has to be bigger and better in all departments, and most importantly be able to withstand the hangover and expectations from the first part. The Godfather, Part II and The Dark Knight are but two rare examples against the grain where the sequels were even better than the first instalments. Singam II, like most of its ilk, is not.
While I am no big fan of the original Singam, I have to to concede Director Hari still raised it somewhat above the standard '80s style Masala film with some interesting touches in his screenplay, particularly giving Duraisingam a more believable human dimension between the action sequences. He has his moments of breakdowns, of insecurity, wants to quit when the villain humiliates him in his Police Station, is convinced by the girl to stay back and fight, had a male colleague's death to deal with, and though I didn't really like Prakash Raj's stereotyped villain character too much and felt the story then needed a more dangerous and deadlier villain, he still made a much better nemesis for Suriya to vanquish. And at least there was some element of cat and mouse play and highly charged confrontations between the two to keep things going on a dramatic level. Anushka too had an important role to play in the proceedings and somewhere, the 'masala blend' was done cleverly. Singam II fails on all these counts.
While the story does take off from the first part, the continuity in other aspects takes a back seat, mostly with the central character. Duraisingam is now nothing less than a superman, characterisations and logic take a further beating, and a semblance of a plot is put together to make it bigger (but not better) by focussing just on the action side and little else. So we have multiple idiotic and even clownish villains, cardboard caricatures all, and their equally silly henchman for Duraisingam to battle, and for much of the film, he gets to scream, run, jump (in slow motion of course), thrash, shoot no matter what the odds without so much as a hair going out of place. All this, in the name of being a MASS hero, and the film a MASS entertainer. And with the lack of a truly deadly villain, Duraisingam's battles and victories are hollow and not as satisfactory as they should have been. We never really see Duraisingam with his back to the wall at any time to make his overcoming the so called obstacles in his path that much more exciting and heroic. Particularly his confrontation with the main villain, Danny. Again poorly characterized with giving him inane dialogue like "I'm the King of an Indian Ocean!", there is but one clash before the interval and one disappointing climax scene where he gets his comeuppance - That's it. What made James Bond fun for instance was not just the action or Bond, it was also the Bond girls, the deadly and even if comic well conceived villains and attention given to fleshing out even the smaller recurring characters.
Everything else and every other character barring Santhanam who is riding a huge, huge wave of success, is wasted and treated by the story as functionary. Consequently, little thought has gone into most of their scenes except as them being there as necessary evils to the commercial entertainer. This is a little surprising as normally Hari does concentrate on his screenplays to give them that extra edge and repeat value within the commercial entertainer category and blend the elements of action, romance, comedy and emotion pretty well. And since the romantic, and emotional scenes are far and few in between, though Hari has kept things moving rapidly with a lot of events, how much can you take of the hero continuously screaming at the baddies and beating them scene after scene with little relief. It numbs you after a while and disengages you from the film and you begin to feel its 2 hours 46 minutes length. Even if the odd action sequence is well executed, they all have been designed as '80s set pieces where the hero beats up multiple people without so much as a scratch, and nor does a single bullet get him, with a shipload of people shooting at him. To make things worse, with the 'relief' sequences (barring Santhanam to an extent as mentioned), being treated just for basic functionality in the plot, there is no really good scene in the romantic, or emotional department - the only connect with Duraisingam's human quotient - and they consequently act as bad speed breakers in the otherwise fast moving plot. So, it's really a double edged sword that cuts the film from both sides - you get numbed by the repetitive action sequences and feel the narrative has all but come to a halt in most of the sequences in between. Incidentally, what was that scene with the reference to Jalianwala Baag???
What saves the film from falling flat is Suriya. He is too good an actor to be bad and goes through his role energetically and efficiently. He did once say that every film of his would at least have ten minutes of something new for him to show his fans as an actor. That way, Singam II has nothing. He does exude a great screen presence and, in fact, the few non-action and non-screaming scenes do show you the fine actor in him. Otherwise, for all his roaring performance, there's just so much you can take of his shouting and angry facial contortions scene after scene and his laughable Hindi in the D scene. Ok, so Hindi cinema is still far away and dubbed versions of his films will have to do. His hard work shows in the film and at the same time, you realize the desperation in him to get that big hit post the disappointments of Rattha Charithram, 7Aum Arivu and Maattrraan. He has also gone out of his way to market this film well and ensured he kept himself in the news right up to and even after the release of the film.
Barring Santhanam, who has his moments, none of the other actors make any sort of impact. In fact, you feel sorry for Anushka, who is not bad at all in the few scenes she has and to be fair, the few scenes between her and Suriya are among the better non-action scenes in the film. Hansika is yet again an embarrassment as an actress and totally unbelievable as a school girl (12th standard so should be 17, but drives a car around freely even in front of law-keeper Suriya), Vivek, Nasser, Radha Ravi, Sumithra, Manorama are all badly underutilised while the villains - Rahman, Mukesh Rishi and Danny Sapani come off the worst. And Anjali should stick to her non-glamorous performance-oriented roles. Her item number, to put it plainly, sucks big time and she looks awful.
Technically, Hari scores again in his uses of locations. Tuticorin or Thoothukudi is well exploited, some of the top angle shots of the topography of the region work well but otherwise the camerawork is routine with the usual overdoes of the ultra wide angle lens, the zoom lens and dizzying (and often unnecessary) camera movements that serve no purpose other than disengaging you from the film. The just-not-happening songs, hammering sound design and awful background score do nothing for the film. In fact, the poor music and the pedestrian song picturizations take a lot away from the repeat value of the film. The few places, where Hari tries to be technically 'cool' with split-screen and all, don't work at all.
Overall, Singam II fails to live up to hype and expectations but I've said it earlier, I'll say it now - all this and logic or lack of it does not matter in a big budget Star film in the South, and the buzz it creates at the time of its release. With its huge opening, the film could go on to block buster status, especially with two clear weeks at the box office. However, it is stereotypical films like this that work as speed breakers at the cost of some of the very innovative and fresh work that Tamil cinema is doing today to break out of formulaic conventions. And that really, to me, is the bigger disappointment.