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20 Sep

Haute Review: Simran

Something Haute rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

With Bollywood ditching its old ways of glamour and looking towards simpler, crisper narratives to tell, the world of Indian cinema is quickly changing. However, in an industry so conditioned towards the ideals of over-the-top drama and fantastical worlds, can it really take one step forward without moving two steps back? The biggest – and most recent – example of this has to be Kangana Ranaut’s Simran.

Directed by Hansal Mehta, the almost two-and-a-half-hour-long film forces one to embody the eponymous Simran (who is actually named Praful Patel but uses the alias throughout the film).  She’s adorable, has the same kind of shortcomings we all have, and is quirky (if not weird). However, things in Simran happen a little too easily and a little too much.

Simply put, when the film delves into the story, where we find Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut), a bumbling 30-year-old divorcee who has grudgingly moved back in with her cash-strapped parents, it forgets that there’s more than just Simran that it needs to define.

Revolving around Simran as the grumbling housekeeper in a hotel in Atlanta where she’s barely making enough to survive, we find her dreaming to live with freedom – in a house she can call her own. No guesses, that’s what the story develops towards when she squanders her savings in a bout of impulsive gambling during her cousin’s bachelorette trip in Las Vegas and loses all the money she wanted to buy her own space from!

 

Simran fails to convince if the film is about anything more than just Kangana Ranaut’s acting prowess.

 

Desperate to recover her money, Simran takes you on a kaleidoscopic view of corrupt moneylenders, unlucky gambling streak, and a declined mortgage, which ultimately makes her resort to robbing banks.  Sending her down a dangerous spiral, the film makes you want to root for her and then may be just getting too bored to actually do it.

Hands down, the biggest issue in the film is clearly not Kangana, but the screenplay. The actress has proven time and again that strong characters are her forte and she does them effortlessly. However, what can even a strong actor do when the film can’t settle on a single idea that flows through the film? Clearly, the film needed to define what path it wants to take. Is it a dark-comedy, or does it delve into something deeper? We’ll never know.

As a comedy, the humour is quite monotonous and sometimes tone-deaf. Yes, she’s relatable as a flawed, confused, and at times a funny character, but what else? It’s like as if the filmmaker decided to let Kangana improvise whatever she wanted to without a foresight of what needed to happen next.

Although Simran is still borderline entertaining and strictly a one-time watch, it gives us enough reasons to be a little careful in rooting for films, which may look like Queen, but are actually empty as narratives. The redeeming factor is Kangana throughout the film. So, if that’s what – or who, you want to spend your money on, the film may be something that you can handle for the timespan it plays. For us, it became a little too self-indulgent to care about.

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Shahjehan Saleem

The author is Contributing Editor at Something Haute as well as a professor in the Media Sciences department at SZABIST, Karachi. Socio-cultural theories and geography fill up the rest of his time.