Simran Review

Kangana Ranaut stars in Hansal Mehta’s “Simran,” which is loosely based on the real-life sensational story of Indian American Sandeep Kaur, a nurse-turned-bank robber from Union City, Calif., who was dubbed as “Bombshell Bandit.” (photo provided)

 Actual con woman Sandeep Kaur may feel affronted: if she is a normal woman that is. Her supposed biopic of sorts is a mélange of confused filmmaking, inept writing and silly gaffes and loopholes. The film is 125-minute-long and can be split into four parts: the first 30-35 minutes are fun, though both whatever is happening on screen and Kangana Ranaut carry a strong and obviously inferior hangover of “Queen.” The next half hour makes one restive, waiting for the interval not just for a temporary respite but also because we expect a pre-interval twist. The entire second half is a drag, very repetitious, often devoid of logic, with an end that looks as if the writing and direction team suddenly decided that they could not stretch the rubber band anymore. The viewer’s elastic limit has long been reached anyway.

There is a kind of uber-tepid twist just before the intermission that we have no inkling will carry on into the second half. But then, during interval, this reviewer suddenly recalled reading something vague about the film being based on a real con woman’s exploits in America. Of course, the whitewash for the protagonist is there — she has been reckless as a gambler, and she has lost her savings (kept to buy her own apartment), and she only wants to rob banks until she repays her angry and not very legal lenders, and not make it a habit, see?

For reasons, completely unconnected to the needs of the storyline, Atlanta, Georgia-based Praful Patel, aka Simran (Kangana Ranaut) is a divorcee, but not the worse for it (side issue: Praful is generally a male name in every community, so what gives???). She works in the housekeeping department in a huge hotel, with a boss (Rupinder Nagra) who lusts after her, but is angry because she does not oblige. But in a ridiculous sequence, she willingly almost sleeps with an American stranger for money, and then refuses at the last moment because he is not using protection!

Praful has an altercation with her old-fashioned father (Hiten Kumar, looking every inch a non-Gujarati!) and on the rebound, decides to go to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a bachelorette party of her cousin (Aneesha Joshi, impressive in a minor cameo). She gambles there, makes a fortune, gambles again and loses most of her savings and incurs a $32,000 debt to a vicious moneylender duo (Jason Louder and another American white actor).

Back home, Praful also loses her dream home as her loan is not passed, and her father does not oblige her (for the first time, we see an Indian family, that too, Gujaratis, who are living in the U.S. but are not well-off!). So, she somehow gets into the racket of robbing banks. An arranged match, who is foolishly idealistic (Soham Shah, supremely unimpressive in a terribly scripted role) fizzles out. And what happens next?

At one level, the film is also an insult to our intelligence. Despite Praful carrying out many bank robberies (more easily than we all legally withdraw money!), no one ever spots the culprit’s automobile number as there is not a soul outside the banks (and no one is rushing out) when Praful runs away in her car.

No camera ever records her automobile registration number plate, and then suddenly, when the director decides to end this saga, they do, and the cops reach her home. Praful escapes and later surrenders on a lonely road. Why? That, too, has a laughable explanation!

Hansal Mehta (a unique director who has made at least half-a-dozen films minus a single one connecting with the audience!), like many noir-and art cinema-inspired makers, foolishly ventures into the challenging realms of mainstream cinema and, like many superior talents, crash lands. The script is juvenile, over-simplistic when convenient, and fails to create empathy, sympathy or a connect with Praful. Why is she then called Simran? If you do not wish to watch the movie but still wish to know the reason, go watch the 2007 masterpiece, “Johnny Gaddaar,” for the answer!

A film entirely shot in the U.S. with a lot of locals involved is bound to have picturesque camerawork (Anuj Rakesh Dhawan), and the art direction (Tiya Tejpal) is also a standout. The editing (Antara Lahiri) is totally flaccid, but honestly, the shortfall is really in the earlier two legs of three-legged filmmaking stool—the writing and direction, not on this last one. Sachin-Jigar’s songs are indifferent, but their background music is effective.

Kangana Ranaut makes a thorough mélange of most of her past playing-to-the-gallery performances and cuts a generally trite figure. She simply does not make you feel for her. The character as well as her performance lack that magic, sadly. There is also nothing in her role, apart from foreseeable diction clichés, to suggest a Gujarati anymore than there was in Anushka Sharma’s work in “Jab Harry Met Sejal.” Again, the fault lies in the crucial departments mentioned. And yes, whenever needed, Ms Patel sheds her Gujju influences and become plain, old Ms. Ranaut!

The foreigners generally impress, especially Louder as the belligerent black and Mark Justice as the man in the bar. The rest are just alright. But we cannot really say that about this yarn.

As India-West had previously reported “Simran” is loosely based on the real-life sensational story of Indian American Sandeep Kaur, a nurse-turned-bank robber dubbed as “Bombshell Bandit.”

Kaur, of Union City, Calif., was convicted of robbing four banks across three U.S. states and arrested in July 2015 after a lengthy law-enforcement pursuit. She was sentenced to 66 months in April 2015.

Revealing the story of her life to BBC from Iron County Jail in Cedar City, Utah, Kaur spoke about how as a licensed nurse she was making up to $6,000 a month but how things went downhill for her after she became a gambling addict and in desperation, resorted to robbing banks as ordered by the loan sharks.

“I ate at that table. I only took bathroom breaks…I was sitting at the table for 16 hours... hoping it’ll all change. Then it all just went down the drain,” she told BBC.

She pulled off the first heist at the Bank of the West in Valencia, Calif., where BBC reports that she had risked her life and liberty for little more than $21,200. Yet she then embarked on a one-woman, five-week crime spree, robbing banks in Arizona, California, and Utah.

T-Series and Karma Features present “Simran”

Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Shailesh R. Singh & Amit Agarwal

Directed by: Hansal Mehta

Written by: Apoorva Asrani with Kangana Ranaut

Music: Sachin-Jigar

Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Soham Shah, Hiten Kumar, Kishori Shahane Vij, Mark Justice, Esha Tewari Pande, Manu Narayan, Aneesha Joshi, Rupinder Nagra, Usha Jerajani, James Cole, Catherine Dyer, Jason Louder, Aneesha Joshi, Timothy Ryan Hickernell & others

Rating: **

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