Simmba, released on 28th December, 2018, is an action-comedy directed by Rohit Shetty. It stars Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Ashutosh Rana, and Sonu Sood in lead roles, topping it off with a cameo by Ajay Devgn (As Singham, from Shetty’s previous films). The story revolves around Sangram Bhalerao (popularly referred to as Simmba, played by Singh), a corrupt and opportunist cop, and is about his transformation to becoming an honest and just police officer by delivering justice for Aakruti Dave (played by Vaidehi Parshurami), a girl who was brutally raped and killed and whom Simmba treated as his own sister.
The first half of the film provides everything you probably would expect from a Rohit Shetty movie – colourful, over-the-top song sequences, a larger-than-life (male) hero with his trademark catchphrases and sensational appearance, and mostly just mindless comedy. But things begin to change soon into the film as the filmmakers probably had realised that an entire film of 159 minutes cannot be just mindless entertainment.
In their efforts to provide a great potboiler with a relevant social message, Simmba is turned into any other rape-revenge drama where stalking is made fun of but not seen as a crime, the female lead serves absolutely zero purpose other than appearing in a few irrelevant dance numbers, and the “Imagine if this had happened to your own daughter…” argument is invoked every single time a person is made to realise why rape is, well, something wrong.
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The choice of characters in this film has been done very subtly to reinforce the traditionally essentialised ideas of a woman – be it within her family or in the workplace. We see women as teachers and as owners of a food delivery service, seemlessly fitting into the roles of nurturers. We also see a female judge in charge of the rape case, and it came across as if a female judge was only chosen so that her sense of sympathy can be invoked and utilised to bend the law to equip Simmba with the powers to carry out the eventual ‘encounter’ of criminals.
The female lead serves absolutely zero purpose other than appearing in a few irrelevant dance numbers.
There is a scene where the judge is hesitant to take decisions due to the lack of evidence against the accused men, when Simmba steps in and reminds her that what has happened to Aakruti can very well happen to the judge’s daughter as well. Instead of calling out the gross insensitivity of such scenes, the film decides to celebrate them in the name of women empowerment.
Throughout the entire course of the movie, the same argument is presented again and again, and is normalised to the point where it feels like one can call out injustice only if they are personally being affected by the problem (a classic example of privilege).
A closer analysis of the characterisation in the film points out how women characters are streamlined to fit into certain rigid compartments in the typical ‘masala’ Bollywood films: (a) The love interest who does not contribute in any way to the development of the storyline, and (b) The victim who acts as a catalyst to transform the male protagonist.
The female lead, Sara Ali Khan, in the movie appropriately fits the first compartment as she has no role to play beyond being ‘attractive (in the conventional sense)’ and acting as a support system for the male lead to fall back on during times of distress. She is missing for the major part of the second half where the story actually unfolds.
The film implies that women’s job is to only garner sympathy and that men are the ones who takes up the cause.
There is another cringeworthy scene where Poornima, a friend of Khan, complains to Simmba about how she is being stalked. Instead of actually condemning the act of stalking and the stalker, what Simmba does it befriend the guy in order to get closer to Khan by making her feel unsafe at her place of residence so that she turns to Simmba for rescue. The film did not just get the idea of romance and consent absolutely wrong, but it also says it is okay to go any length as long as it is for ‘love’, no matter how convoluted and one-sided it is.
The climax, where all women unite again Durva (the antagonist, played by Sonu Sood) to prove him guilty is again very problematic because it only works when Durva says “Aai se sawaal nahin” (Don’t ask Mom any questions) to his defence lawyer. This is again built on the premise of certain gendered norms attributed typically to women and the fact that women will gain sympathy – even from the judicial system – in order to achieve justice. By implying that women’s job is to only garner sympathy and that men are the ones who takes up the cause otherwise is very problematic in essence, of course.
Simmba does not just fail to deliver, it also deals with some very significant and sensitive issues with gross inefficiency. Watch it only to learn how not to make a film on rape issues, and for no other remarkable reason whatsoever.
Featured Image Source: The Indian Express