In a rather meta scene in Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, Ranveer Singh’s ACP Sangram Bhalerao salutes Bajirao Singham played by Ajay Devgn. It is Shetty’s way of showing that the mantle has now been passed to a younger, fresher face. In a larger context, it is an older superstar paving the way for a younger one. As for the movie, the audience are being ushered from the veteran Singham to the newer, pumped up Simmba. And what a welcome it is! It is indeed time to rejoice for the young star’s fans for Simmba has announced the arrival of Ranveer Singh in the big league.
Ranveer Singh’s spark and energy keeps this rather cliched story alive – and kicking. Even when Bhalerao is accepting bribes or fooling a poor soul to sign off his land to the thug royale, Durva Ranade, played with lot of muscles by Sonu Sood and borrowed from Dabangg, one roots for him. When he weeps in grief, one would want to console him. Such is the presence of Singh that one cannot dislike Bhalerao’s ugly way of doing things. While most things are clearly black and white, it is Singh’s demeanour that places them in the grey area.
However all that comes at a big cost – that of all the women characters. It will not be a Rohit Shetty movie if it would have a fully-etched female character. In Simmba too, all the women characters are either someone’s wife or daughter or sister. In fact, ALL of the women characters are Simmba’s assumed sisters or mothers, except for Sara Ali Khan.
Coming to Sara Ali Khan – she has a screen presence of a total of half hour tops, including the songs. Sara Ali Khan’s Shagun conveniently disappears in the second half. Shagun, could well have been removed from the film and it would not have made an iota of difference. It is rather sad because she is the only fully independent, economically sound female character. The fact that Sara Ali Khan’s Shagun was so underutilised is a red flag for Shetty’s inability to create good female characters.
The biggest irony of Simmba that speaks about women empowerment is that it takes away agency from all the female characters. If they are seen doing something bold then that is because Bhalerao or other saviour men have pushed them on. They need saving and are at a constant need for help. At their best, the women characters are restricted to the kitchen or feeding the always-at-work policemen. At their worst they are either being chided or are pleading for help. One of the two female characters who do not is killed off and the other disappears in the second half.
In fact in one scene, Judge Parulkar, played by Ashwini Kalsekar, is giving a lesson to Durva’s mother, Bharti Ranade, played by Sarita Joshi and letting her know that she is as much in fault as her rapist sons. It is in times like this that one would wonder if Rohit Shetty and team discussed this scene at all because such tone-deaf gems need special neglect. Then there is this scene where Bajirao Singham and Sangram Bhalerao sit and talk about how to make the world better for women – with no women in sight.
Ashutosh Rana’s grumpy Constable Nityanand Mohile is one of the finest, focussed characters in the movie. Siddharth Jadhav’s Constable Santosh Tavde is Mohile’s foil and as much fun as Sangram Bhalerao.
The rest of Simmba rests in pure Rohit Shetty’s universe, although fewer cars fly. But when things move in slow-mo, you know it is important. The dialogues are quite fun and fully accentuated by Ranveer Singh’s mannerisms and delivery.
Rohit Shetty’s Simmba is not without its faults – from nonsensical scenes to exaggerated ones – it looks nothing short of a repackaged 80’s movie. But is it the blockbuster movie to end the year? Definitely.