Synopsis – A socially criticized girl who is financially cornered, becomes an outlaw to dodge the situation.
My Take – Coming out of this film, one wishes that this Kangana Ranaut starrer wasn’t swirling around in as much controversy as it is. Personally I prefer to talk & appreciate the antics of an actor/actresses on screen rather than a bizarre showcase of being a motor mouth off screen. It’s not that I don’t agree with most of the topics Ms. Ranaut forces the industry to talk about such Nepotism, but with a strong casing behind you work does make a strong mark, for example Aamir Khan, who continues to shock as well as leave us in awe. Yet it cannot be denied that Ms. Ranaut, who has starred in 11 films in the past 4 years, out of which only 3 were successful (including the now controversial Krissh 3), as someone who’s fought hard to attain her current standing in the industry that she’d seek not to consolidate but to explore. Here teaming up with director Hansal Mehta, still fresh after the critical success of Aligarh (2016), Ranaut hopes to serve us an intriguing criminal story. Rather away from a usual grandly Bollywood tragic back story behind a crime, this tale is made of an ordinary story inspired by a spate of somewhat run-of-the-mill real-life bank robberies in the US in recent years, including the most prominent of the lot: the drama surrounding the woman who came to be known as America’s Bombshell Bandit, a young, glamorous Punjabi Sikh nurse called Sandeep Kaur who robbed a string of banks over a five-week period in the summer of 2014, before being arrested by the police following a high-speed highway car chase. Without a doubt, this is a highly unusual film that manages to pack in some surprises, but unfortunately there are so few and far in between, the flaws manage to supersede everything else including a delightful central performance.
If you’re a Kangana Ranaut fan and going to watch this film thinking the experience would be like Queen and Tanu weds Manu Returns then prepare to be heavily disappointed cause in reality, it’s far from it and just average at best. The story follows Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut), a 30-year-old divorcee of Gujarati origin who is working in the housekeeping services department of an Atlanta hotel. Praful lives with her conservative middle-class parents, a grouchy father (Hiten Kumar) who runs a small business and her mother who is a housewife (Kishori Shahane). She is a blithe spirit who does not want to be tied down by tradition and meaningless customs, and she’s feeling suffocated by their narrow vision for her life when we first meet her. Praful is hard working and is gradually saving the money needed to buy a house in which she hopes to live unencumbered by Dad’s nagging and the pressure they both place on her to get married to Sameer (Sohum Shah). However, a visit to Las Vegas with a cousin changes her life forever as she wins some money at a casino and gets hooked & before she knows what hit her though, she is on a losing streak. Instead of quitting while she’s ahead, she returns, loses her winnings, then her deposit on the house. Drunk and desperate, she borrows $32,000 from a Vegas loan shark (Jason Louder). Unsurprisingly, she loses that too. Her dream house sold to someone else, with no savings to dip into and her sourpuss father refusing to help out, and thugs knocking on her door asking her to pay back, turns this seemingly ordinary person into someone she could never imagine. This is no “coming of age” or “seeking / finding redemption” story. It is the story of an unapologetic, even stupid, character. But, as an after-thought, I realized that it is only a slight, figurative exaggeration of some of the people we know. To the film’s credit, Praful’s frustration comes across as real and believable. It’s not overly sentimentalized but you can feel it under your skin nevertheless, as any conversation with her parents invariably becomes about, “Why don’t you meet this good boy we know?” As Praful sinks into a couch in a house she’s about to buy to lead an independent life, she doesn’t say anything. But you see the pride and near disbelief on her face. What I enjoyed most about this film is that it has no pretensions to largeness, nor does it make any effort to lionize or romanticize Praful or her life. To do so would have been easy because it is a natural human reaction to draw consolation from discovering that a criminal emerged from misery. The thing about Praful is that she does not look like the heroine of a crime saga. She is not someone else who you expect to hear of only in the news media or fiction. She is Everywoman. She could well be you or me gone wrong. This is not to suggest that she has it easy — she does not. Yet it is fair to say that she has not suffered any great pain, poverty, affliction or persecution. Her struggles too could well be yours or mine. It is interesting then to watch how easily and quickly she turns to crime, beginning with the most naturally written, directed and enacted scene you can imagine.
However, director Hansal Mehta, like many noir-and art cinema-inspired makers, foolishly ventures into the challenging realms of mainstream cinema and, like many superior talents, crash lands. The script is juvenile, over-simplistic when convenient, and fails to create empathy, sympathy or a connect with Praful. It’s a beautifully shot film but the plot, despite being innovative, is frankly too convenient. In its bait to pepper the story with breeziness, the writers – Kangana and Apurva Asrani, forget to layer the leading lady Praful Patel’s personality enough. There is no depth to her; her reasons are far from being well etched out, that, along with the very fact that the film is a loosely edited works against the multiple plusses of it. The story is delicious but the screenplay needed more weight and the direction required a sharper eye. Many of the dialogues are catchy and delivered with precision. I love a good gray character and watching Praful dig herself into a hole was certainly not boring. A few scenes stay with you but its mostly underwhelming. By intermission, you’ll find yourself invested in the story which usually for film critics is a risky zone. Like always, the feeling is a mere prelude to a disappointing second hour. Director Hansal Mehta has taken oodles of cinematic liberty to create situations and trying to pass them as existent. Praful’s character, however, is a well-etched one. He manages to make the lives of the Indian Diaspora – their values, struggles, fears look real. The two issues I found with the screenplay were that it takes an entire hour to get to that point where our protagonist is in trouble. And the second thing was the way which she was robbing the banks. I don’t know what really happened in the real story, but here it looked really silly. At one level, the film is also an insult to our intelligence. Despite Praful carrying out many bank robberies (more easily than we all legally withdraw money!), no one ever spots the culprit’s automobile number as there is not a soul outside the banks (and no one is rushing out) when Praful runs away in her car. No camera ever records her automobile registration number plate, and then suddenly, when the director decides to end this saga, they do, and the cops reach her home. Praful escapes and later surrenders on a lonely road. Why? That, too, has a laughable explanation! The pace falls, the choppy editing is glaring at our faces and it’s hard to wrap your head around how conveniently the story is finished off. In fact, one of the major problems in the film is that none of the robberies seem believable. They are conveniently done. It is difficult to believe that an amateur robber does a good job of easily scraping through each of them without many hiccups. Yes, the film at many places requires you to suspend your belief and surrender to the story they have to tell. For most part, Ranaut manages to keep you well occupied to be able to notices the flaws but then, an actor can’t cover what doesn’t fall under the purview of her job. The direction felt limp at places; especially the shabbily done chase sequence was a downer. There is too much romance between Praful and her suitor, which seemed out of place and needless. The character of Sameer seems more of an excuse to introduce some songs into a narrative that could have existed without them. It breaks the tautness of the material and the rhythm of the story. The bad guys (moneylenders) are never fearsome and are reduced to caricature figures who fail to evoke any fear. Yet, the film is an out and out watch out for its star Kangana! Kangana‘s cute expressions, her innocence, and her bold dialogues give life to the film. She is goofy, adorable, reckless, aimless and yet utterly charming. Sohum Shah from Ship of Theseus is likable, so is the rest of the supporting cast that is filled with talented actors. On the whole, ‘Simran‘ is a sloppy & tedious film despite a spectacular Kangana Ranaut performance.
Directed – Hansal Mehta
Rated – PG
Run Time – 124 minutes