Simmba (U/A) 159 min
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Ashutosh Rana, Ashwini Kalsekar, Ajay Devgn
Director: Rohit Shetty
Whenever youÂ think that Bollywood â as in those money-grubbing flag-bearers of commercial Hindi cinema who will stop at nothing to extract a tear, a clap, a whistle and, of course, your hard-earned cash â could not stoop any lower, it breaks fresh new ground in moral turpitude and sinks a bit lower still.
Director Rohit Shetty has always pandered to pathetic, almost cliched, male complexes rather proudly. Crouching inside many big boys are little boys with big penis issues, and thatâs been his target audience. His mission has been to get those wimps to fantasise about posturing as alpha males. That he inadvertently, but in a darling assertion of the sub-conscious, also creates very campy, homoerotic scenarios where big-big boys only like to be around other big-big boys â as besties, adversaries,Â chelle-chakareÂ Â â would have been mildly interesting if the gay love, often in full bloom, was at least self-aware, if not acknowledged.Â
But thatâs too much to ask of a director who only likes to talk of the commercial underpinnings of his movies, and on the telly screams about physical courage while the camera caresses his bulging biceps. It canât get creatively and intellectuallyÂ moreÂ effete than that, and yet it has.
Simmba, a movie based on the 2015 Telugu hit,Â TemperÂ (starring Jr NTR, i.e. N.T. Rama Raoâs grandson), is a crass, cynical, coldly-manipulative, morally-repugnant enterprise that uses a rape to carve out a hero by giving himÂ raison dâetre.Â
The movie doesnât just use a rape. It uses the December 2012 Nirbhaya rape case with all its specific, emotive details.
Simmbaâs story is pivoted on the rape of aÂ moonh-boli-behen, but not as a crime to be dealt with, by the cops and the courts. The rape is simply grist for a cowardly, corrupt man to kick-start and rouse his conscience. It exists as a trauma for the hero to go crunch some bad skulls and bones and turn into the saviour of ladies logÂ ki izzatÂ andÂ abroo.
The film screams ârapeâ so often,Â that youâd think thatâs all that happened. The girl is also killed.Â
But that, in Rohit Shetty andÂ Simmba'sÂ worldview,Â doesn'
It made me feel very dirty.
Simmba, writtenÂ by the all-male team of Vakkantham Vamsi (Temper), Yunus Sajawal, Sajid Samji and Fardah Samji, opens with a young orphan learning the ways of the world when money changes hands in a policeÂ thanaÂ and the beating stops.Â
Itâs simple:Â VardiÂ means power. And so he sets out to earn a living in the day by selling cinema tickets in black and attending night school run by sweet Gayatri Didi. All along, Ajay Devgnâs voiceover provides us with some unnecessaryÂ gyaan.Â
Cut to a few years later when the film welcomes full-grown Sangram Bhalerao aka Simmba (Ranveer Singh), in a very colourful and pretty setting as he chases after some senior citizen goons. The movie wears a festive look as Simmba arrives, in slow-mo, to run around long strips of cloth in rainbow colours while women slap wet yardage on hard stone. The film watches lovingly as crystal droplets bounce around and on Simmba, and then throws in some rousing chanting as well.
What got my attention in this sequence was how much Simmba was grinning. Nice, white teeth and all, but a bit too familiar, I thought.Â
Weâve only just met, dude.
In the first five minutes or so of the film we get two songs, yet thereâs also non-stop talking. Simmba is given to breathless chatter, with some marginally funny one-liners.Â But it's too much, too soon.Â
Simmba likes kicking bad butt because these bruised butts want out, and heâs happy to oblige, for a price.Â The obliging, pliable cop is soon transferred to the âgold mineâÂ thana, Miramar, with instructions â do not mess with Durva Ranade (Sonu Sood).
In thisÂ thana, which has some vague connect toÂ Singham, the happily corrupt cop finds many like-minded,Â ghoos-khorÂ cops, and just one rigid, lone voice of honesty. Head constable Nityanand Mohile (Ashutosh Rana) wonât salute his corrupt senior.
But Simmba is not too bothered because across the road is Good Food Catering run by pretty Shagun (Sara Ali Khan). And then thereâs Akruti Dave, a medical student who teaches orphans in her spare time on the steps of a church.Â
Awwww. Like my Gayatri Didi, he goes.Â
That Akruti has come to complain about drugs in the school bags of her students is lost on him.Â
Corrupt cop,Â chhoti behen, badÂ goonda logÂ who use little kids to sell drugs. You join the dots.Â
Simmba hasÂ a decent cast. Sara Ali Khan is confident, efficient and almost there. All she needs is a little more experience and she will come into her own.
