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Himalaya Singh

From left to right: Cecilia Cheung, Francis Ng, Ronald Cheng, Cherrie Ying, and Lau Ching-Wan
Chinese: 喜馬拉亞星
Year: 2005
Director: Wai Ka-Fai
Producer: Wai Ka-Fai
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai
Cast: Lau Ching-Wan, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Wong Yau-Nam, Tsui Tin-Yau, Shing Fui-On, Lee Siu-Kei, Tommy Wong Kwong-Leung, Sanatan Mody, Gauri S. Kamik, Donald Tong Kim-Hong, Siu Yeah-Jim
The Skinny: This Lunar New Year flick is actually not as bad as advertised. Still, that's a relative measure because Himalaya Singh is universally reviled. Oddly, the film is a lot like last year's enjoyable Fantasia...except it's much worse.
by Kozo:

If you think your cinema tolerance is unusually high, then Himalaya Singh is for you. A hodgepodge of movie parodies, vaguely meaningful Hindu mythology, and over-the-top everything else, this Lunar New Year film echoes last year's Fantasia in that it takes a cast of pretty big stars, has them act silly, and supposes that it all means something. Both films are completely weightless, and both feature a pronounced manic tone that could leave you exhausted. However, Himalaya Singh is much worse than Fantasia - which is mystifying because really, the two films are quite alike. Where did writer-director-producer-scapegoat Wai Ka-Fai go wrong?

Ronald Cheng leads the cast as Himalaya Singh, a sheltered dope born in the Himalayas. Singh has attained the highest stage of Yoga, and is sent out into the world by his parents (both also played by Ronald Cheng). His supposed mission is to marry the cloyingly-named India Beauty (Gauri S. Kamik), but Singh falls in with a Chinese beauty instead: Tally (Cherrie Ying), an undesirable wannabe bride who thinks Singh should be hers. Too bad he's promised to India Beauty, a fact that sends her into a maniacal tizzy. Her plan: to turn Singh into a bastard who will mistreat India Beauty, thereby exacting revenge on the girl who gets the guys instead of her. Singh goes along because his dad told him to try being a bad guy, with the caveat that Singh can take a memory loss potion to erase the memory of his evil deeds. Of course, Papa Singh doesn't seem to care about collateral damage, i.e. all the people affected by his son's possible misdeeds; he just supports being a bad guy because it's good experience. That's parenting for you.

Meanwhile, Lau Ching-Wan is an unlucky Hong Kong bloke on tour in India with his two nephews (Wong Yau-Nam and Tsui Tin-Yau, AKA Shine). The nephews get sidetracked when they fall in with Francis Ng, a fellow traveler whose adventurous spirit causes all three to drink the same memory loss potion mentioned above. The result: they can't remember who the hell they are, and embark on a series of meaningless adventures punctuated by Francis Ng overacting. Thanks to the memory loss potion, Ng gets to pull the occasional Memento joke, plus he gets the opportunity to take on various personalities, including a Japanese Yakuza, an Indian expatriate, and finally Himalaya Singh himself. Ng's performance is actually fairly decent, and he, Ronald Cheng, and even Cherrie Ying manage amusing and effective performances. Just because they're acting inane and insane doesn't mean we should necessarily knock their effort.

However, all amusement is thrown out the window with the arrival of Lau Ching-Wan's character, a thinly-veiled knockoff of Mr. Bean. What that means is Lau mugs, mugs, and mugs some more in the service of a character that's mostly clueless and all annoying. After getting separated from his nephews, he ends up falling into a hallucinatory love affair with Peacock (Cecilia Cheung), an ethereal beauty whose entire shtick is to parody as many movies as possible. Somewhere in Time, Titanic, Kill Bill, Indiana Jones, and more get skewered, though none of the jokes are really anything more than curious distractions. Lau does a reasonable job as the Mr. Bean clone, but there's one big problem: this is Lau Ching-Wan, who shouldn't be wasting his time with Rowan Atkinson's leftovers. Still, Lau gets two love interests; besides Peacock, he also romances India Beauty, which leads to his inclusion in a massive yoga competition to win India Beauty's hand in marriage. Cue a massive yoga race, featuring CGI that's reputedly state-of-art, but really doesn't look like it. Apparently, somebody bought their computer graphics workstations at Walmart.

The above might sound amusing to some...though if you're one of those people, you should make an appointment at your local mental health practitioner pronto. Then again, Fantasia didn't sound that amusing either: three private-eye brothers encounter weirdness with a genie dressed up like Harry Potter, a couple of beehive-hairdoed juvenile delinquents, and finally a CGI monster that was more silly than scary-looking. The big difference: Fantasia was based on the beloved Hong Kong cinema of the sixties and seventies, and even the CGI monster had a basis in past HK lore (it was the icon for a "clean up Hong Kong" anti-litter campaign). The stars of Fantasia were playing the Hui brothers, Josephine Siao, and Shek Kin, and even the pseudo-hopeful message at the end of Fantasia had local grounding. It's no wonder that Fantasia struck a chord with local audiences because it was really about Hong Kong.

Conversely, Himalaya Singh isn't about Hong Kong, and it's definitely not about India. Instead, it's a completely random hodgepodge of jokes with no rhyme or reason, and after a good ninety minutes of such pointless silliness, a person could become insane if not agitated and downright murderous. Movie parodies are sometimes cool, but the ones here are thrown upon the audience with all the cloying referential lameness of a Wong Jing production. The lone exception to this: the large parody of Somewhere in Time, which is notable because it's not a very recent movie (it came out in 1980), and has no long-term cultural significance. Those who saw the film might find the parody to be worth a few giggles, but it's still nothing worth writing home about. In fact, nothing here is that interesting or affecting at all, which makes the final message of Himalaya Singh (like Fantasia, the film has a psuedo-hopeful message) completely useless. When the "Go humanity!" ending rolls around, Wai Ka-Fai seems to either be A) kidding himself, or B) rubbing our faces in it. You decide.

Overall, Himalaya Singh is a decent curiosity for HK Cinema completists, and really, it's not as bad as Where's Mama's Boy or The Spy Dad. It's just tiresome and annoying, and does nothing to make its continuous sensory assault worthwhile. Fans of some of the stars might be okay (Cherrie Ying parades around in numerous midriff-revealing outfits, yay), and the locations and costumes are pleasing to look at. At the very least, Himalaya Singh actually seems to improve as the film goes on, but that's a relative measure. Considering the first 30 minutes are interminable, a slight improvement for the remainder of the running time is like dislocating your finger after breaking a limb. Basically, it's not so bad in comparison, but it still sucks. To add insult to injury, Himalaya Singh is currently 2005's highest-grossing Hong Kong film (HK$15 million as of May 2005)! The terrible sadness of this cannot be properly expressed. (Kozo 2005)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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