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The Merry Vigilante

Saturday, December 29, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Simmba
Director:
Rohit Shetty
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Sonu Sood, Ashutosh Rana and others
Rating: * *1/2

Nobody does glee as well as Ranveer Singh—on and off screen his personality projects an over-the-top, cheerful demeanour. Rohit Shetty taps this to lighten up Simmba, which could very well have been Singham 3 if the young actor had a brooding presence like Ajay Devgn, who, incidentally, appears in a cameo in this film to add to the testosterone levels; not that any more was needed when Singh and Sonu Sood are already there.

Making a grand entry, dancing with thousands of extras in colour-coordinated costumes, Sangram Bhalerao aka Simmba, orphaned pickpocket-turned cop, is clear that he has joined the police force to make money, not to be a “Robin Hood helping people.” The irony that Robin Hood was an outlaw not a cop is lost on the character whose catchphrase is “mind ij blown.” That, and “tell me something I don’t know” when he is called a “kameena.”

The cop from the land of Bajirao Singham—modesty is not one of Shetty’s virtues, so he pays tribute to his own films—is transferred from Shivgadh to the more lucrative (read bigger bribes) Miramar Police Station in Goa. He befriends the local don Durva Ranade (a subdued Sonu Sood), going so far as to ingratiate himself with his wife, mother and kid.

He also looks longingly as Shagun (Sara Ali Khan), the tiffin supplier across the street and appoints himself big brother to Aakruti (Vaidehi Parshurami), a medical student who teaches street kids in her spare time.

Till Simmba plays a cartoon cop the film is entertaining, and you don’t even care that the Marathi-speaking cop sings a romantic song to Shagun in Punjabi. Singh, with gelled hair, big moustache and broad smile whoops it up, merrily teasing the honest colleague Mohile (Ashutosh Rana), who refuses to salute him.

Then, the worst of the eighties’ angry young man machismo kicks in. Aakruti goes snooping into Durva’s drug den (characters in movies, never seem to watch movies), is raped and killed by his two brothers.

Simmba now breathes fire—how dare anyone touch his sister? That becomes a troublesome and tiresome refrain in the film; the perpetrators need to be punished not so much for what they did, but “what if she was your daughter/sister?” Women are simply rape-bait or cooks, beating up criminals and gunning down rapists in clumsily-staged encounters is a man’s job. In a film that is supposedly on the side of women, the leading lady is simply shoved aside after her quota of song-and-dance. There is also a female judge (Ashwini Kalsekar), but that is just tokenism.

In this law-is-an-ass world of vigilante action that Shetty’s earlier cop hero Singham (Ajay Devgan) believed in, encounters are the only way to deal with felons. Simmba asks the gaggle of admiring women surrounding him, what is to be done with Aakruti’s rapists (her death is not as important) and they all say “kill them.”  

In the Telugu film, Temper, on which Simmba is loosely based, there is a credible reason for the hero’s change of heart and a rousing scene in court, where he is willing to sacrifice himself, so that the criminals do not get away.

Shetty simply summons Singham (Devgn in a cameo) and the two men in their police uniforms stride in slow motion to deal with the villains. And the woman judge sternly tells Durva’s mother (theatre legend Sarita Joshi wasted in a two-scene role) that she ought to have raised her sons better!

The spirit of Nirbhaya is blasphemously invoked, when Shetty wants his film to have a social message. Unfortunately, he does not handle emotions as comfortably as he does action and comedy, so the film slides into melodrama, hokum and a dangerous support of lynch mob mentality. This is why Simmba will be a hit—masala entertainment served on high moral ground makes the audience feel less shallow.

Not content with introducing two khaki-clad heroes to Bollywood (that already has Dabangg’s Chulbul Pandey floating around), in the end Rohit Shetty introduces a third star, who will play a cop in his next movie. Khaki is the haute new shade in Shettyland.

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