By Anya Daftary

I am a huge Indian civil services buff. When I saw the hundreds of ads for the movie ‘Simmba’ around the marine drive and other areas of Mumbai, I immediately knew I have to go and watch this film. At the time I didn’t think much of it and simply assumed it would be one of those masaledaar Bollywood films. Eventually, the day after the release I dragged my parents to watch the movie and sat down, eagerly waiting for the movie to begin.

Sangram “Simmba” Bhalerao (Ranveer Singh) is an orphan-turned-cop from Shivgadh. Simmba digs and takes complete use of the lifestyle of a dirty cop. Nevertheless, when Simmba’s loved ones are hurt, he finds himself changed and pushed to choose a more just road of life. Essentially, Akriti (Nandu Madhav), someone who Simmba considers as a sister is raped and murdered by the brothers of a known drug dealer, Durva Ranade. The event forces Simmba to change drastically.

One of the most impressive elements of the film was the way that the issue of rape was handled. The film has received hate on the idea of rape, particularly on the reference made to Nirbhaya, the country moving gang rape of 2012. Despite the hate, what I loved about the film was this very smooth presence of the topic, how it was the main point but also the fact that this corrupt, crooked, ‘playboy’ cop was able to see this as an issue. The movie was atypical in a sense, a typical Bollywood love story is a guy falling in love, the girl saying no but eventually giving in. This is sort of the misogyny we were told growing up is how love stories work. The first dialogue in the movie is after Simmba takes a rather large, black canvas bag filled with a rather large amount of money and an older officer tells him that what he is doing wrong. The way he responds to the senior officer, while of course, quite rude and colloquial was; “it’s not as if I have raped somebody.” That was the first place I saw a lack of the misogyny we see typically in Bollywood films. After the initial rape and murder, the thundering scene where Simmba, for the first time that we see, dons his uniform and gains the respect of the ‘good’ officers.  

The controversy we see in India today is the fact that we aren’t willing to use past examples as a mode to not let history repeat itself. Events such as Nirbhaya, Asifa, The gang rape of Shakti Mills, as tragic as they seem, these were events that shaped our country and changed the opinion of what we see India as today. However, when anyone, anywhere uses the mention of one of these events, the population freaks out.  In the movie, the use of Nirbhaya was only used to convince the judge to jail the men who ‘allegeldly’ the crime. As a community of Indians, we are so scared of an issue like rape and while when we see it on our screens it’s in these small budgeted, offbeat films. Simmba is a huge blockbuster film starring some of the most well-known actors in our country and I wanted to know what someone who has a front row seat to the evolution of Bollywood thought. I was extremely privileged and lucky to have the opportunity to speak with the director of SIMMBA himself, Mr. Rohit Shetty.

Change is inevitable… Growth is optional

Interviewer: I thought you depicted the consequences of rape in 2 different ways, firstly the justice/killing of the rapists, outside the law and secondly bringing the mother of the rapists into the picture, what made you do this? What consequences do you think this will have in society?

Mr. Shetty: To answer your first question, I very strongly believe that a heinous crime like rape only deserves a death punishment and nothing short of that. As far as the justice being brought outside of law is concerned, sometimes you got to dare to be an outlaw to do that right thing. The mother of the rapist standing in the court of law against her own sons despite all the pain in her heart also represents her standing for the right thing. I am hoping the society understands my perspective. The good shall always win over the evil.

Interviewer: What changes are you seeing in Bollywood as a result of #MeToo? What changes do you think should be made?

Mr. Shetty: I do see positive changes. Women who were silently suffering have found the courage to open up and fight for themselves. I think it’s brave. Women deserve nothing but respect.

Interviewer: It’s great to see a blockbuster Bollywood movie tackle social issues like rape. What other social issues need to be tackled?

M. ShettyI just hope we see a day when we could stop having to make movies on issues and problems. Would love to entertain my audience by spreading laughter

4. Do you think that this film (Simmba) has had an impact on the way we view such issues?

Well, people have accepted the film as their own. They clap and cheer when the rapists are shot. I think people got what i wanted to say to them.

Interviewer: And finally, can we expect change and a difference of mindset stemming from what we see in the media soon?

Mr. Shetty: The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.

Change is inevitable… Growth is optional

Anya Daftary is co-head at The Ascent. Her passions include music, dance, history and writing -- specifically in the Hindustan that was. She believes strongly in the future of India and wants to help be a part of it. She hopes to make The Ascent a platform for young people to be familiar with the events and news around and have a voice