With Simmba today, God bless, Rohit Shetty has restored the audiences’ faith in Bollywood. The industry was still reeling from the beating of two fancied festive releases. Thugs of Hindostan during Diwali and Zero at Christmas. Both big ticket releases made on monstrous budgets. With major star attractions and impressive special effects. But utterly dreadful. And big box office disasters. Audiences might have shied away from the New Year release. After all, what might Ranveer Singh bring to the screen that Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan could not?
But 2018 is ending on a happy and positive note. And 2019 beginning with the cheerful promise of better and more entertaining cinema from Bollywood. All because of Simmba, a simple cop revenge drama set in Goa that Rohit made without his usual dependence on souped-up cars and supercharged bikes, but which has the action-comedy-dance-drama formula that works for him and reassures audiences. Rohit Shetty also has Bhalerao “Simmba” Sangram – a swashbuckling, heroic cop with Ajay Devgn’s comforting protectiveness from Singham, Salman Khan’s playfully corrupt ways from Dabangg and Akshay Kumar’s angry action from Rowdy Rathore. The strut in his walk and snap in his dialogue are Simmba’s own.
This is Ranveer’s role of a lifetime. They are different genres, but you will have to decide whether you like the actor more in Padmaavat or Simmba. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama he was menacing; in Rohit Shetty’s modern day action comedy he is adorable. In both roles, Ranveer has shown that talent and tenacity are as good and strong a backbone as is having a family name like Kapoor or Khan in Bollywood. He is outrageously excellent. The first half of Simmba sees him dipping into his vast repertoire as a performer and coming out with the right emotions and correct expressions that give voice to Farhad Samji’s delightfully funny dialogues. Ranveer is wicked, naughty, funny and angry, but he’s always entertaining. With slicked back hair and twirling moustache, he rewrites the cop character for Bollywood, dancing with gay abandon, fighting with unrestrained ferocity, wooing baddie Sonu Sood and ingratiating himself to old school cops when not courting lady love Sara Ali Khan. Until he dramatically slips on the khaki and becomes the kind of cop that inspires boys to want to join the police force. He is an actor that has come of age. Comfortable in his skin, confident of his director, determined to win audiences by doing whatever it takes.
[caption id="attachment_188997" align="aligncenter" width="696"] L-R: Sonu Sood, Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan with Simmba's director Rohit Shetty[/caption]
Sara Ali Khan, who plays caterer Shagun and a former encounter specialist’s daughter, is undoubtedly Bollywood’s next big thing. If you thought she was breathtaking and showed promise in Kedarnath, her debut film in which Sara pretty much featured in every frame, then she demonstrates what an actress can achieve with twinkling eyes and a bright smile in limited time with Simmba. Sara is as gorgeous as she is vivacious. And while her acting talent comes from an unquestionable gene pool, her role requires Sara to do little except romance Simmba and rally around with a girl gang at the end when he is fighting a pair of killer rapists in court. Her chemistry with Ranveer is spontaneous, not sizzling. It is saucy more than sexy. The play is on words. Not soupy emotions, skin show and heavy breathing. She has a beautiful presence. It even overshadows picturesque Switzerland where Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s classic song Tere Bin was shot to show the gentle romance between Simmba and Shagun.
[caption id="attachment_190021" align="aligncenter" width="674"] Simmba director Rohit Shetty with Sara Ali Khan, Ranveer Singh and fim's producer Karan Johar[/caption]
But really, the film belongs to Rohit Shetty. For having the courage of his conviction to mix the comedy of his Golmaal films with the action of his Singham franchise. For casting Ranveer Singh in a roaring, lion-like role that challenges his outstanding performance in Padmaavat. For taking Sara Ali Khan when Kedarnath looked like it was not happening and giving her screen time with Ranveer and two rocking songs to impress with her dance moves and earnest performance. For making a rocking, full-on entertainer out of a cop revenge drama that is as old as crime itself. For shooting it simply and cleverly locally, not expansively and expensively abroad. For casting Sonu Sood in a powerful role that he already played to perfection in Dabangg. For calling upon his Golmaal cast, co-producer Karan Johar, and for using chartbusting remakes to incorporate them in his story. For making rape his storyboard, the Delhi gang-rape of 2012 his reference point, and for giving women actors prominent roles as wives, mothers, daughters, policewomen and even a judge in this hero-oriented film. Rohit Shetty’s been there and done it all. But he does not venture out to recreate the wheel with Simmba. He dusts his old formula off the shelf and puts it to use again here. The twist comes at the end, when he gets Ajay Devgn in his Singham avatar to come to Simmba’s rescue with a crackling action cameo that would have the Hollywood superheroes of Avengers gaping in awe and envy. The film is totally a masala entertainer. Paisa vasool whether you’re with the front benchers or on a recliner at the back.
Bollywood trade sources have noticed it before. Likewise, PRs of films and big production houses. Not to mention the actors themselves. A subtle but determined and sick campaign on Twitter in Dubai to undermine big ticket Hindi films. It gets underway on Thursday. Which is when Bollywood films get released in the UAE because Friday is the big holiday there. By nightfall, the campaign has exhausted itself, the Twitterati in Dubai tired of their efforts. But Bollywood fans, and Dubai has a huge chunk of them, are asking why and wondering who is behind this.
Yesterday was a classic example. Even before the Khaleej Times and Gulf News, the premier English dailies in UAE, were out with their online reviews of Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, the Dubai Twitterati were at it. Spewing hate and criticism at the filmmaker for daring to make a film that gave them “a headache” and “hospitalized several people”, “spoiled their mood”, was “tasteless, drab, a big bore, a damp squib, a total debacle, a torture” and which, one joker said, “made Race 3 look like Chak De, Thugs of Hindostan like Baahubali, and Zero like Avengers”.
The thing is, Bollywood is beginning to suspect that the Dubai hate-mongering is being instigated by somebody from the film industry in Mumbai itself. Somebody who is weak, spineless, insecure and jealous. Maybe dissatisfied with their own filmmaking or acting skills. Who oftentimes are spurred on by bitter PRs that have failed to promote a film or star. Talking is free. And Twitter lets malicious trollers remain faceless behind its curtain of anonymity. But why? When the box office is a great equalizer and delivers its own verdict on films. Only somebody with a secret agenda would rip apart a total entertainer like Simmba. And tell Ranveer Singh he should not act without a beard!