Ranveer Singh’s Simmba and before: In defence of Rohit Shetty’s brand of cinema
A Rohit Shetty film is a polarising experience. Critics may thumb their noses at the bizarre action sequences, the loud acting style and plots that may occasionally sound implausible but the audience rarely follow suit. It remains three hours of unapologetic fun. As his next film Simmba, starring Ranveer Singh and Sara Ali Khan, released this Friday, here’s a look at what makes his films tick.
I had watched the first part of the Golmaal franchise in the past but the film that woke me up to Rohit Shetty brand of filmmaking was Chennai Express. As a fan of Shah Rukh Khan and with increasing fondness of Deepika Padukone, one looked at the many posters of the film that screamed for attention with affection. In fact, seeing them one kept wondering if Rohit and Red Chillies Entertainment had spared any colour from the rainbow at all. The many promos featuring the film’s catchy songs, airing on just about any promotional platform available, were pleasing too.
The good news was that from the very first frame, smirks and smiles were a constant companion. The re-enactment of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge sequence and Deepika’s immensely pleasing South Indian half saree avatar (done rather well by Manish Malhotra) was the immediate bait. It took one by surprise seeing Deepika pull off comedy with such aplomb. Seeing her in Bollywood romances like Love Aaj Kal and in her star-struck self in her debut film was nice but Meenalochini Alagasudaram, her character in Chennai Express, was a pleasant surprise.
One laughed as she went to say her dialogues with a thick South Indian accent, getting the gender in Hindi all wrong. Watching her as she went about explaining her background, particularly about her ‘don’ dad and her status as his ‘runaway’ daughter was charming. The film was panned in Chennai. The film does peddle stereotypes -- 70 years on, with the universal popularity of Bollywood, younger generations of urban Tamilians don’t speak Hindi with an accent.
However, despite the opposition, one still had tremendous tenderness for the film. Despite its unabashed slapstick comedy (accents, practical jokes, et al) the film still had its heart in the right place. It championed the cause of respecting a woman’s desire to choose her partner. It showed that even the mafia can have a human side. It showed how traditions aren’t a bad thing, if suitably modernised in time. It showed that differences of language or region (for that matter any other) tend to be visceral if one is willing to place humanity and love before it. It also showed that no matter how strong one’s opponent may be, if one is spirited enough, one can at least put up a strong push back and, in some cases, may be, even win. And all this, while making laugh out loud, with its rib-tickling dialogues (‘Kahan se khareedi aisi bakwaas dictionary’ or ‘Don’t under estimate the power of the common man’) and its overall picturesque setting.
A couple of years, down the road, one was to watch Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Again, the latest in the franchise, which was labelled as a horror comedy. With a nodding acquaintance with the genre, having followed Tamil cinema, one knew what was coming one’s way. Watching it in the theatre, the loud guffaws of the audience were obvious as Ajay Devgn’s character (yeah, from Bollywood’s macho man brigade) shuddered in comic fright, every time a door creaked, the lights went off or a gust of wind made the windowpanes shake even as Shreyas Talpade’s character put him to sleep with a lullaby. One smirked even as the band of boys — Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor and Kunal Kemmu — joked about Ajay’s age as he got more and more enamoured by a much-younger Parineeti Chopra, the resident ghost. Yes, age-shaming it was but in a harmless way.
There were, of course, many such moments. As long as the plot and treatment of a film stays clear of any kind of social ills (read racism, sexism, religious bigotry etc) and its main purpose is to entertain, it works. And no, those pointy hooded hats in Golmaal Again aren’t necessarily burrowed from the KKK. The La Borriquita brotherhood of Spain might just have been the inspiration.
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