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In the first few scenes of the quirky-actioner Simmba (a spinoff of Singham) that stars Ranveer Singh, we see the dawn of ambition in a young orphan boy. The boy, Sangram Bhalerao (later Simmba, a take on The Lion King character), has just got two life lessons: first, he realises that he has to show guts to be something in life (he has just taken over a local hoodlum’s territory); second, it dawns on him that to be big, he needs to a have a better career path. Rather than selling film tickets in black and making money in the hundreds, Simmba needs to seriously up his game: he needs to be the most corrupt cop in the land.

A quick cut and song later, the boy has grown up to be Ranveer Singh — a bulked-up super-cop in a perpetual whimsical mood, whose shirts are so tight he may rip out of them like Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk from the 1977 television series.

Simmba’s unethical yet kind-hearted nature is no secret, and soon he is transferred to a city that’s equivalent to a gold mine for crooked cops. Once there, he falls in love (Sara Ali Khan; ho-hum, in a ho-hum role), pesters his honest-Abe subordinate (Ashutosh Rana, excellent) and makes a young school teacher his sister (Vaidehi Parshurami).

Rohit Shetty’s Simmba is formula-filmmaking at its finest

The sister, though, runs afoul of the city’s mob boss played by Sonu Sood — another specimen of ripped muscles, whose villainous nature is hard to digest, given his calm, caring, big brother attitude.

Simmba isn’t novel. In fact, one can practically guess exactly what is going to happen when, right down to the climax featuring Ajay Devgan’s Singham (no, it’s not a spoiler; the cameo is highlighted at the end of the trailer).

The film’s blithe, fun-loving approach is infectious. Director Rohit Shetty’s knack for making a medium-budget spectacle (I don’t buy the 80 crore rupee-budget), running mostly on the lead’s comedic talent, is hard to dismiss.

The tone is far from pretentious. There is no sly, ulterior motive to Shetty’s storytelling (other than a tacked-on message at the very end) and no deep significance to the characters. These are stereotypical characters who are given enough worthwhile scenes to establish exactly who they are. The plot doesn’t require much more than that, and the director — sticking hard to his script (I am assuming) — isn’t in the mood to venture into the gritty, grim, prospects of corruption in society. It’s just not that kind of a movie.

What Simmba is, is formula-filmmaking at its finest; a paisa-wasool story of a guy with a heart of gold who just happens to be the most corrupt cop in the police force — a good/bad guy who’ll appear in the film’s sequel sooner rather than later.

Published in Dawn, ICON, January 6th, 2019

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