‘Simmba’ review: Popcorn Fest

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LICH rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)   (This rating is only a snapshot. The details are in the words.)

Director Rohit Shetty has a plan. One that slowly manifests itself in his latest box-office zip-zoom-bang outing, Simmba. It’s clear that it’s dawned upon him that he now is master of the franchise concept in the Hindi film industry, and he’s all set to do a Marvel in his own smorgasbord universe. Which is why, you have his ensemble from the Golmaal series shaking a frozen leg-step in the reprised Aankh Maare; and later in the movie, another cop from another mother-franchise  makes a breakthrough entry that sent the audience in my hall into a rapture of whistles and claps.

And it’s also very clear that the director is moving in fast to lock in his place as the unabashed maker of movies that were once the domain of Mr. Logicus Suspendus, the late Manmohan Desai. Simmba is a modern-day slapstick that’s slapped on to a mid 70s-early 80s script-hanger from the wardrobe of an angry young Amitabh Bachchan—which is why you have an orphan, Sangram “Simmba” Bhalerao (played by a young actor whose precociousness made me stir-cringe), selling tickets outside cinema halls in ‘black’, and his run-in with the local goon in Goa, Durva Ranade (Sonu Sinewy Sood) that you know will be resurrected later a la Deewar. Shetty also milks the orphan-bit in another melodramatic scene that made me want to reach for my hanky…to tie around my ears. For the scene’s embarrassingly 80s-loud and front-bench focused, not helped in any way by composer Amar Mohile’s ear-drum rattling background score. Not one for subtlety, the blare of the instruments threaten to out-roar the bombast of the movie’s lead, Ranveer Singh.

Sara Ali Khan matches Singh step-to-step.

Fortunately, Mohile—or the middling script (by Yunus Sajawal and Sajid Samji, based on the 2015 Telugu movie Temper)  in the middle of the movie—do nothing to hamper the actor’s lightning-charged presence all through. Simmba Bhalerao, in the police force only to fatten his wallet, gets transferred to Miramar, which is a gold mine and as Simmba preens, “It’s all mine”. Here’s where you get introduced to an ensemble cast inside the station (Siddharth Jadhav is a stand-out as Tawde) and to Shagun (Sara Ali Khan) and her next-door café that serves food to the constabulary. Simmba obviously falls for Shagun and begins to woo her, even as he invites the wrath of his constable Nityanand Mohile (Ashutosh Rana) who loathes Simmba because of his affinity to green-bags and malleable morals. Mohile’s wife (Suchitra Bandekar), on the other hand, has no such qualms. There’s also Simmba’s new-found sister Aakruti Dave (Vaidehi Parshurami, who shone in the superb Aani…Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar) and her social proclivity to teach underprivileged kids. Once the director introduces a drug angle and Simmba promises to protect Aakruti— all that she needs to do is call him—you know happy days are on their way out.

Ranveer Singh leaves Sonu Sinewy Sood confounded.

Up until the interval, Simmba is pure fun, and Ranveer Singh is the raison d’être behind its zippy joie de vivre. The actor brings in his famed act-on-steroids into marvelous play and never lets the guffaws flag. Note his first-time entry into the police station, or a subsequent raid at a local disco; or where he visits Ranade’s house bearing gifts, or his drunken scene with Rana’s Mohile, that’s a highlight. Ranveer Singh rides on audacious spunk, waltzing, pouting, and mouthing inane lines that actually work, especially in Marathi—his timing and madness is a hat-tip to Groucho Marx. Post-interval, director Shetty gets too heavy-handed for his own good and it’s all 80s-style bordering-on-crassness-loud. The courtroom scenes are more subversive than gripping and Ashwini Kalsekar as Judge Smita Palukar salvages this bit with her tight act.

Pink is not Shetty’s territory and you wonder why he trespassed into it, when the true objective of this drama is to get out there and carry on with the action, and for Singh to mouth more hoot-worthy dialogues, which he does with a feline-like panache. How you wish the director had chosen a different path—and storyline—to digress reform his hero. What the subject of rape needs is sensitivity and a pause; Shetty ought to have toned down the loud parleys and lockup mayhem, even if he wanted to eventually hand-out justice vigilante style.

Amidst all the Marathi theater talent and her lead hero, Sara Ali Khan, despite a very limited role, shines on. She’s endearing, sincere, and someone to look out for, as is another Shetty franchise taking charge in 2019. While the owners of Simba brewery repeatedly remind us that they’ve given the makers of this movie permission to use their name, I was reminded of Simba popcorn that used to be a favorite in Bombay theaters in earlier decades. Despite its failings, the namesake movie is just that—an year-end popcorn fest before you begin to guzzle the other namesake to ring in the new year.

Simmba (2018) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

LICH ratings chart

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5): Don’t bother
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5): Not too great
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5): Worth a watch
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5): Very good
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5): Drop everything else NOW

Simmba is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) There’s action, drug use, and references to rape.

Simmba
Director Rohit Shetty Running Time 2h 38min
Writers Yunus Sajawal, Sajid Samji
Stars Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Sonu Sood, Siddharth Jadhav, Ashutosh Rana, Ashwini Kalsekar
Genres  Action, Comedy, Drama

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