In the opening shot of Hansal Mehta’s Simran, the camera follows a young woman in apron casually walking into a laundry room of a hotel. It’s a sign. We, the audience, get no invitation into her universe, rather we are tailing her and watching her quietly from a corner.
Simran is a dark tale that bears striking features of a screwball-comedy. It is centred around a young NRI woman in Atlanta. Shortly into the film, she – Simran aka Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut) – bares her unguarded side. She is proudly weird and impulsive, yet possesses a buoyant quality that makes her different from others around her. She isn’t interested in pleasing anyone. She is unapologetic about the not-so-legal solutions that she finds to go ahead in life. We realise this isn’t going to end well for her. One step at a time, she is walking into an ever-tightening noose of financial liabilities and social isolation. It’s a non-judgmental portrait of a woman who doesn’t want to live according to the rules set by the society.
Mehta brings Praful closer to the audience through little scenes set at breakfast tables, box-rooms and living rooms. For one, the scene where she has a heated argument with her father, a small-time businessman in Atlanta, is eloquent. The scene proceeds organically, from a casual conversation about saving money and culminating in an explosive point where the daughter calls out the father’s hypocrisy. You can see through the father’s anger. Clearly, he regards Praful’s status as a divorcee as a matter of shame, and and her ambition to be independent as a sign of arrogance. She storms out of the house, and you get a close-up of her trying to not cry. It’s an impressively executed scene.
Praful, like Fleabag, isn’t a particularly likeable character. The goof-ups she does in life might not earn her the audience’s sympathies. But she commands your attention. Her life, a murky mess, unfurls delightfully, thanks to the actor, Ranaut, who interprets it rather brilliantly. She perfects the quirks and dilemmas of the character in her inimitable style. It could be seen even in the most minor of the scenes, like where Praful runs towards her car after committing a bank robbery. There, she is an actress whose prime objective isn’t to look pretty on-screen. Sometimes, she performs like she is in a solo mime show, pushing her co-stars out of the frame. Sometimes, she is a subtle and complementing presence in the scene.
But the film also wavers time and again, and characterisation becomes inconsistent. The scenes that you get when Praful lands in Las Vegas are great. Like a nondescript desi tourist in a flamboyant city, she goes around, bargaining with street vendors. Suddenly, the film moves on to another territory where Praful, a street-smart woman who had been carefully saving up her money for her beloved house, gets glamorously dressed up, and pours her hard-earned money down the drain in gambling business. The transition happens so quickly that it isn’t credible.
In a later scene, she takes Sameer (Sohum Shah), her fiance, to her favourite spot in the city – a meadow by the side of a lake. She spreads her arms, and tells him they are her wings. Looking up at the sky, she says, “This, what you feel right now, is freedom.” That type of romanticism doesn’t fit well in this film. The entire episode of robbery is presented like a lazy spoof. You don’t get a close look of the character’s mindset. Isn’t she scared? Does she feel lonely and tired? Is she enjoying this new identity as a bandit? What we get are scenes of token emotions. A scene where Praful watches her friend’s happy family and shedding tears. Another, where she is breaking the news of her new identity to Sameer.
The music is chirpy, assuring you that every crisis in Praful’s life would end up fine.
For the most part, Mehta’s film is naturally humorous. It collapses whenever it makes effort to be funny and water-down the unfolding tragic tale. This eagerness to milk comedy from every possible situation is evident in Ranaut too. She, at times, overdoes her attempt at physical comedy, risking the credibility of her character. Sohum Shah’s portrayal of Sameer is interesting. He is the gentle yin to Praful’s aggressive yang. Despite the plot’s emphasis on the part where Praful shows signs of falling in love with this unfashionable good-hearted man, he isn’t an intrinsic element in this film. In fact, no one is an intrinsic part of this tale, but Praful. Simran, above all, is a film about a woman’s dazzling relationship with her mad whimsical self.
The Simran review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.