It says something about the severity of the sexist trash that I have been exposed to when 60 minutes into Simran (directed by Hansal Mehta), and all my conjectures awaited Praful’s (Kangana Ranaut) transformation into a seductive siren who would use all her wiles and guiles to coax money out of her evidently besotted lover-boy (Sohum Shah).
Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened and that is exactly where Simran scores. By turning every Bollywood stereotype on its head, the film fabricates a tale that unravels around its much-talented female lead, giving the movie an often-dodged feminist undertone.
Let me just say this right off the bat, lest there are any lingering doubts in the minds of Hindi film paramours, Kangana Ranaut is a treat to watch on screens, irrespective of the cinematic quality of the films she helms. There is no contention over the fact that Simran is her movie, from start to finish. Kangana inhabits every frame with the sort of finesse reserved only by the actors in firm control of their art.
While watching the movie, one gets the sense of how diligently the director has utilised the superior acting chops at hand, almost like a proud parent flaunting their child’s perceived achievements in every party that they go. Props to the director for trusting his female lead enough to let her take the steering wheel, both literally and figuratively.
Kangana inhabits every frame with the sort of finesse reserved only by the actors in firm control of their art.
Kangana Ranaut’s 30-year-old Praful Patel is a well-etched out character. She is confident, independent and actually works hard to make a living. Divorced and living under the roof of her middle-class parents, Praful works as a housekeeper in one of the hotels of Atlanta. She dreams of owning her house in the posh neighborhood of Atlanta in a bid to get away from the suffocating chaos brought about by her conservative parents and the expectations they have of their daughter. Make no mistake, despite her ache for freedom and desire to lead a life of leisure, Praful is no tragedy queen. Not once does the movie tries to downplay her life choices, or put the onus of her actions on somebody else. Praful comes out as a whole person who is excitingly unabashed in her dealings.
At this point, it is refreshing to see a Bollywood female lead harboring an ambition and pursuing it with fervent means. What is a more welcome change is when that said dream falls apart due to Praful’s own (mis)doings and when push comes to shove, she takes the entire responsibility for her actions. Her relationship with her parents and the man she grows to love (an equally amazing Sohum Shah) is an interesting watch, given that there is some depth and investment in the connections that she makes. As opposed to giving her some glum and superficial backstory that Bollywood cuts its teeth on.
In an industry where women are either perceived as a vixen or a victim, it is heartening to see a 30-year-old Gujarati woman with multiple shades of grey. Yes, Praful is lovable, but not without certain intrinsic flaws. She is blithe with eyes that twinkle in amusement every time she does something that she deems enjoyable. But at the same time, not all that she enjoys is ethically correct. Her temperament is unassuming and the switch between moods is in an instance. Although adulatory in the way in which it makes its female lead so compelling, this tonal inconsistency is also where the movie falters.
Not once does the movie tries to downplay her life choices, or put the onus of her actions on somebody else.
The frequent transitions – although impeccably performed on Kangana’s part – feels cinematically abrupt and in most cases, farcically far-fetched. A Bollywood movie that is so well-versed with its characters eccentricities and temperaments, and that too of a female lead is a rare feat to find. But what defeats the purpose is how one of those moods override the other without any seeming trigger and renders a promising story line into a juvenile mess.
One moment, Praful is driving her car while having an emotional outburst and the next she is on the side of the road making a crack about how her father would kill her if she would’ve gotten arrested in her neighborhood filled with Indians. Although funny and believable (we all have them parents!), the narrative feels all over the place. It’s like the movie couldn’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, and while walking through that impasse, it attempts to be both – all at once!
However, even with the apparent flaws, if I were you, I would still grab the tickets for the nearest theatre. Not for anything else, but only to celebrate the entire run time of Kangana Ranuat on screen. She alone is worth every penny you spend on Simran even with all in-your-face failings of the screenplay.
Featured Image Credit: Saavn