Simmba movie review: Can't top Ranveer Singh over-the-top!
The front-story, as it were, is neatly split between the hero, and the villain, along with a prologue, epilogue, heroine, comedian, extras, and the all-important 'takiya-kalaam'.
Director: Rohit Shetty
Actors: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Ashutosh Rana
With this film, a super-star is born. Why would one risk this over-statement? Because super-stars in Bollywood, or in the Indian movie context, have remained, for decades, the most apt equivalent to Hollywood super-heroes.
They come with little or no back-story. As in the case of Simmba - being an orphan is good enough. The front-story, as it were, is neatly split between the hero, and the villain, along with a prologue, epilogue, heroine, comedian, extras, and the all-important 'takiya-kalaam' (stock refrain): "Tell me something I don't know!" The motivation, like with super-hero flicks, is rather rudimentary. Saving a girl is as good as repeatedly saving the world!
What matters is how the super-star, by sheer dint of his vigorous personality - where you can't distinguish between the actor and character - carries along an entire movie, and indeed the audience, on his strong shoulders alone.
Once the image is set, the penny drops, and while the going is good, the super-star on screen is good enough to ensure audiences in theatres. And there's got to be a reason why no star ever since the '90s, in a real sense, has been able to convincingly play this part that, I suspect, is the hardest to hit home with, anyway.
Ranveer Singh does just that. And how! Part Govinda, from Raja Babu type pictures in the '90s, part Anil Kapoor from Ram Lakhan in the '80s, but wholly holding his own in a typically Rohit Shetty action-entertainer, Singh adds tremendous credibility to a character that had begun to tire us over time.
For one, given his robust résumé (if you only compare this performance to the anti-hero Alauddin Khilji's in Padmaavat earlier this year), you know he isn't casually reprising a role, given a captive audience (that '90s super-stars had begun to). He puts in as much effort into Simmba as he might into a Bajirao Mastani, say, mastering the Marathi twang (without quite coming across as a parody of Nana Patekar); killing it softly with well-written one-liners; setting the dance floor on
fire; romancing like a dude; doing action, like a proper, desi hero!
You fall for Inspector Sangram Bhalerao (Simmba)-a cartoonish, corrupt cop, who wants to eventually right the society's wrongs-essentially, because, you fall for the stupendous Singh on steroids. Every scene works, because he does; and vice versa. The net result is a movie that, within the same space, seems better than Ajay Devgn's Singham (2011). But for the middling soundtrack, it would've been better than Salman Khan's Dabangg (2010).
Either way, what you won't go looking for is the picture's plot, based on the Telugu potboiler Temper (2015). Because you already know what to expect: Singh as a hero. Sonu Sood as a villain. Villain ke haraami brothers. Hero ki abla nari sister. And the rape, and the revenge drama, that follow.
I'm unsure if one adequately appreciates how hard, bordering on the near impossible, it is to engagingly pull off a masala-melodrama such as this. Shetty knows more than a thing or two about this timeless genre. Yet, this may well be one of his rare movies where the connoisseur and the crackling masses are most likely to seamlessly converge.
As an audience, the only way to know if a film of this sort is working (for you), is when you find yourself (sometimes guiltily, but mostly in a carefree sort of way) smiling, responding, and along with a packed theatre, reacting to shenanigans on screen-whether they entirely make sense or not ain't the point.
The script can be full of holes. You hope your brain isn't. This is how I caught this picture, with folk in the front-benches-whistling, clapping, making loud noises, and then going quiet, during dramatic sequences.
This only brings back strong memories of large single-screen cinemas - on the verge of extinction - with people on both cheap and super-expensive seats, sharing entertainment as a common, tribal experience. That's where you should go for this. As if on cue, to Ajay Devgn walks in as Singham. As does Akshay Kumar, announcing his next film cop-flick with Shetty, Sooryavanshi (2019). You might think this is meant to be a Ranveer starrer piggy-backing on '90s super-stars - inhabiting the same Marvel-like super-hero, cinematic universe. Look at him. I think it was the other way round!
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