A film like Rohit Shetty’s Simmba can make you wonder if anyone associated with the film has *any* politics of their own. Do they have opinions? Do they ever question anything they’ve made? Something that might go directly against their belief-system? Should we expect them to have a belief-system at all? After all, directors like Rohit Shetty have always maintained that they would choose a successful ‘bad film’ over an underwhelming ‘good film’. Meaning commercial success triumphs actual good cinema.
However, if anyone’s making an ‘issue-based’ film like Simmba, it’s safe to assume that they have *something* to say. In which case, do they ever watch their own work and completely miss the point about women’s safety when the spotlight’s softly bouncing off a man’s aesthetically twirled moustache? Do they get irony? Did they spend even a fraction of the time they spent on choreographing Ranveer Singh’s spectacular Hindi-film-ka-hero entry than they did on brainstorming on what their film implies?
Rohit Shetty’s Simmba is such a spectacularly unaware film, that the makers maybe don’t even realise the full extent of what they’re advocating. Simmba’s second half has such an unendurable, exploitative tone that the film’s dim-witted first half looks significantly better in comparison.
Rohit Shetty starts off the film with the voice of his most successful collaborator, Ajay Devgn, recounting the story of a cop the hero’s inspired by. Sangram Bhalerao a.k.a Simmba is a pint-sized firecracker, who learns the ways of the world from a young age, and realises that it’s more lucrative to become a corrupt cop than a hardworking criminal.
Ranveer Singh seems to be the only one who understands the universe he’s inhabiting. Promptly switching between rhyming schemes in Marathi to Gujarati to Hindi-laced-Marathi, Singh is loud and present from the very first scene. There’s a glint in his eye as he goes about selling us his ‘single screen’ persona. He even oozes sincerity in the superman scenes, that show him beating up a dozen men. In other words, just another day in the life of actor Ranveer Singh. And it’s nearly enjoyable, watching him ham with so much belief. It’s only after the film takes a ‘stand’ is when Ranveer Singh’s enthusiasm begins to look misplaced.
Rohit Shetty knows a thing or two about mainstream masala filmmaking. In Singham 2, Shetty nearly pulled off a decent potboiler. So as Simmba‘s first half references Temper (the original Telugu film), Shetty’s own films and has the most puerile dialogue-baazi in recent Hindi films, you cannot help but be amused by how lazy the filmmaking is. It’s the kind of a film, where the heroine’s catering service is called ‘Good Food’ and it exists right across a police station (because why not?). The two songs in the half are also ‘recreations’ of earlier ‘hit songs’.
Sara Ali Khan exists as one of the most underwritten renditions of Bollywood’s girl-next-door. She breathes only to awaken ‘tru lou’ in our hero, and for the director’s cut, always in the form of songs. In spite of all this, the first half coasts along… until a character is raped. Yes. As a plot device.
It’s already established how rape is Bollywood’s worst motivation to ‘reform’ a man and how it should have been buried with Mithun Chakroborty’s career as a leading man. But wait till you get to the *more* problematic part of how Rohit Shetty’s Simmba goes about exploiting it. Where Simmba‘s characters have spent more than two hours talking like the shadiest B-movie extras, they utter the words ‘rape’ with such shock… that it couldn’t sound more insincere and patronising. And the number of times this charade is repeated during a scene in the courtroom, it reaches cringe level in a matter of minutes.
Also, just in case we forget – a police officer *argues* his case to be granted more time to gather evidence by reading out the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau from his smartphone. And the judge patiently listens to him and honours his request. And all this happens, while the women in the film marvel at his masculinity from a distance.
Simmba is yet another Bollywood film that propels the narrative of the Indian man who not only is the one to champion women’s rights, but also only after his Ma/Behen gets involved. Ranveer Singh’s character doesn’t mind kidnapping the daughter of someone he’s supposed to coerce a signature from. It’s only after his mooh boli behen faces similar treatment when he rages. And purely one action scene is all it takes him to atone for a lifetime’s worth of slippery behaviour. He’s a Bollywood hero after all, and he obviously has a heart of gold.
Rohit Shetty, Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh can spend all their time defending ‘massy blockbusters’ and the sheer amount of BS such films are allowed them to get away with. But it’s time to start demanding accountability from such shockingly insensitive and tone-deaf filmmaking. 2019 is nearly upon us, and no longer should the audience be told to ‘leave their brains at home’. No more.