The stars of Akshay Kumar’s new crossover production “Speedy Kings” descended on London this week to promote the film that is the latest in a long line of productions inspired by the twin South Asian Diaspora obsessions of Sport and Cultural Identity.
Whilst the genre is becoming increasingly stale – Akshay himself only recently produced and starred in the cricketing drama ‘Patiala House’ – “Speedy Kings” is being billed as a true crossover and has several factors working in its favour. The film features a host of stars from Bollywood, Hollywood and Canada, where the story is based. Aside from being produced by Akshay Kumar – who also makes an appearance in the film – “Speedy Kings” features international comedy sensation Russel Peters, St Elmo’s Fire star Rob Lowe, rapper Ludacris, Hollywood beauty Camille Belle and Bollywood legend Anupam Kher. And this time, the sport in question is not cricket or football, rather Ice Hockey; the national game of Canada and one which has long been dominated by tough, hard and fleet-footed men with little or no teeth.
But whilst it certainly has international crossover ambitions, the production is almost a family affair. The $56 million film has been financed by Ajay Virmani, an Indo-Canadian aviation magnate who has previously backed several Akshay Kumar productions and also joined hands with the Patiala House star to promote Canada as a tourist destination in India. The film’s protagonist – aspiring Hockey player Rajveer Singh – is played by producer Virmani’s son Vinay who also wrote the script. A co-producer credit has been given to Peters who happens to be a long-standing friend of the Virmani family.
Whilst it is easy to be cynical, the cast and crew were admirable in their optimism and hopes for the film, with Peters commenting, “I always worry about what people will think of my films but I actually LOL’d when I saw this. I actually got teary eyed when I saw the film at the Toronto International Film Festival where it premiered. The film is shot, directed and cut extremely well.” He didn’t fail to add that it was the second best film he had done after the critically acclaimed and commercially successful “Source Code”.
Whether the film will be a success in the same vein as Bend it Like Beckham remains to be seen; early previews have been encouraging, with Vinay Virmani’s performance coming in for particular praise; perhaps unsurprising given that he’s a New York Film School graduate. He has been hailed as the next big star of Bollywood and has certainly received the backing of Akshay Kumar. What’s more, Virmani has made a couple of smart initial moves, most noticeable of which is signing up for Deepa Mehta’s eagerly anticipated movie about the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914 when hundreds of Indian immigrants died after being stranded on a ship which had been turned away by Canadian immigration authorities.
The biggest boon for the movie however is the presence of Peters who, having had to play a far more sombre role in his previous motion picture outing “Source Code”, lets rip with all his might in Speedy Singhs. Being a friend of the family, it was not surprising that he was given free reign on set: “I’ve been on sets where they used to tell that I had to stick to the script but they were far more giving on this movie. I was always going for the R Rating but all they would say is that it was a family movie so would I be kind enough to pull it back a little bit please!”
His presence in the movie will not be particularly welcomed by some Indian film fans after the comic was quoted criticizing Bollywood films for being overly dramatic and superfluous. The fact that the man is outrageously funny will no doubt be his saving grace. “Bollywood’s a definite NO for me. I would do a film with Guggi (Indian comedian Gurpreet Singh who also appears in the film); a Kollywood film definitely but not Bollywood man!”
And whilst most of those gathered were more interested in the mundane aspects of the film, The UKAsian was far more intrigued to find out whether Peters really did wake up “very, very friendly in the mornings” as portrayed in one particularly memorable scene when Vinay’s character is forced to share a bed with the comic. “I’m very happy to say that even at the age of 41 I still do manage to wake up very friendly in the mornings and thank god for that!”.
Speedy Singhs opens in the UK 30th September.