Simmba (2018) Review!!

Synopsis – Simmba, a Corrupt Officer, enjoys all the perks of being an immoral and unethical police officer until a life-changing event forces him to choose the righteous path.

My Take – Every commercially successful Bollywood director has certain style which distinguishes them from the others in the mix, and Rohit Shetty is no different. Known for his loud, crass and over the top entertainers like the four Golmaal films, two Singham films, and of course the Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone led blockbuster, Chennai Express, Rohit Shetty films follow a similar template: a thumping background score, bloodthirsty cops, somersaulting cars, machismo, vigilante justice and a textbook villain. All taken from a page out of the 80s era. However, with the failure of his 2015 film, Dilwale, despite the presence of an A list cast and his usual antics, it seemed like the audience had moved on, but three years, it seems like he has re-discovered his mojo.

Don’t get me wrong, his latest offering, an official remake of the 2015 Telugu blockbuster Temper, with Ranveer Singh in the lead, who he had earlier directed in a couple of over the top commercials for Ching Noodles, offers the same set of elements we have seen before, but this time around he doesn’t forget to unabashedly entertain.

Though the film which is also acting as the latest installment in the Ajay Devgn led Singham franchise, is not without its faults – from nonsensical scenes to exaggerated ones – it looks nothing short of a repackaged 80’s film. But is it the stress buster film we wanted to watch at the end of the year? Definitely. Watching Ranveer Singh as the Bollywood-loaded cop is a complete delight and if you a knack for Rohit Shetty directed films, then this might just be your perfect weekend watch.

The story follows Sangram Bhalerao aka Simmba (Ranveer Singh), an orphan who from a very young age believes earning money by hook or crook is the only purpose in life. While he hails from Shivgadh, which also happens to be the hometown of the righteous police office, Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn), who has gained fame for the violent streak he goes into for justice, Simmba, however, sees the police uniform as his easiest ticket to earn more money, and is usually more interested in serving himself than the society.

New opportunities begin to surface when he earns a lucrative posting in Miramar, Goa, and finds his way into joining hands with Dhurva Ranade (Sonu Sood), a local gang lord, who along with his younger brothers are into every illegal business in the city. He quickly also falls in love with Shagun (Sara Ali Khan), a café owner who supplies lunch to the police station, and also becomes a de facto elder brother to Aakruti (Vaidehi Parshurami), a medical student who spends her nights teaching underprivileged children for free.

While everything seems to be going as smoothly as Simmba could imagine, his world shatters when Aakruti is brutally raped and killed by Dhurva’s brothers for stumbling upon their drug smuggling ring. Furious at the heart-wrenching crime, Simmba lets go of all his fraudulent and launches his pursuit of justice, making sure he delivers a heavy blow to Dhurva and his brothers from every right and left corner.

If you speak about fresh content, well, there have been umpteen films based on rape-revenge, and bad cop turning good, so the film has nothing new to offer on that spectrum. However, the film still manages to please its audience, with the director Rohit Shetty‘s now well-known larger than life setup. Here, he clearly plays to his strengths –the comic sequences in particular, are hilarious. What really engages you in this film are Rohit Shetty‘s characteristic melodrama and the fast-paced action sequences, witty dialogues replete with puns and spontaneous performances by its ace cast. The first half of the film is a tad long but entertains nevertheless.

There are umpteen one-liners and puns that make you laugh like crazy. You even begin to like Sangram Bhalerao’s even though he’s is completely unethical. Director Shetty does really well here by adding the commercial bells and whistles complete with song-dance, action and emotionally-charged sequences that are critical to a film driven by sheer star power. A well-calculated cameo by Ajay Devgn is designed to send the crowds in a frenzy as is a surprise appearance by a certain Veer Suryavanshi (Akshay Kumar) at the end.

However, things change in the second half as the tone of the film turns from comedy to serious. Despite the change, the film manages to hold your attention. Picking up nuggets from real life events, the film mirrors society brilliantly. Hats off to the film for hammering those messages again which India as a nation really wants to know: Why do we prefer sons over daughters? Why we don’t teach our sons to respect women? Why do we give too much freedom to our sons in their growing up years? It delivers middle-class life lessons in a blatantly effective manner.

As an audience, the only way to know if a film of this sort is working , is when you find yourself smiling, responding, and along with a packed theater, reacting to shenanigans on screen-whether they entirely make sense or not isn’t the point.  While the script is very predictable, it manages to keeps you glued on, and this is how I caught this picture, with folks whistling, clapping, making loud noises, and then going quiet, during dramatic sequences. While most will find the film silly to a point but overall, most would agree that this film is pretty good, artistic and a bonafide comedic masterwork; produced as a matter of form but not-without-its-innovations and pleasures.

However if there is one flaw which the film never manages to overcome is its portrayal of woman characters. Here, all the women characters are either someone’s wife or daughter or sister, except for Shagun. The biggest irony of the film is that it speaks about women empowerment yet takes away the agency from all the female characters. If they are seen doing something bold then that is because Bhalerao or other savior men have pushed them on. They need saving and are at a constant need for help. At their best, the women characters are restricted to the kitchen or feeding the always-at-work policemen. At their worst they are either being chided or are pleading for help. One of the two female characters who do not is killed off and the other disappears in the second half.

Coming to Sara Ali Khan – she has a screen presence of a total of half hour tops, including the songs, which is sad, considering Sara has already proved with her debut, Kedarnath, that even at such a young age she has the screen presence and acting prowess to carry an underwhelming film. Here, Sara Ali Khan‘s Shagun conveniently disappears in the second half. She could well have been removed from the film and it would not have made a difference. It is rather sad because she is the only fully independent, economically sound female character. The fact that Sara Ali Khan‘s Shagun was so underutilized is a red flag for director Shetty‘s inability to create good female characters.

Nevertheless the film ultimately works because director Rohit Shetty is able to draw fantastic performances from Ranveer Singh and the supporting cast. Here, Ranveer Singh‘s spark and energy keeps this rather clichéd story alive and kicking. He completely surrenders himself completely to his role and unabashedly milks the gamut of emotions essential for a true blue Hindi film hero–from rib-tickling comedy, bone-breaking action to intense emotional moments with complete ease. Such is the presence of Singh that one cannot dislike Bhalerao’s ugly way of doing things. While most things are clearly black and white, it is Singh‘s demeanor that places them in the grey area.

Like I mentioned above, Sara Ali Khan has not much to do in the film, but yet her presence is so strong that you miss her in the latter half of the film. As a confident new addition to the Hindi film heroine category she will benefit from being part of this film that threatens to become a massive franchise. Sonu Sood continues to play the bad guy we love to hate. Once again he is awesome! In supporting roles, Ashutosh Rana‘s grumpy and honest constable is one of the finest, focused characters in the film and Siddharth Jadhav‘s sidekick role is as much fun as Singh. As expected, Ajay Devgn‘s smashing (quite literally) cameo in the final portions of the film is excellent. On the whole, ‘Simmba’ is an unapologetically loud and hilariously fun entertainer accentuated by Ranveer Singh‘s superstar making performance.

Directed – Rohit Shetty

Starring – Sara Ali Khan, Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 158 minutes

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