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Simmba: A departure from the formula
Films mirror society.
If a film looks like an 80s rape revenge drama, then look outside your ivory towers and see what’s going on in your country. Maybe your country has regressed into a country of rapists and predators.
See if the law and order machinery and judiciary has been able to address a social issue five years since your armchair outrage.
You might be shocked to know that your wokeness hasn’t actually helped anyone coping with any trauma.
A society finds its catharsis through art and stories. Hence, Amitabh Bachchan was celebrated as the Angry Young Man – a type he employed to become a matinee idol.
A hero the people wanted.
The function of mainstream cinema has always been wish fulfilment, gratification and catharsis for conflicts of the times we live in. Connie Haham’s book on Manmohan Desai’s films: Enchantment of the mind is a must read for anyone starting out to review.
Yes, it’s problematic that we consume stories of heroes. But that’s stating the obvious and tell me something I don’t know if you are a critic. Because this is a huge problem with MOST of the pop culture around the world not just one movie.
In Simmba, the hero is a State appointed protector who is corrupt and finds one emotional bone in his body when he relates to a girl who teaches orphans because it reminds him of his childhood.
When this girl is raped, he’s enraged and shocked as do we when we read about every rape reported in the media. Like she were our own. Someone we knew.
This is a normal response for someone designated to protect. It’s the one job he had. And he slept through it.
When a constable emotionally suggests we should shoot the rapists, the hero turns to the women and asks: Is that really the solution? Is that what they want?
It was refreshing that he at least did not claim to know the answer. He takes a vote from the women.
Earlier in the film, when the rapists tell him their ego was hurt because a girl hit them, the hero doesn’t hit them.
He asks the women in the team to thrash the daylights out of them.
This is a hero who asks women what they think. He’s just the public servant designated to protect them by the State.
Rohit Shetty’s idea of Indian superheroes are cops. They wear khakhi.
I once interviewed Dibakar Banerjee when he made Shanghai and was pleasantly surprised when he said that Singham and Shanghai are telling the same story. Shanghai chooses to tell it realistically and Singham chooses the more mainstream format. The conflict is the same, the villains are the same… there’s a rot in the system and the law needs to fix it.
So when Simmba looks at the CCTV camera (a metaphor for media as the watchdog) and says: Let’s make a superhit picture, he’s actually making it with the sanction of the ladies he consulted before, as an ally, women who are designed to kitchens (the token heroine is called Shagun) and presenting the case to another woman who is the final judge on the matter. The anger in his eyes is real. Ranveer sells this rage. It’s sincere and honest. Unlike a Salman or a Devgn in a cop uniform.
But this is Indian judiciary and loopholes in the law only mean that any good lawyer can appeal for another investigating authority. Which is why we need a Singham to be the Deux Ex Machina.
The curse of the mainstream is that people mostly watch films about heroes and superheroes. If a film made within these restrictions does depart from the form and conventions of films made in the genre by handing over decision making to women, it’s a huge departure.
We need departures in the mainstream form before there can be disruption.
I would have liked to see a Shabana (Tapsee) join the franchise and not another Suryavanshi.
But remember, it took a whole lot of superhero films before we got a WonderWoman or a Black Panther. Because change does not happen overnight.
Let’s acknowledge the baby steps even if we don’t applaud it. Else you aren’t contributing to the debate, you are just preaching to the choir.
Real India lies outside Bandra West. Far away from the gyms of Lokhandwala.
Know your people. Know your movies. Love your people.
Understanding them is the key to understanding our cinema.
I didn’t love Simmba, I eye rolled at the predictability of the rape revenge narrative but it’s important to acknowledge the small departures, the baby steps… We need more films like Pink, Mulk and Simmba to talk start important conversations no matter how uncomfortable.
Because most of India doesn’t find catharsis through your tweet. Or uninformed thoughts devoid of nuance in your pursuit of social currency and work credentials.
India finds catharsis at the movies.