Dharma Productions, Reliance Entertainment & Rohit Shetty Picturez present “Simmba”

Produced by: Hiroo Johar, Karan Johar, Apoorva Mehta & Rohit Shetty

Directed by: Rohit Shetty

Written by: Yunus Sajawal, Sajid Samji, Farhad Samji

Music: Viju Shah, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tanishk Bagchi, Lijo George-DJ Chetas & S. Thaman

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Sonu Sood, Ashutosh Rana, Siddharth Jadhav, Sarita Joshi, Vaidehi Parshurami, Ashwini Kalsekar, Suchitra Bandekar, Neha Mahajan, Ronjini Chakraborty, Ganesh Yadav, Ashok Samarth,

Saurabh Gokhale, Amrit Singh, Sulabha Arya, Vijay Patkar, Ulka Gupta, Sahil Joshi, Sreeswara Dubey, Ravjeet Singh, Nandu Madhav, Arun Nalawade Sp. App.: Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar, Shreyas Talpade & Kunal Kemmu, and others

You have got to hand it to Rohit Shetty – he can rework a classic and give it an identity as a distinctly new and original classic! Having mastered this art with “Singham,” “Bol Bachchan” (from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Gol Maal”), “Golmaal Returns” (partly from “Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar”), he now takes a spin on the Telugu hit “Temper” and comes up with a fascinating mix of comedy (the first half) and serious and intense issue-based drama in “Simmba.” And do notice the oblique tribute to “Deewaar” (Amitabh Bachchan as a shoeshine and Iftekhar) in the way Simmba as a kid first meets Durva.

What’s more, Shetty packs in an incredible team that does its best, is not bothered about nitpicking side issues like the occasional overdose of color in his sets and costumes and irrelevant songs and dances and focuses, instead, on the core story, the basic emotional wallop and the use of some truly unexpected twists in dialogues and sequences. He knows where to pack in the clichés and at what points the freshness and blend them into a heady package of classic family (and friends) masala Hindi film entertainment.

You also have to hand it to Ranveer Singh. Eighteen long years after Hrithik Roshan (who has since gone considerably off-track as a complete package), we finally have an unapologetic superstar. It is intrinsically monumentally difficult to make a comic yet lovable rogue turn intensely serious and noble and maintain consistency to make the same character believable in both avatars, but Singh thinks nothing of it and makes it look like a cakewalk.

There is not a single false note in the pitch of his performance from beginning to end. As the corrupt and money-devouring cop transforming into a ramrod-straight dutiful one, Singh is as much in sync as he was at the beginning of the year, playing the incredibly evil and amoral Khilji in “Padmaavat.”

Then there are the dialogues by Farhad Samji: if awards were fair and did not look down on mainstream cinema, this category should be unanimously awarded to him for the exceptionally witty lines even in the later scenes. The Marathi inflection and use in a comprehensible manner (but for at a couple of minor junctures) is a highlight.

The sore points? One: the music. The best songs are the re-creations. But we fail to understand why a Goa-based film centering on Maharashtrians should have a Punjabi song re-created by a Bengali composer filmed in Europe and yet another song with the word “Bandeya.”

Two, we had a small issue with Ajay Devgn’s cameo as the original Singham, which would have been perfect had he entered a sequence later. We do not want to give spoilers here, and those who will watch the film will understand what I mean.

But for these two relatively minor defects, the film is a perfect entertainer. We are shown the pathogenesis of the orphan Sangram Bhalerao aka Simmba (Ranveer Singh) and how he is thrilled when posted to Miramar. Early on, he antagonizes Durva Ranade (Sonu Sood), the local Mafioso.

 He also loses his heart to catering service owner Shagun (Sara Ali Khan), whose establishment is opposite the police station and who is herself the daughter of a cop who was martyred while on duty. And as he continues his roguish way of working, he antagonizes senior inspector Kadam (Ashutosh Rana), an upright cop, to the point of his being disgusted with Simmba.  

Durva’s brothers (Saurabh Gokhale and Amrit Singh) also operate a drug cartel and use poor kids as couriers. Medical intern Akruti (Vaidehi Parshurami), who Simmba considers like a younger sister, tutors them at night (as a passion and mission) and comes to know of this and is caught by the duo. The film takes a turn as she is raped and Durva wants Simmba to hand over evidence of his brothers’ involvement.

A gritty second half, which does tend to have moments of preaching, makes for lines and sequences that are as clap-worthy (although for contrasting reasons) as in the classic Shetty-like first half, in which everyone’s clearly having a ball. Technically, the film is as needed for the scale of the mounting, and special mention must be made of Amar Mohile’s background score, especially the thematic riff.

In the second half, the sequence of the encounter is a highlight. And other sequences that remain with us include the drinking sequence between Simmba and Kadam and Simmba’s hilarious spin on a “Roja” song, the sequence where Simmba suspects Shagun’s friend Dheeraj (Ravjeet Singh) of being her flame and the scene where she asks the cop why he is so shy about his feelings.

Almost all the sequences between Simmba and Durva (Sonu Sood is wonderful as the man who “balances” his heinous work with family, comprising a mother, wife, son, uncle and two brothers). But overall, despite the long length, there is no moment in the whole film in which we feel restive. And the after-climax is a brilliant trailer to the film Johar and Shetty are now producing, with Akshay Kumar as the cop.

Sara has nothing much to do, but Ashutosh Rana is fabulous indeed. Arun Nalawade as the old man is perfect, and Siddharth Jadhav as Simmba’s right hand and Vaidehi Parshurami as Akruti make a special mark among all the competent artistes, most of whom are Maharashtrians.

“Simmba” is one humongous roar of entertainment. At year-end, go get engulfed in it.

Rating: ****

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