By Sweta Kaushal, Hindustan Times
Kangana Ranaut’s character in Hansal Mehta film is called Praful Patel, not Simran. In fact, there is no Simran in the story.
Kangana’s Praful decides to use the alias after watching the iconic ‘Ja Simran ja, jee le apni zindai’ scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. It is probably a symbol – like DDLJ’s Simran, may be this name can set Praful free. Only if the film could have expressed the thought better – Praful has no real obstacle in her path, she lacks enough fire to break free.
Simran is the story of Praful, a 30-year-old divorcee who lives with her Gujarati parents in Georgia and works as a housekeeper in hotel. As is the case in most middle-class houses, the family is her biggest critic. Her mother welcomes her home with ‘jhadu pocha kar ke thak gai hogi’ while her dad taunts her about her failed marriage, lack of a career and friends.
To escape the family drama, Praf, as she is fondly known, flies off to Las Vegas and that’s where her real troubles begin. At the baccarat table, with that rare touch of beginner’s luck, she wins a lot of money and happily splurges it all. She returns to the casino but minus the luck. Before you can say James Bond, she loses everything she had in the world.
Praful is a sunny-natured woman with a large heart who has a no-nonsense approach to life. When faced with life’s big problems, she displays flexible morality. She doesn’t mind taking stuff for free when in need but makes sure she pays everything she owes and throws in something extra if she can. Even when robbing banks, she blows a kiss to a cashier and offers water to another who suffers an asthma attack triggered by panic.
In fact, Kangana gets to display almost every emotion in the book in this Hansal Mehta film. Like emotions, Simran tackles quite a few issues: the xenophobia Indian immigrants to the US face, gender issues within the traditional Indian framework, biased notions against minorities and the like. It also talks about love, family and how it is not always about expecting something in return, even love.
And that, perhaps, is the biggest problem with Simran. The film deals with a little too much and not all of it comes together to form a coherent narrative. Be it Simran’s fun-filled everyday chores, the rather comical bank robberies or her personal turmoil – none of it is established properly or carried forth in a consistent manner. As an audience, you hardly get involved in Simran’s life and troubles before you are taken on yet another adventure.
With Simran, Hansal took a detour from his own style of cinema – dark, real tales of mostly marginalised people. Perhaps, he wanted to make a happy, light-hearted film that celebrates an independent-minded woman. However, what we get to see onscreen is a messy mocktail of a star and a well-written, strong character gone wrong in a narrative that fails to keep things from falling apart.
Simran, at best, is a celebration of Kangana Ranaut – the star. Looks like someone is trying to further glorify her public image, as her character is the embodiment of everything we have seen in her interviews and public statements over the past few years. She is vulnerable, blunt, brave and honest. Kangana mostly does a fine job of bringing the character to life but at times goes overboard while portraying the antics of Praful.
However, all of it seems so self-indulgent that neither the film nor the protagonist is successful in making the audience empathise or identify with her.
None of the supporting actors – Praful’s parents, her co-workers or her suitor – get enough ground to establish their characters. Simran is a one-woman show and not a great one at that.