Director Rohit Shetty's films are an acquired taste.
In his brand of crackling, psychedelic cinema, words such as ‘subtlety’ and ‘restraint’ aren’t a part of his lexicon. His leading heroes are strapping young men who are paragons of brutish strength, machismo and swagger, while Shetty’s villains are largely dark-skinned unwashed ruffians, led by a dapper leader. Nothing much has changed in the testestorone-charged Simmba too.
Here, Shetty trains his big guns on Bollywood’s man-of-the-moment Ranveer Singh, a roguish police officer who undergoes a dramatic reformation mid-way and becomes this avenging angel for all the women out there.
Singh, in the title role, as the rakish, over-confident bloke is deliciously wicked and makes his misdeeds seem less distasteful with his irreverent cheekiness.
He is well-cast as this gregarious and goofy cop, but Singh was prone to over-acting in a few scenes. In what’s undoubtedly a guilty pleasure, all is forgiven when you witness him in a well-fitted khakhi uniform making a slow-motion entry. It’s official: no director does slow-motion scenes better than Shetty.
The parts in which Singh makes a deliberately exaggerated entry or exit is deeply gratifying. His jokes land as well and his cavalier attitude towards his cop duties are fun. The scenes in which he gets his palms greased from the local goon (Sonu Sood) is immensely enjoyable.
While Simmba is an ode to Bollywood’s ‘masala’ genre, what it gets wrong is the way in which the film tries to manipulate its viewers. They take a serious subject like ‘rape’ and spin a Bollywood yarn out of it. The rakish cop’s abrupt transformation into a good guy when a 19-year-old medical student gets raped under his watch feels impossibly contrived. The characters are also impossibly loud in this drama. Shrieking is their form of communication rather than speaking.
Sonu Sood gives a tightly controlled performance as the local drug overlord, but rest of the villains — who need a good scrubbing — are forgettable.
Actress Sara Ali Khan doesn’t have much to do. Although this film has the subtext of sexual violence against women, they don’t have active roles in the dispensation of justice. It’s up to the good-looking men to save the day. Singh isn’t shabby in those parts, but it’s the special cameo of Ajay Devgn in the climax that underline Simmba’s coltishness as a tough cop.
Devgn almost steals the thunder from Singh, who had thundered his way into the climax until then. Watching these two determined cops bring justice to the rape victim’s family is oddly satisfying. While it may appear sinful that a director happily capitalises on a burning social issue like sexual violence against women, Shetty doesn’t do a terrible job of it. He’s only guilty of being overly dramatic about it.
He has also smartly inserted an interesting twist towards the end.
If you are in the mood to watch a film that doesn’t pride in being high-brow or cerebral, then Simmba may roar its way into your hearts and minds. However, if you are looking for a movie that addresses rape with gravitas, then you are barking up the wrong roaring hero.
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sonu Sood, Ashutosh Rana and Sara Ali Khan.
Stars: 2.5 out of 5