Review: 'Simran' presents Kangana Ranaut at her best and worst

Film shifts genres from drama to action to comedy and it almost feels exhausting


Rahul Aijaz September 18, 2017
PHOTO: FORBES

While Kangana Ranaut has gained a lot of coverage recently for off-screen controversies, nothing and no one can take away from the fact that she is a star. She has the ability to carry a film all by herself. If that’s not the testimony of her acting prowess, I don’t know what is. Yet, her films for the past few years have all felt the same. There hasn’t been much diversity in her characters recently. Simran isn’t any different.

The film, based on the life of Sandeep Kaur, an Indian convicted in the US for bank robberies, follows the story of Praful Patel (Ranaut), a Gujrati housekeeping lady in the US who merely wants to buy her own apartment. But obviously, that’s not going to happen, and she instead spirals down into a whirlwind of problems, including debt, robberies and strained relations.

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With a unique storyline as this, Simran feels like a character solely written for Ranaut. And no doubt, she comes off at her absolute brilliant in it. Yet, something is not right. We have seen the actress do the same shtick several times, that it almost feels like she is slowly becoming like Salman Khan – playing herself in films rather than becoming a different character.

PHOTO: KOI MOI PHOTO: KOI MOI

And it’s not even entirely her fault in this case. Maybe a little. But it’s probably time she showcases a radically different character, in order not to be typecast as a ‘small town girl’.

As far as the screenplay is concerned, there was one thought I couldn’t waive during the entire film. When one learns screenwriting and storytelling, one advice that is often repeated is, “What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to your protagonist? Figure it out and do it.”

As storytellers, we are supposed to be merciless toward the characters we create. As much as it feeds our basic animal instinct, it also helps us tell an engaging story. Up the stakes for the character and see how he or she reacts. Their response will take push them out of their difficult circumstance or they’ll crumble – the simplest and the most common struggle at the heart of every story.

PHOTO: NDTV PHOTO: NDTV

Watching Simran, I felt the writer Apurva Asrani kept this advice close to his heart, even printing and sticking it on the wall above the laptop he wrote the film on. And, surprisingly, he succeeded, for the most part.

Minutes turn into hours as we see Praful almost crumble as each of her efforts to fix things go awry. Yet, overall, the screenplay turns out weak. The emotional impact of the actress’ dwindling life and dreams is minimal. Instead, we are directed to laugh at unfunny comedic elements.

Further, the film shifts genres from a drama to action to comedy and it almost feels exhausting. Genre hybrids are not a new phenomenon but the execution is all that matters. The film goes sloppy, especially in the second half – almost if mimicking Praful’s life. In fact, the eventual bank robberies were laughable and monotonous (Does no bank in America have guards or a security alarm?). Other than the protagonist, all other characters are mere caricatures with no depth and purpose to them other than appear on screen to add to Simran’s setbacks, and disappear without resolution.

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Even with all the strange faults, it’s a fairly entertaining film, if not great. Simran is well shot and does its best not to let you go for the loo. Ranaut is solid, if only repetitive. It’d be unfair to say she has lost her fire, but the flame seems to be gradually dimming.

Verdict: Go watch it if you are into mediocre presentations of interesting real-life stories. You’ll get a few laughs and enjoy Ranaut’s performance, but nothing to write home about.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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