Simmba movie review: Ranveer Singh's pizzazz is lost to a clichéd women's rights saga that sidelines women
Simmba is loud, steeped in clichés and has nothing going for it apart from the leading man, Ranveer Singh's comic flair
castRanveer Singh, Sonu Sood, Ashutosh Rana, Sara Ali Khan, Ajay Devgn, Vipin Sharma, Sree Swara Dubey, Sulbha Arya, Guest Appearances By Karan Johar, Kunal Khemu, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, Shreyas Talpade, Akshay Kumar
languageHindi with Marathi
If you are a serious, intellectual sort, chances are you will judge me for admitting this, but the truth is, I enjoyed Singham. Simmba has been positioned as a spin-off of that 2011 Ajay Devgn-starrer, but Rohit Shetty — who directed the earlier film too — forgot to include in this one the panache that made Singham's melodrama and OTTness watchable and fun despite its formulaic nature.
In Simmba, Shetty replaces Devgn with Ranveer Singh, and exchanges a trigger-happy but financially clean policeman with a corrupt-as-hell cop who turns over a new leaf when a tragedy befalls him. If the earlier film took its story from Kollywood's Singham, this one turns to Tollywood's Temper for inspiration, and therein lies the problem.
Simmba is loud, steeped in clichés and has nothing going for it apart from the leading man's comic flair and willingness to lose himself in a role, however silly it may be. Those qualities make the first half somewhat enjoyable despite its dated feel on many fronts. All is lost though by the second half when the screenplay shelves comedy in favour of grim speeches by a newly minted messiah of India's beleaguered women.
Singh plays Inspector Sangram Bhalerao a.k.a. Simmba who has no qualms about admitting that he became a cop to make money. You see, as he explains in a weepy speech late into the plot, he had no loving Mummy nor a strict Daddy to give him thappads that would have set him right as a child. And so he took his cues from a bribe-taking local policeman.
The adult Simmba's avarice takes a backseat though when the hand that feeds him turns on a person he loves. Because this is post-2012 Bollywood where 'women's empowerment' is being seen as a saleable formula like any other, Simmba's battle for justice for a rape victim is embellished by a courtroom monologue on the December 2012 Delhi bus gangrape and National Crime Records Bureau statistics for rape.
Just as the Indian public and press have felt driven to lionise a dead woman as The Fearless One (i.e. Nirbhaya) to make her worth fighting for, so also Simmba's crusade is not for a mere woman who has been wronged, but for a woman he called his sister and for all the sisters and daughters of this country.
Hindi cinema has given us various live variants of Nirbhaya down the decades, from Dimple Kapadia's rape-victim-turned-avenging-Durga in Zakhmi Aurat to Sridevi's vengeful Mommy in Mom — because regular women are so darned pointless, I guess. The difference between these films and Simmba is that the Nirbhaya here is a man. Because as a junior cop tells Simmba: "Jab tak yeh rapist log ko apan policewala tthok nahin dega tab tak kucch nahin badlega." (Nothing will change until we policemen kill off these rapists.)
Don't be deceived by the apparent good intentions - women's safety is just another excuse for Shetty's macho hero to deliver speeches, take the law into his own hands, display his impressive biceps and single-handedly bash up groups of bad men.
Nothing underlines Simmba's insincerity better than the sidelining of women in a film purportedly about women's rights. Every female human in sight is a sidelight. Even Sara Ali Khan, who was so captivating in a substantial role on debut in Kedarnath, is reduced to being a pretty prop in the hero's life. You can count the number of scenes she gets on the fingers of one hand.
Not that Singham was not patriarchal in a similar fashion — it was. But at least it had memorable male supporting characters, including the lead villain played by Prakash Raj. The usually dependable Sonu Sood is wasted in Simmba as the poorly written central antagonist.
More thought is given to the cameo by Devgn, an array of guest appearances (by Karan Johar, Kunal Khemu, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, Shreyas Talpade and Akshay Kumar) and self-referential tributes to Shetty's filmography than to the entire lukewarm screenplay of Simmba.
Even Ranveer Singh's pre-interval swag deserves to be forgotten by the end of the insufferable second half. As if to add insult to injury, after pontificating about women's concerns throughout that portion, Simmba ends with the hero dancing surrounded mostly by large groups of nameless women in little skirts, with Sara Ali Khan occasionally chucked in — for variety, I suppose.
Never mind the rest of Team Simmba, Ms Khan, but you deserve better than this hypocritical nonsense.
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