SimranReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/22/17 00:06:12
Half of the places listing "Simran" online showed a 238-minute running time, and while in some ways it was a relief to see the film actually just over half that length when it wound up being bad, I must admit that thinking it was that ridiculous length was what drew me to it. Something that seemed as simple as "Hindu maid in Atlanta turns to crime to pay off debts" must have had some real twists or depth to justify that length, or at least some big heist scenes or satirical music numbers. Instead, it's bland enough to seem bloated at 125 minutes.The maid in question is Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut), 30 years old and living with her parents Mohan (Hiten Kumar) and Kunad (Kishori Shahane) since her divorce seven years ago. She has saved up just enough for the down payment on a nice condo, but a trip to Las Vegas with her soon-to-be-wed cousin Amber (Aneesha Joshi) has her developing a new taste for gambling that not only goes through her down payment, but $32,000 from loan shark Mr. Bugs (Jason Louder), and if she thinks running back to Atlanta is going to get him off her trail, she's mistaken. What's a girl to do? Well, as a famous outlaw once said, the banks are where the money is.
Unfortunately, it takes forever to get to the first robbery (right when "intermission" appears on-screen), and the bloat in the first half is not justified by cleverness in the second. Indeed, the crimes are not just boring, but unconvincing (Praful's attempts to indicate she has a bomb strapped to her waist look more like some weird belly-dancing thing), and the ending car chase would be dull even if Edgar Wright hadn't just made the definitive "speeding through Atlanta after knocking over a bank" picture. Being based on a true story isn't really an excuse, as this is just loosely based upon the actual Sandeep Kaur case, so there's really no excuse for how repetitive and uncreative the action here is (although, to be fair, I did learn more about how to play baccarat than from a lifetime of James Bond fandom).
Kangana Ranaut also seems to be disappointingly miscast; she plays the title character like she's in a screwball comedy much of the time, and while she actually can deliver when Praful needs to seem overwhelmed or despondent, she and the filmmakers tend to lean toward the histrionic there, without many good moments of quiet devastation or sharp-edged comedy. It doesn't much help that Sohum Shah is asked to take a perfectly good "nice-but-boring" unwanted suitor and play him as a legitimate love interest later on, or that most of the English-speaking cast is not very good. Hiten Kumar and Kishori Shahane are impressively abrasive as Praful's parents, even when the subtitles for their lines feel stilted; they at least are getting the job done.
They're effective enough that it's frustrating to watch the film seemingly attempt to be about validating Mohan's low opinion of women like his daughter; he's too mean for that audience to enjoy the suggestion that this character is wise. Director Hansal Mehta and main writer Apurva Asrani struggle to find a theme for the movie - Praful is played as happily unconventional enough that it's hard to make the film about the oppressive demands on Hindu women like herself or immigrants generally, and Mehta never finds the spot where robbery comes across as a natural risk-taking extension of the gambling. There are hooks for dark comedy and satire, but the filmmakers seem not to see what's sitting in front of them.That the filmmakers have a bunch of great pieces in front of them but can't find the way to assemble them into something special goes beyond missed potential here; it's downright wasteful and boring besides.
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