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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Simmba, Review: Slo mo shun

Simmba, Review: Slo mo shun

It would be unrealistic to expect anything but action comedies from director Rohit Shetty, showcasing bad guys turning good guys along the line, with tons of slow motion action, having the protagonist landing blow after blow, and the goons rotating before landing on the floor or table or chair or cupboard or door or window or car or cycle or motor-cycle or truck or hand cart or whatever.

This time around, the theme, ostensibly, is the heinous crime of rape, with the hero building up a consensus for the death penalty to its perpetrators, here and now. In getting there, Simmba takes its own time, and then tries to whip-up sentiments in as crude a manner as only Shetty can. In the pre-credit acknowledgements, the film clarifies that Simba is the registered trade mark of a food company, a disambiguation. That does not take away from the fact that Simmba, the movie, with the double m notwithstanding, is very difficult to digest.

Constructed as a spin-off of sorts to the Singham and Singham Returns films of 2011 and 2014, Simmba plays upon the name, which means lion, and uses a variant, which also means a lion, to name its lead character. It also sets the beginning of the story in the small town of Shivgad, in southern Maharashtra, along the border with Goa, and soon moves to Goa proper, again a là Singham.

Sangram ‘Simmba’ Bhalerao (Ranveer Singh) is an orphan who turns to thievery and cinema ticket black-marketing to survive. He crosses the path of small-time Don Durva Ranade (Sonu Sood), but Ranade is impressed with his guts and gumption. Simmba is let off, with Ranade predicting that the kid will grow up and cause a storm. Arrested by the police, he flaunts the name of his boss, thinking that the police will be overawed by the mere name. Instead, when his boss comes to get him out, the Inspector beats him up. However, upon receiving a heavy bribe, Simmba is let off. He decides then that corruption is the panacea for all his needs, and vows to make it big time as the most corrupt officer when he grows up. After studying in a night school where a volunteer lady teaches him, he develops such a soft corner for her that makes him sympathise with every night-school teacher he comes across as a grown up. His dream is realised, and enter Simmba, the Lion of Corrupt Cops.

With the help of a corrupt politician, he is transferred from the low scale Shivgad environs to the upmarket precinct of Miramar, in Goa, a haven for all those who are on the take from pub/bar and drug operators. But the politician warns him to keep a safe distance from the Big Daddy of Miramar, Durva Ranade (yes, him again). Ranade is known not to meddle in police matters, but is unforgiving of anyone who dares to challenge him on his turf. The first thing that Simmba does on taking charge is raid a Ranade pub. No, not with the intention of clamping the law, but to up the protection money that is collected by the police from him.

As he alternates between being a stand-up comedian on the loose, and a shy lover who woos, with every ruse, the police-station’s food-supplier , orphan Shagun Sathe (Soha Ali Khan), he pays obeisance to the night-school teachers who teach young destitute kids on a church’s steps, and keeps telling one of them, Aakruti Dave (Vaidehi Parshurami) that she is his sister. He also asks his constable to give her his mobile number, in case she ever needs to contact him in an emergency. Aakruti stumbles upon a children’s drug-supply ring, run by Ranade and his brothers Gaurav (Saurabh Gokhale) and Amrit Singh (Sadashiv Ranade), using her school children as couriers. She investigates, only to be caught at the den, beaten-up and raped. She does manage to call Simmba, but he is asleep, after a drinking binge, with his mobile switched off. Aakruti is left for dead, but lands up in hospital, in time for Simmba to reach her dying bedside. As he holds her hand, she breathes her last. For the first time in his life, Inspector Simmba swears that he will bring culprits to justice.

Media reports suggest that Simmba is a remake of the Telugu  film Temper (2015), but reading the Temper plot, it appears that though the central characters are the same, there are significant deviations, from around the midway point to the climax. Puri Jagannadh had directed the original, and is, in one place, credited with co-authoring the story, with Vakkantham Vamsi, who is credited in Simmba too. For the Hindi adaptation, screenplay is credited to Yunus Sajawal and Sajid Samji, with brother Farhad Samji contributing the dialogue. These three are Shetty’s time tested old faithfuls.

Simmba is not shown performing a single act of legitimate duty, highly corrupt, a linguist and a mimic. For that matter, nobody in his police station is shown indulging in anything that looks like duty. Add to that his tinted glasses and mufti attire (the one and only time he puts on his uniform is meant to draw thunderous applause). All his fellow policeman are dummkopfs and his partners in crime, save the Chief Constable, Nityanand Mohile (Ashutosh Rana), who represents the voice of conscience, and refuses to salute his new superior. As ‘reward’, Simmba assigns him to driver duty. Mohile’s daughter comes up to him and says that she needs to pay Rs. 1,25,000 the next day, or else she will lose her college admission. Poor Mohile, unable to pay this huge sum, asks her to drop out instead. Simmba pays the fees, an act that endears him to Mrs. Mohile and Miss Mohile, but earns the wrath of Mr. Mohile. Relax, says, Simmba, I paid it out of my savings, not from bribe income. They decide patch up over drinks, but conscientious Mohile insists on bringing his own bottle.

So long as Simmba plays the recalcitrant rascal, you might even be tempted to swallow his antics with a generous helping of sodium chloride, but once the story enters the court-room, common salt begins to rub into your wounds instead. Rohit Shetty lets the sharp as nails, irascible Simmba come out an ignoramus and naiveté personified. To make-up for his lapses, the Inspector rattles off statistics about the astounding number incidents of reported rape cases, following the awareness created by the real-life Nirbhaya Delhi rape case that rocked the media in 2012. And when he fears that the lady-judge (Ashwini Kalsekar) is going to deliver an adverse judgement in the case of gang-rape and murder, letting the accused go scot-free, at the very first hearing, he asks her to think about her daughter, and goes on to name her daughter and her college, for shock value. It works!

Ranveer Singh puts in a brave performance, swagger, linguistics and comic timing included, and will have the masses rooting for him, especially as he unleashes the clap-trap lines in a hotchpotch of Pidgin English, Marathi and Gujarati. Soha Ali Khan (daughter of since separated actor couple Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh), in her second outing after Kedarnath, leaves much to be desired. Her features are undistinguished, though the Colombia University education reflects in her manner. The year-and-a-half that she spent in weight training before entering films has helped her maintain a very good figure, but the occasional lapses into Marathi, her husky voice apart, are unconvincing. You have to sympathise with Ashutosh Rana; we find his character clichéd, and, obviously, so does he. Sonu Sood ripples his biceps and tries to be drop-dead menacing, only half succeeding in the latter effort.

Most fights are choreographed in trade-mark Rohit Shetty style, with the hoodlums arriving in a bunch, unarmed, attacking the hero with their bare hands and being despatched in twirls, as if pirouetting. Why do they not come armed in the first place, as they do in the beginning of the climax, remains a mystery. It is after watching films like Simmba that one gets the feeling of déjà vu rather strongly. I am referring to the slow motion in which all the fights are captured. Yes, there is some novelty in the introduction of outline frames to demarcate the star, but haven’t we had enough of slo mo? About time makers decided to shun slo mo and somebody came up with an equally effective, alternative technological advancement.

The supporting cast includes several names form the Marathi film industry. Watch out for cameos from Karan Johar (blink and miss), Shreyas Talpade, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, Kunal Khemu (all in one song) and an unduly-long-for-a-cameo cameo from Ajay Devgn. Wait! There’s Akshay Kumar too. And what are M/s Devgn and Kumar up to? I will respect the film’s Public Relations agency’s request to not give out spoilers, although the duo’s contributions are listed in every google search.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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