In Singham Returns Again, oops, sorry, Simmba, a police officer sloughs off his rough-and-ready skin and emerges as the savior of the poor and meek. Wait, haven’t we seen that before? Bad question, because this one could just as well have been called Singham part 3.
Except it’s Ranveer Singh, not Ajay Devgn, who plays Sangram Bhalerao aka Simmba, street-smart orphan turned cop, who shows up in a Goa police station to do the following: a) eye pretty lasses b) mouth ‘taali-seeti’ dialogue c) play around with the baddies before thumping ’em good d) mouth ‘taali-seeti’ dialogues. Wait, we said that before.
And we’ve seen it all before. The set-pieces are familiar. The clashes between the bad guys and the cops coated with the ‘vardi-ki-aan-shaan-baan’ lines are the same. The background music which drowns out everything is right there. To remind us of ‘before’, actors who own popular hit songs are rustled up to shake a leg, and to top it all, the original cop-who-walks-slo-mo-like-a-panther comes on to tell the rookie how it’s done.
The only reason to watch Simmba then, is Ranveer Singh. In his sharp moochh sticking up at both ends, shiny bronzed face, broad shoulders filling out, eventually, the khakee uniform, Singh is Simmba. Striding into cop stations, wading into ‘goondas’, losing his heart to the girl across the road Shagun (Ali Khan), Singh is fully alive to the moment, knowing that he is working in a template, aware that he has to keep breaking out.
A solid turn by Ashutosh Rana as a cynical weary old cop lifts the film as he shares significant screen space with Singh. Shetty slings in a rape-of-an-innocent as a tipping point, and we have no doubt which way our hero will swing. The fallout of the incident plays out in problematic ways: it is just a device to provide a noble change-of-heart for the hero; the victim is merely a to-be-dispensed-with-convenience. The reference to the 2012 Nirbhaya may have been used as sharp social commentary in another kind of film; here it only provides false gravitas. Heavy-handed sentiment only serves to cloy Shetty’s universe, closely aligned as it is to macho posturings and cars-tumbling-in-the-air empty rhetoric.
Sara Ali Khan’s second appearance in the same month (after Kedarnath) proves that she is no fluke. She switches on the sparkle, and gets a few lines and a song or two, which is what female leads have to be content with in these testosterone-heavy muscle-bound movies. Now that she’s got her mainstream chops, maybe she will be careful to retreat to films where she has more to do: masala-coated formula has a way of swallowing up freshness.
Finally, it is Singh, bubbling over as the ‘bhai-from-another-aai’, that you take away from this jaded thing.