"I Am Singh" is a political thriller set in the post-9/11 world. (Reliance Entertainment )
Terribly earnest and earnestly terrible, the heavy-handed Bollywood political screed "I Am Singh," from veteran actor-director Puneet Issar, begins as a passably melodramatic outpouring of post-9/11 grief. Proud Sikh Ranveer (Gulzar Chahal) flies from India to Los Angeles in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks to investigate the killing of his brother by anti-Muslim skinheads.
While there he teams up with former Sikh LAPD officer Fateh (Issar), fired for wearing his turban, and a Pakistani American (Rizwan Haider) with a woeful tale of being wrongfully accused of terrorism. The problem is that while over-the-top caricatures, garish music cues and repeated zooms into Chahal's stony eyes suggest a Bollywood version of a blaxploitation vengeance flick is at hand, what unfolds instead is a deadly dull trial and boatloads of speechifying about religious dignity, hate crimes and prejudice.
As a moralistic fake-out, it's understandable but dramatically lacking. There are songs and dance numbers, of course, which thankfully inject some energy, but even by Bollywood's standards of plot-interrupting artificiality, they seem out of place. More distracting is the general hamminess of the acting, the oddly undercutting cultural touches (all Muslims are not terrorists but apparently all non-Asian women in L.A. are blond), and the dispiriting belief that "I Am Singh" would be better off entertaining bad-movie cultists than educating the world about victimization and tolerance.