What does a hard-working blue-collar Gujju woman, divorced, living with disappointed parents trying to save money to buy a property in minority housing do when she unexpectedly wins $2000 gambling? She buys a beautiful siren red off-shoulder dress for $400 and a $50 matching lipstick to go with it. Most of the remaining money also goes into a shopping spree and salon visit. Everyone likes to feel attractive and desired, more so when in Las Vegas, and this film’s protagonist Praful Patel is no different. What a baseball cap and fast-fashion dress couldn’t do at the first attempt, her red dress and lipstick help with the next day – get her into bed with the man she had her eyes on.

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That off-screen (and especially at airports) Kangana Ranaut is a style icon is not in question, but unlike a Sonam Kapoor or Deepika Padukone she hasn’t had many opportunities to hike up the fashion quotient on screen. Her key roles have been mainly character driven and so is this one. For a mainstream Bollywood film based in the United States, the lack of ‘fashion’ here makes as much of a statement.

Simran isn’t a Karan Johar film – no sheen and gloss of hip characters in designer togs navigating life in the beautiful locales of a foreign country. Her story is of middle class immigrants in America and her daily outfits reflect her priorities and struggles. Playing a housekeeper working at a hotel chain doesn’t anyway allow too many high fashion outings, but in this case the detailing and layers are left to her complex character not her wardrobe. To be found in what is almost her off-duty uniform, shirts over tank top and jeans with sneakers, Patel is about comfort and utility. Even her watch is plastic digital, while her cheap and cheerful embroidered and tasseled handbag provides the Gujarati touch. She could wear make-up to work, her colleagues seem to, but Patel and has no time for feminine flourishes in her day-to-day life.

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Even when she is courting this nice Gujarati man her parents have set her up with, with Arijit Singh crooning in the background, she doesn’t play dress up – her trusty sneakers and bare face making their own kind of style (and character) statement. It is only in the headiness of Vegas that she transforms (besides when robbing banks, when she literally transforms in coloured wigs), and we get a glimpse of what Patel could be if life were not so complicated – someone with great taste who loves playing dress up as much as the next girl.

 

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