Cast: Bharath, Premgi Amaren, Swathi Deekshith
Director: Arvind Shridhar
Simba, touted to be Tamil cinema’s first stoner film, begins very promisingly. An old man climbs the stairs to the terrace of a tall, under-construction building. He lights up a fat one as he inches close to the edge, and voices, as though from heaven, call out to him invitingly. But he fumbles and drops the joint, much to his dismay. Not one to give up, he jumps off the building and catches the joint mid-air to make it on time for that one last drag. He’s high as a kite even as he falls to the lowest point of life.
The kitschy production values that make up this prologue only add to films of this genre and we’re nicely primed for a ride on this Pineapple Express. Later, we see Mahesh (Bharath) light up his first doobie with the blessing of his deceased grandfather. Minutes, hours, weeks and months go by but Mahesh hasn’t moved an inch. We’re meant to see the world through Mahesh’s glassy eyes, where concepts of time and logic don’t really apply. So when his neighbor drops off Premgi Amaren in a dog suit for Mahesh to look after, we totally buy into the conceit that he’s supposed to be a Great Dane.
Though borrowed generously from the lovely American show, Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood, it’s clear why anyone would want to rip it off to make a Tamil version. There are a million things one can do with such a delicious setting, doubly so because most rules of screenwriting don’t apply to a stoner comedy. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to watch a buddy movie about a man and, well, man’s best friend? I found the idea of Simba (Premgi) being madly in love with actress Trisha’s dog hilarious. Even the general idea of a man and his dog getting together to “chase tail” is rather funny. But there’s a problem, Simba starts taking itself seriously.
Mahesh falls for Simba’s owner Madhu and the film suddenly becomes a love story. Even the joints take a back seat, which is a major issue, because Simba, as a character stops making sense if it’s no longer a stoner film. There’s a terrible sub-plot involving Madhu and her boss who might have a thing for her. There’s another with Mahesh, a rich chick and ecstasy pills, which again, doesn’t quite fit in. Throw in half a dozen rape jokes and it degenerates into yet another badly-written Tamil comedy. We have a problem when we realize that the dog character is just a gimmicky stand-in for a Santhanam or a Soori and the “nanbenda sentiment”. It becomes a film that fails its genre, never becoming the film it promised to be. Usually, “what was the director smoking?” is the question we’re left with after exiting a bad movie. But with Simba, it’s different. The director perhaps wasn’t smoking enough.