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Simran is worth a watch, for Kangana Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut in a still from Simran
Kangana Ranaut in a still from Simran
We went to see Simran, Hansal Mehta's latest offering, with Kangana Ranaut in the lead, on Sunday. As we set out, it occurred to us that it was the first time that we had not even bothered to find out the names of the rest of the cast of the movie.
 
Simran has been projected as a Ranaut-centred movie and that is how it turned out to be. She is one of the few Bollywood actresses who can carry a film almost entirely on her own, and the movie highlights this throughout.
 
The movie tells the story of Praful Patel, played by Ranaut, a 30-year-old Gujarati divorcee who lives in Georgia, Atlanta with her middle class parents. She works in the housekeeping department of a hotel and wants to buy her own apartment so that she can move out of the home of her parents, with whom she has a love-hate relationship. Her parents, of course, want her to remarry but she turns down every proposal.
 
The rest of the movie is about how Praful ends up in a serious mess as she chases her dream of buying a house. Along the way, we discover her "character flaws". Revealing more than this would amount to playing spoiler.
 
So does the movie work? Ranaut is in command almost throughout and essays her role well. But that is about all.
 
The film suffers from the lack of a good script. The character of a young Gujarati woman in the United States, with her Gujarati accent and living with her conservative parents, offered possibilities which have not been fully exploited. As the film progresses, you seem to be watching the same thing over and over again as the story moves forward ever so slowly.
 
Secondly, it would appear to be a case of poor casting. A movie clicks when the right actor is chosen for each role, even the minor ones, and they play their part well. This is not quite the case here. But then, given that Ranaut commands all your attention almost throughout, it does not seem to matter.
 
Sohum Shah, who appeared in Ship of Theseus and Talvar, plays Sameer, Praful's love interest and endears himself to the audience with an understated performance. He holds his own against Ranaut in all the scenes in which they appear together. Hiten Kumar, as Praful's constantly nagging father who runs a small business that is not doing too well and Kishori Shahane, who plays her mother, manage to get by.
 
One cannot get the feeling that Mehta did not pay much attention to the other characters in the movie and there are quite a few of them. Many of them have not been clearly etched out and remain unidimensional.
 
Most of us willingly suspend our disbelief when we go to the movies, and, if some parts of the story seem implausible, we can handle that. And you will have to do quite a bit of that with this one. Despite all that, the family scenes, Praful's interactions with her colleagues, the bank robberies and the car chase are all enjoyable for the elan with which Ranaut carries them off.
 
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Simran is one of those rare Bollywood movies in which the woman is not apologetic for what she describes as her "character flaws". It is also rare to see a Bollywood heroine who starts out as a divorcee in a movie, appearing to enjoy herself and living by her own set of rules. It is that spirit that leads Praful into a life of crime as the movie progresses.
 
The problem is that the movie drags quite a bit. If it is meant to be a comedy, it does not make you laugh enough. If it has a serious message, it does not quite touch or move you. Of course, a filmmaker has the right to tell a story the way he wants to and is not obliged to stick to a single theme or genre. Here, you often get the feeling that you are watching a light-hearted flick, but then it turns dark in parts and emotional at other points, and then ends abruptly, leaving you a bit confused.
 
The movie is based entirely in the United States, and you get to see quite a bit of Atlanta, Las Vegas and other parts of that country through Anuj Dhavan's efficient handling of the camera. Sachin-Jigar's music and the songs add to the charm of the movie.
 
In the end, you keep watching because Ranaut is a delight in almost all the scenes, getting the Gujarati accent right often enough, though not consistently, but always on top of all her scenes. But the lack of other competent actors and characters who could have provided a foil to Praful Patel shows.
 
Simran is loosely based on the real-life story of Sandeep Kaur, whose story had captivated the United States in the summer of 2014. The movie closely follows many of the details of Sandeep's improbable story. Reading up about her might help you understand some of the twists and turns in the story of Praful Patel which otherwise might appear strange and illogical.
 
Overall, Simran works well in its lighter moments but does not do so in the dramatic scenes and, to that extent, it becomes a bit of a stretch. Only Ranaut  can carry off a movie without relying on a top male star. The movie delivers only in part and could have been much more fun. But, still, you will enjoy it.
 
Rating: 3.5/5
 
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