Simran movie cast: Kangana Ranaut, Mark Justice, Soham Shah, Hiten Kumar, Esha Tewari Pande, Manu Narayan
Simran movie director: Hansal Mehta
Simran movie rating: 3 stars
First things first. If anyone had any doubt that an Indian leading lady cannot carry a full-fledged film, they can banish that thought at once. In Simran, Kangana Ranaut drives from the front seat, keeping her feet firmly on the accelerator, and everyone else in the cast follows.
While that is an entirely wonderful thing because Ranaut is in top form, it also becomes a failing, and ultimately prevents the film from becoming a stand-out. And that’s because there’s altogether too much of Ranaut without adequate support from the plot, which runs off in all directions in order to keep her in every frame (ironically, the leading lady has a script-and-additional-dialogues credit), and it all becomes too much of a good thing.
The story of an Atlanta-based, divorced-at-30, searching-for- self Praful Patel gives Ranaut enough to do in the first half, and we are fully absorbed. A highly-entertaining what-happens-in-Vegas-doesn’t-quite-stay-in Vegas episode, leads Ms Patel and the film into slushy territory.
The good things first. Patel’s character (based loosely on a real-life person) is crafted with welcome detail. She has a job, a complicated family life, and she has ambitions. For herself. Which makes her a rare creature in mainstream Bollywood where the leading ladies are referenced through their men.
Refreshingly too, Patel is determinedly blue collar Gujju ben. As a hotel housekeeping employee, she pats down beds, cleans sinks, pushes a vacuum-cleaner, and fends off unwelcome advances from sundry male colleagues. But she’s happy to get it on when she wants to: no shrinking virgins for Ms Ranaut. Clap, clap. Her parents, the crotchety Pappa and loving ma are well drawn too, though the father goes a bit over-the-top sometimes: Praful is no sugar and spice and everything nice, and that extends to the nice young man (Shah, excellent in a role that heroines usually play, of bringing up the rear) who comes to ‘see’ her.
This is really the strength of Simran: Ranaut’s willingness to be not-nice. She’s not going to play nice to get her way. She is downright dislikeable, in fact, and that makes her relatable. It’s also the creation of a character who has an inner secret life which is so much at variance with what Patel is on top. The layers instantly give the film heft.
But the plot gets into a loop, and her slide into another avatar — the gambler and thief– becomes tiresome. The Americans who play the bad guys are caricatures; the cops are buffoons. What begins well, meanders. And it is tonally confused, seguing back and forth between too much seriousness and too much jokeyness.
But Kangana keeps us watching. With her plain unvarnished face, and mobile features, she comes across as a real, solid, complex woman, someone you can reach out and touch. When she’s on the top of her game, helping us ignore so many of the film’s loopholes, she’s glorious. It’s a pity her own story lets her down.