I’ve never once voluntarily gone to see a Rohit Shetty film in theaters (except “Dilwale,” but we don’t need to talk about that). That being said, “Simmba,” doused in typical Shetty flavor and even with some problematic moments, it might be worth a trip to theaters.
Shetty’s remake of the Telugu film, “Temper,” had a 20-crore opening, making it on track to be amongst the top ten opening weekend hoardings of the year. All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for “Simmba” lead Ranveer Singh. He’s had a marriage, a couple blockbusters under the belt, and now his much-anticipated “Gully Boy” will be making the rounds of the festival circuit.
“Simmba” is the epitome of single screen cinema, complete with seeti bajao-worthy lines and hot-takes straight at the camera. A cast of aam-aadmi character actors somehow find the dark sunglasses-clad lead worming his way into their hearts with his raucous laughter and ridiculous jokes. All the actors repeat their lines again and again for emphasis, guiding you along the plot with the heaviest of hands — in case you’ve missed the first several indicators. With a set lifted straight out of “Singham” and the same Goa setting as always, Rohit Shetty seems at ease in his backyard.
The story flows quickly for the most part and the first half (dare I say it) is incredibly entertaining. Ranveer as Simmba drunkenly mimes and alters the lyrics to classic songs, and his one-liners and swagger leave you wondering if it’s the character or the man talking. Like its predecessor, “Singham,” “Simmba” comes complete with his own tagline, a cheeky “tell me something I don’t know” which always gets a laugh.
Shetty takes all his plot cues from the 80s: A pretty girl, a wayward officer turned good once he finally dons that khakhi uniform, not to mention an underworld Bhau who has no qualms about murdering his brother-in-law, but still teaches his young son about Gandhi and respects his mother’s every word.
“Simmba” is an orphan who has seen a police officer take a bribe early in his life and decides for this very reason that he, too, will one day be a cop. With the help of a kind-hearted night school teacher, he achieves his dream and somehow manages to remain likable even without a moral compass. Enter the beautiful orphan girl across the street, Shagun, disapproving subordinate Mohile, and night school teacher Akruti, and the compass finally begins to tick.
Ranveer Singh was meant to be in “Simmba.” Everything about him screams mass appeal hero, and the film delivers in droves. He lives and breathes Sanghram Bhalerao, taking immense pleasure in every thrust of his crotch and every wayward punch laid on some unsuspecting goon. Simmba is drunk with power, and yet he is all the more hilarious for it.
The film is swimming in remade 80s aesthetic, and Singh can’t help but take a few laps in the pool to stretch his muscles. He elevates the script in a way you wouldn’t think possible, and would make even the most callous critic roll his eye in fond exasperation. The hamming and the kitschy one-liners come naturally, believable because he understands the laugh-ability of it all. The play acting as he mocks a disapproving subordinate with uff taana is fucking FUNNY.
The masala works for the masses because it always does. It works in the first half for a “multi-screen” audience, too, because the kitsch is the joke, and Ranveer Singh is certainly in on it. He’ll make sure you are, too. That’s the benefit of working with an actor who so deeply reveres the kind of cinema he makes, as well as the cinema with which he grew up.
It’s obvious Singh was chomping at the bit to essay this role, he hits all his marks ten times over and more. He gets the ridiculous accent, and linguistic mix just right, and every film reference pulls a laugh out. When the plot turns the page, Singh cuts the shaana corrupt officer act, and portrays the grief and rage of Bhalerao with a startling amount of authenticity.
A hospital scene pre-interval especially calls attention to his acting chops. With all the bluster knocked out of him, stripped of cheeky humor and taglines, Singh’s grief-stricken face looks inexplicably young. It’s the turning point of “Simmba,” and while there is little believability in the second half, what does remain flows straight from Ranveer’s sheer conviction and commitment.
Still despite the film’s obvious raging success, I’m glad it wasn’t Sara Ali Khan’s debut. Khan as Shagun looked gorgeous against Shetty’s backdrops, giving all the right faces and body movements, but she didn’t do much else. And it’s not her fault’ we’ve seen enough from “Kedarnath” to know this newcomer has some acting chops of her own — it is the script that lets her down. A short, unsatisfying will-they-won’t-they between Singh and Khan gives way to a beautifully revamped Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan number on the hills, but unfortunately Khan is later sidelined for the rest of “Simmba,” save for a line here and there. Two such different releases in the same month, however, shows promise for our newest leading lady. And a Shetty film is always an experience, even if you’re overshadowed by a seemingly random (but fully expected) cameo from Ajay Devgn.
The downfall of “Simmba” (if you manage to overlook all the testosterone) is its rape-revenge plotline. The second half of the film devolves into an uncomfortably paternalistic rage-fest that centers on the question “what would you do if it were your sister?” This is made all the more upsetting and harmful by the sheer multiplicity of women around Simmba crying out that these rapists need to be shot and killed. Singh calls back to Jyoti Singh Pandey, as well the horrifying incident with an eight-month-old infant at the start of 2018, marrying movie and memory in a wildly Sunny Deol reminiscent “tareek pe tareek” scene in a courthouse.
The effect is clear, disturbing, and jarring. It talks of all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Women voice that they are afraid to go anywhere at night, parents look at each other and cower to think of what would happen to them if their daughters had been assaulted. Shetty very clearly grasps the mood of the moment, but he squanders it with responses like “Desh ki betiyaan padh toh rahi hain par desh ki betiyon ko in haivanon se bachaega kaun (daughters of the nation are studying, but who will save them from these savages)?” which is a play on the ever present “beti bachao, beti padhao” government slogan, and “darr mat tu police officer ki beti hai.”
The film attempts to include women in the film: Simmba asks a judge if one “desh ki beti” can help another, a group of female officers beat a confession out of the two rapists, and (in case the point hadn’t gotten across) Simmba asks a group of women what they think should happen to rapists. Of course, each answers unflinchingly that “they deserve to die.”
It’s woefully misguided at best, and downright irresponsible at worst. There’s no nuance in the conversation, there’s no emotion behind the reality of the crime besides the same tired thought process of “she could be your mom/sister/daughter.” It makes you wonder if Shetty and the men behind “Simmba” would care if about a stranger in the same way. And in case you’re not already stressed enough, take into account that Shetty does not waste time in promoting two new outings: A subtle indicator for “Golmaal 5,” and a teaser for the upcoming Akshay Kumar-starrer “Suryavanshi,” complete with a tagline.
“Simmba” is clearly an effort by Shetty to blend masala with “cinema that matters,” but I am left wary by the righteousness he assigns these fake encounters. Is it right to revere extra-judicial justice by the police in a country notorious for police & political complacency (and encouragement) of communal riotings?
The sounds of triumph swelled around the Miramar police station in the immediate aftermath, and as the audience clapped around me, I felt my throat dry. When the current landscape is rife with these very crimes by the government, how, in good conscience, do we take a very real problem like rape and prescribe it such a morally wrong solution? For a country which so frequently takes its cues from its films, it is terrifying to think that “encounter” stories are so commonplace, and they are so often seen as Hail Mary victories for righteous officers stifled by the system.
All in all I give “Simmba” 3 out of 5 stars. It might just be the best Rohit Shetty film to date (if such a thing exists), and it owes its entire success to Ranveer Singh. All I hope and pray is that Singh keeps listening to his better angels and delivers us more Bajiraos and Padmaavats (and Band Bajaas!) alongside his newfound mass-hero success.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.