The only triumph of Simran is the fact that an idea like that managed to exist, long enough to make it to the silver screen.
It's not every day that an entire Hindi movie is mounted on the idea of woman like this -- one who has nothing to offer to the popular male gaze by performing a sizzling dance number, who is not going to play a Salman Khan and break a few bones, who doesn't have a love interest the way we know them to be in Bollywood films, whose wardrobe won't be your Instagram inspiration and whose story isn't a grand, ceremonial middle-finger to patriarchy that fits perfectly into the 'strong, independent woman' cliche.
Simran's achievement lies in its audacity to be that film and yet seek the audience and commercial scope of a muscled Bollywood potboiler starring a male actor with proven box-office clout. At the time of writing this, Simran was scheduled to be screened at multiple prime-time shows in most leading multiplexes in Delhi.
Simran's achievement lies in its audacity to be that film and yet seek the audience and commercial scope of a muscled Bollywood potboiler starring a male actor with proven box-office clout.
But that's only as far as the film manages to go.
When the trailers first surfaced, Simran's idea appeared to be have been simple, honest and sort of heartwarming in the melee of sexist, loud potboilers that Bollywood manages to churn out in regular intervals.
It won't try to treat a woman as a overtly sexualised object, it won't try to make her a grand feminist hero who has fellow women squealing 'who rule d world', it will just be a story about a regular woman. The film manages to give us the protagonist the trailers promised, but with nothing else to see her through in the course of its two-hour run-time.
Kangana Ranaut plays Praful Patel, a 30-year-old divorced Gujarati immigrant who lives with her middle-class parents in Atlanta, United States. She lives an average life -- going to work, discussing boyfriends with colleagues, chasing a home loan and occasionally squabbling with her parents -- some women would probably be familiar with the droning predictability of this life. She has average Indian parents -- ones who want the daughter to start paying for some household bills and also get married. After a fight with her father over her supposed failures, Praful goes off to a free trip to Las Vegas with a cousin who's about to get married. Here, while loitering around the city dotted with casinos, she gets introduced to gambling by chance, when she follows an attractive man she intends to woo to the roulette table. She wins her first stint and goes back for more later. And then, she starts losing and trouble starts brewing.
It meanders along like a conversation over drinks between friends.
The primary problem with Simran is that it is not paced like a film. It meanders along like a conversation over drinks between friends. And that's disappointing, considering that's exactly not what a film about a woman on the run from gambling mafia should be like. As the film tries to get the audience to intimately know and be regaled by the fears and triumphs of its protagonist, it forgets that it has a story to tell. So it often turns into a tedious 'please find Kangana Ranaut adorable' project and that's frankly disappointing.
That said, the only way one can get by the film without yawning is by actively regaling at how Ranaut manages to breathe bursts of energy into a limp storytelling. A lot of the credit for that goes to the dialogues -- witty, funny and quietly feminist -- delivered by Ranaut with disarming candour, devoid of any chest-thumping drama. Be it her Gujarati accent, her perfectly relatable eye-rolls at the sight of an attractive man, the way she wrestles with patience and finally disintegrates into a mass of rage while arguing with parents, Ranaut is a treat to watch.
The idea behind Hansal Mehta's Simran is clearly a more mature, self-assured one compared to Queen's abla naari-turned-independent woman concept
It is difficult to not draw parallels between Simran and Queen, both movies about women trying to come into their own amid adversities. The idea behind Hansal Mehta's Simran is clearly a more mature, self-assured one compared to Queen's abla naari-turned-independent woman concept. Yet, the primary difference between Queen and Simran is while Vikas Bahl didn't seem infatuated with his protagonist, Hansal Mehta does. As a result, Bahl spent time building and nourishing other characters in his movie, revealing his protagonist through the interactions she has with them. In Simran, the audience is expected to get and like Praful through what she says about herself and her dialogues on relationships, life and so on.
In one particularly self-indulgent sequence which screams 'I'm-so-quirky-and-flawed' quite unsubtly, Praful is with a man she has some degree of interest in, standing in front of a vast, picture-perfect lake, saying she often stands there and imagines she is like a butterfly, her colourful wings sprouting and then flowering. They then proceed to prance along the lake and the camera captures them under the warm glow of the afternoon sun, the lake rippling like liquid silver, their giggles the only sound on the screen. It's so pretty, and so cosmetic, that you could take it and slap it on a New Year card and nothing would feel out of place. Now compare this to that warm brownie of a scene in Queen, where Rani ends up in a pub looking for Vijaylaxmi. She is drunk, unhinged, dances with the rage of a woman finally not having to listen to someone and just refuses to stop. Honestly, Ranaut has done far better 'just let me be' scenes as an actor than in Simran.
Simran is worth watching for the honesty of its effort, but pack oodles of patience before you end up at the theatre.
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