Simran cast: Kangana Ranaut, Soham Shah, Mark Justice, Hiten Kumar
Simran Director: Hansal Mehta
Minutes after I book tickets for the first show of Simran, I come across an update on my twitter timeline – ‘Simran first half done. Terrible. No redeeming qualities, whatsoever.’
From a handle that is quite a film buff and is watching a press preview.
Duh. Did my 500 bucks just go down the drain? – is the first thought. What a dampener. But then the thought is dismissed immediately with – it’s a Kangana Ranaut film, however bad, there’d still be some rib-tickling histrionics to watch out for.
And precisely this expectation redeems Simran of the cracks in its story.
Simran has Kangana Ranaut donning the garb of Prafful Patel, a street-smart, Indian-accented English speaking (almost caricaturish) Gujarati American living in Atlanta. A 30-year-old divorcee, she is seen as an embarrassment by her Gujarati pappa, a sourpuss who runs a grocery store. Her mother is a thepla-eating, Gujarati woman stereotype, mostly caught in the crossfire between her douchebag of a husband and quick-witted daughter.
Despite Praful’s efforts at educating them in western ways, the parents are stuck in the stereotypes immigrant Gujaratis are famous for, prone to describing her housekeeping job in a hotel as ‘jhaadu pocha’, much to her annoyance.
‘Log kya sochenge’, ‘samaj kya kahega’ is their perpetual concern as they try convincing their ’30-year-old-divorcee’ daughter to marry and settle down. But hardworking, independent and penny-wise Ms Patel has other plans as she is saving her hard earned money to buy a house for herself and is in the process of securing a home loan.
Losing it all in Las Vegas
A series of petty squabbles at home sees Praful heading to Las Vegas for some time out, accompanied by her cousin, Amber who’s travelling to celebrate her bachelorette party in the sin city. In Vegas, as Amber decides to hook up with her ex-boyfriend, Praful is left to her own devices. She whiles away time indulging in amusing pursuits – window-shopping at fancy apparel stores, bargaining for discounts with street side vendors, using cheesy pick-up lines in bars, AND playing baccarat in a casino.
This last casual pursuit becomes her undoing – with a dizzying streak of beginner’s luck, she gets hooked to the easy money lure of gambling, losing all her savings and some more at the table, and at the same time falling prey to casino sharks.
The Adventures of Simran
Back home in Atlanta with all her savings down the casino drain, and loans sharks baying for her blood, desperate Praful finds an easy way out of the financial quandary – robbing banks. Using the alias Simran (picked up while tackling some bouncers from her mother who sat watching DDLJ in her living room) and armed with some YouTube gyaan on how to rob banks, a set of colourful wigs and big sunglasses, she sets out on bank heists. And from here on, it’s a mad rush to rob more and more banks to pacify the loan sharks biting at her heels.
Some bank robbery scenes in the film come across as pretty lame, but if one knows the story of Sandeep Kaur, whose life the film Simran is based on, one would believe the ridiculousness of the robbery scenes. As per news reports, Sandeep would simply walk up to the tellers with a note scribbled in lipstick saying she had a bomb on her body and if she was not handed the money she would blow up the bank. Simran of the reel uses the same trick as Sandeep of the real, earning her the sobriquet, Lipstick Bandit.
In between all the money woes and the dual life, there is Sameer (played by Sohum Shah), a quintessential gentleman seeking an arranged marriage alliance with Praful. Taken in by her beauty and charm, he wants to marry her, unaware of the troubled parallel life she is leading. Things come to a head soon, as Praful’s Simran persona tumbles out in full view of her family and Sameer. How Praful extricates herself out of the colossal financial and legal mess makes for a deliciously hilarious parting shot of the film.
What makes Simran watchable?
Simran is a quirky reel adaptation of the real story of Sandeep Kaur, an Indian American nurse who got addicted to gambling and resorted to bank robbery to overcome financial losses. Kangana Ranaut stands out in the titular role and makes for an endearing Simran despite the character flaws. To say that Simran is an out and out Kangana Ranaut film is like stating the obvious. She is in every frame, filling it up with everyday expressions that have become her trademark – idiosyncratic and charming at the same time.
While the character of Praful/Simran might not be as enduring as Rani of Queen or Tanu of Tanu Weds Manu films, but she is still tenacious enough to keep the audience hooked to her histrionics. Add to this a generous flow of tickling dialogues full of humour, and a subtle sprinkling of music and you get an engaging and unusual family entertainer.