Sonu Sood is good, as usual.
Ranveer Singh may well be a better actor than most burlies who have graced Rohit ShettyâsÂ sau-crore-toh-pakkaÂ enterprises before, but he doesnât have what Ajay Devgn has.Â
Though in melodramatic situations Ranveer is not bad,Â he is not able to project power and anger the way action heroes need to.
For one, heâs very verbose, and his high-energy is neither exciting nor impactful.
The film does its damnedest to create an action hero of himÂ with genuflecting camera angles and serving him in slow-mo, but as the filmâs tedious, idiotic crawl to the climax gets unbearably dull, it has to summon SinghamÂ to get the job done.
In fact, Simmbaâs dialogue there is telling: âAapne sab sambhal liya. Thank you, sir.â
Admittedly, IÂ have issues of my own and thatâs why I enjoy taut revenge/rape-revenge thrillers.Â
By definition, itâs an exploitative genre, often with pornographic undertones.Â
I clearly see that they are a celebration of patriarchy, that they reiterate a world order as penis-swinging men see it â a world where all maleÂ izzatÂ is linked to the bodies of their women. And if that is violated, it means the other man has announced that he has a bigger one. The women are incidental in this clash of penises.
Most of them have a three act plot-line and, yet, the good ones, likeÂ The Virgin Spring, Charles BronsonâsÂ Death Wish,Â Kill Bill,Â Oldboy,Â DjangoÂ (
They are base, manipulative fantasies that are uniquely gratifying for those harbouring delusions of grandeur.Â
Over theÂ years, we have learnt to suffer certain things in Rohit Shetty films.
He will repeatedly assert a very masculine, militant, chauvinistic Maratha identity. So, endless haughty dialogue in Marathi with no sub-titles, and the war bugle.
His films also reinforce a worldview that appeals to old prejudices and mindsets, never once challenging them.Â
There are also big, burly dudes crashing their big, colourful cars in plots that are formulaic to an unbelievably imbecile level.Â But here itâs gotten worse.Â
Simmba's screenplay is so badly written and so terribly scant that often scenes are stretched like chewing gum, ready to tear.
At one point the movie gets so dull and boring that the only way Shetty can throw inÂ some excitement is by making a speeding van crash through a massive glass window.Â
That apart, thereâs moral confusion. At first, when Simmba is corrupt, the film celebrates him as a fun guy and paints honesty as an annoying, depressing, pointless burden.Â Later, when he turns a page, honesty is embraced with tears.
Though Simmba is about a rape, there is hardly any connect between the so-calledÂ bhai-behen. Simmba and Akruti barely exchange a few words, and yet, for him, her rape suddenly becomes so significant and powerful.Â
But all these are minor problems compared to howÂ SimmbaÂ tackles the issue of rape.
For aÂ film that wants to sit on high moral ground preaching about how India treats its women,Â SimmbaÂ shamelessly exploits every nugget from the Nirbhaya case.
Itâs creepy how Rohit Shetty and his writers have trawled through the details of that real-life incident to pick some bits to make their own enterpriseÂ commercially viable.
Disturbing details of her medical condition are used as gore to amp up Simmbaâs anger.Â Her hanging innards are treated as the noose heÂ must use to kill the rapists.
I thought at one point I saw irony stand up in the aisle of the theatre and stare google-eyed at the screen.
The filmÂ screams rape so many times, over and over,Â but hardly everÂ talks about Akruti's death,Â because, well, a womanâs honour is supreme. Not her life.
And even there, instead of treating rape as a crime that a cop must meticulously investigate and present to the court,Â it looks at it only from a male, patriarchal perceptive and makes it all about honour-dishonour.Â
The things that get said around it â to settle scores -- areÂ insufferably insensitivity. At one pointÂ there's talk ofÂ mardangiÂ in the context of rape, and then the cop asks women what do they want, asÂ badla.Â
Since the film has already made up its mind that rape is worse than death,Â badlaÂ means the rapists have to die.Â
Sometimes, there just isnât enough vomit in the world. Not for Rohit Shetty'sÂ Simmba.