Simmba Movie Review: A Briefly Entertaining 90s-style Comedy That Morphs Into A Horribly Tone-deaf Social Drama, Film Companion

Director: Rohit Shetty

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Ajay Devgn

For the first hour, Simmba a.k.a ACP Sangram Bhalerao plays Ranveer Singh. He is boisterous, flamboyant, kitschy, vainglorious – a fun chap who is so obsessed with Bollywood that he at once parodies and pays tribute to it. The energizer bunny in him seems to constantly be winking at us and taking the mickey out of every character he meets. His mischievous grin convinces us that he is in on the joke. Miramar police station in Goa thrives on looking fake, and he is the patron saint of excesses. 

Singh is the perfect Rohit Shetty hero, if there was ever such a thing. Their union feels oddly harmonious. Unlike an SRK or Hrithik Roshan, Singh doesn’t need to “act” to be that loud, electric, OTT fellow. The eccentric gait looks strangely natural. The hamming is organic. Flying cars look like they belong with him in the same frame. The film is almost enjoyable when corrupt Simmba doesn’t take himself seriously. His entire personality is a performance. One is even tempted to forgive Dharma Productions’ inability to produce original songs; Karan Johar uttering “another remix?” before yet another dance remix is more self-reverential than self-depreciatory these days. In a sleight-of-casting trick, Ashutosh Rana is a righteous subordinate who hates Simmba’s guts so much that he hopes for a “tsunami” to befall him and jolt him out of his roguish reverie.

Like most rape-and-revenge melodramas, Simmba uses the heinous crime as a dishonest hash-tag; it is designed to exploit the current mood of a nation that often lets movies be its moral science textbooks.

I wish he hadn’t done that. He is basically willing the film to wake up, stop being a comedy and make a pensive statement. Most Hindi movie directors are terrible at making statements. They consider it their birthright to offer birdbrained solutions rather than simply examining the problems. Social message integration is where scriptwriting goes to die. And so it happens. After the first hour, Ranveer Singh promptly starts to play a Bajirao Singham protégé…and the film begins to play us. A girl is raped, the word “rape” is repeated 77238 times, Singh becomes all sincere and steely-eyed and Sunny-meets-Devgn, women magically appear in frames to ask us “what if it was your sister?” and Simmba invokes all the chest-beating, lynch-mobbish splendor of Satyamev Jayate. Which is why it is likely to earn a bazillion rupees before you finish reading this review. 

Also Watch: Rohit Shetty’s Directing Commandments

Like most rape-and-revenge melodramas, Simmba uses the heinous crime as a dishonest hash-tag; it is designed to exploit the current mood of a nation that often lets movies be its moral science textbooks. An encounter in a police station is so absurdly staged that you wonder if the cops trying to provoke the rapists by calling them “impotent” and mocking their manhood is the least offensive aspect of the scene. The film lacks not just in nuance and taste but also in self-awareness. At one point, the father of the victim mourns the sorry state of womanhood in this country while he asks a girl in the same breath to make him a nice cup of tea. At another point, Simmba decides to take matters into his own hands (one of which sports a tattoo that says “police”), weaponizes a gang of angry ladies, strides away in style and tells them to “follow me with tiffin boxes”. The irony is almost as delicious as the fish curry they cook for all the men in the film. 

Somewhere in between, Sara Ali Khan has 3.5 scenes as an orphan whose sole purpose is to be a glamorous caterer that reminds us how Simmba might have never been able to have all that swag on a hungry stomach. Sonu Sood exists to be defeated, as always. A bunch of side characters, mostly cops and politicians and preachy women, materialize whenever the camera needs to showcase a face that reflects the emotions of a scene. Or to declare how rapists should be castrated, shot and burnt alive. A lawyer in the laughably composed courtroom sequences is so bereft of subtlety that you can actually see his cheeks quiver in sync with the rubbish he must spew in the name of dialogue. Everything is fair in love and ‘masala’ cinema, I suppose. 

The most disheartening part about Simmba is its bipolar pursuit of relevance. The setup was the film; there was no need to embrace the guileless-sermon path. Just letting Singh play the fool, without hindrance, might have finally lent credence to the Rohit Shetty School of non-storytelling. A goofy, lighthearted spoof – or at least a lighter sense of self-importance – might have sufficed. I will perhaps never understand the obsession of mainstream filmmakers to pack as many genres as possible into a single movie. The shift in tone is almost always jarring. Not jarring enough to stop a director from announcing his next film – title, hero and year included – within the end-credits of his previous one, clearly. I’m worried that the next “trend” to be fictionalized might be #MeToo, which is already a hash-tag to begin with. Imagine the hypocrisy that might entail.

Rating:   star

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