Simba isn’t hinged on a story, but relies on stoner tropes, mind-voice, gimmicks and monologues to keep going.
In the Tamil film Simba, the character Mahesh (played by Bharath) is a loner and a stoner. He imagines his neighbour’s dog Simba as human. Mahesh’s hallucinated anthropomorphic form of Simba is played by Premji.
One day, Mahesh’s neighbour Madhu requests him to take care of Simba, while she’s away for the day. He reluctantly agrees. Mahesh first despises Simba’s intrusion, but slowly, warms up to to the dog who becomes his best friend.
In any film about the love of dogs, the story would be about the dog and its place among humans. Simba, isn’t so much a film about dogs, as it is about a man’s envious imagination of how a dog’s life would be. And ouch, it’s ugly.
Simba, the dog, is a sexually frustrated, predatory and a crass male member of the species. Every scene in the film is about him ogling at women and female dogs alike. There is stalking — Mahesh takes Simba to Trisha’s house because he has an interest in Cadbury, her dog. There are male dogs negotiating ownership of a female dog. There is harassment — Simba tries to woo another dog, which she clearly rejects. There is rape — Simba rapes the aforementioned dog (who again does everything in her power to let him know her disinterest). In fact, after this scene, Simba sleeps peacefully and wakes up sounding tired, yet accomplished.
There is even a panjayatthu (slang for mediation) scene where Simba stands up for his friend BT, whose girlfriend Valli has been “gang-raped” by four dogs from a different area. Simba walks into an abandoned factory-like location, where other elderly dogs are sitting around waiting his arrival. They all speak in cinema villain voices.
Simba, the film, isn’t one that’s hinged on a story. It relies more on stoner tropes, mind-voice, gimmicks and monologues, to keep going. There are several vertigo-inducing perspective shots, apparently to indicate that this is a stoner-film. Like we wouldn’t have noticed if we didn’t see the dog’s piss on the floor from the mop’s perspective!
There are also several animation additions — birds over Simba’s head, butterflies when Mahesh falls in love and the like. Some of them are reasonably commendable, like the animation in the scene where Mahesh talks about his parents’ death in an plane crash. This could have been poignant. But Premji interjects and it turns into an attempted joke.
The film is full of rape jokes, dick jokes, toilet jokes and sexual innuendo, none of which are funny. Almost as if they knew this, there are also references to old Tamil films, like the dog in Baasha being Simba’s grandfather and lazy present-day references like Power Star being the doctor who neuters Simba.
There is a stoner-soup song sung by the unfailing STR. Then, there is the item song with a woman whose breasts are blurred out inexplicably. There is science tuition thrown around — about dopamine, as you might have seen in the trailer. And about common salt and rats’ tails. There is also some strangely interjecting stoner rock music here and there.
The film wishes to be about loneliness and the strength a dog bring to loners. Madhu, who was lonely after divorce, gets the will to live when she finds little Simba. Mahesh, who is rejected by her (who intelligently asks him to see a psychiatrist), finds the will to live because of Simba as well.
The film asks us to empathise with these lonely people and give them a chance. The film wants us not to judge them for their habits, but to love them for who they are. In fact, Mahesh isn’t a bad guy either. He is reasonable, decent and goes about his own business.
Simba, on the other hand, makes me terrified for the women in the world he occupies.
In writing a dog as a creep, the film does a great disservice to its own message of the animal as a man’s best friend.
Well, at least, we know what they were smoking!
Previously published in Huffington Post India.