Emerging out of the theatre after watching “Simran”, one wishes this film wasn’t swirling around in as much controversy as it is. This is a film with merit, and with a central performance strong enough to iron out faults and shortcomings in other departments.
Based on the fantastical yet real-life Sandeep Kaur, the ‘Bombshell Bandit’, Kangana Ranaut plays Praful Patel, a divorced woman living with her parents in the suburbs of Atlanta. She works as a housekeeper in a fancy hotel and returns to a modest home, to bickering parents who constantly remind her of her failures in life. An impromptu trip to Las Vegas with her cousin exposes Praful to a world she has never seen before.
Before she knows it, Praful is sucked into playing baccarat. For a girl who has always lived the frugal existence of a first-generation Indian immigrant in the United States, winning $2,000 in a single night is unthinkable. She splurges her winnings on designer dresses, an expensive salon and a fancy meal, one that she couldn’t afford on her paltry housekeeper’s salary.
Things go downhill, as they are bound to, and Praful finds herself falling further into the pit. She gambles away her savings and is hounded by men who have lent her money. Meanwhile, her conservative and insular parents push her to get married to Sameer (Sohum Shah), a straight-laced yet decent young man from their community.
When things get desperate, Praful robs banks - donning wigs, scribbling demand notes with lipstick and making it seem ridiculously easy. In one telling scene, when a cashier collapses after she holds up the bank, she apologises, brings him water and says: “Don’t worry, I can go to another bank.”
Just as Praful’s world unravels, so does “Simran”. And just as Praful puts up a façade of happiness while she sinks deeper into the quagmire, Kangana Ranaut manages to hold it together even when the story threatens to come apart. Director Hansal Mehta cannot seem to decide between the depiction of a woman coming undone or a screwball comedy about an accidental gambler and bank robber. Thankfully for him, Kangana infuses Praful with enough humour and pathos so that the dichotomy is not too jarring.
“Simran” (the pseudonym Praful uses while robbing banks) can be a tedious film in parts and confused in others, but it has heart and a compelling tale to tell. What’s more, it has a leading lady who has the ability to carry a film on her shoulders, no help required.
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