That iconic scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, which had Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri) transferring a tearful Simran's (Kajol) ownership from pitaji to boyfriend in a sudden show of magnanimity, is hijacked by the spirited Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut) as she seeks to write her own destiny.
Like the yesteryear Simran, Praful too is an NRI. She lives in the US and works as housekeeping staff in a hotel. But in the land of the free and the home of the brave, Praful still lives with her very Indian parents - so just how free or brave can she really be? Especially when she's a 30-year-old divorcee?
To the film's credit, Praful's frustration comes across as real and believable. It's not overly sentimentalized but you can feel it under your skin nevertheless, as any conversation with her parents invariably becomes about, "Why don't you meet this good boy we know?" As Praful sinks into a couch in a house she's about to buy to lead an independent life, she doesn't say anything. But you see the pride and near disbelief on her face. She has gone where Simran was too "obedient" to go.
Kangana is terrific as the Gujarati immigrant woman, who wants to escape her circumstances and live life to the fullest. The script, however, doesn't match up. Though the runtime is reasonably short at just over two hours, the pace slackens in the second half and it is mainly because of Kangana that you can't take your eyes off the screen. Whether she's getting battered or cracking a sly joke at the expense of her strict father, Kangana is thoroughly convincing.
The film industry has ruined adjectives like 'bubbly' and 'vivacious' by giving us air-headed woman characters for decades. So what can you really call the hunger for life that you see within this petite woman? 'Kangananess' should be a word.
The story is inspired from the life of Sandeep Kaur, a Punjabi Indian woman who robbed banks in the US to support her expensive lifestyle. But Simran doesn't take this devolution seriously enough. In its determination to keep the proceedings light, the plot ends up making things look too easy and convenient. I did take guilty pleasure from the car chase towards the end that had the FBI look like incompetent clowns though. Hollywood has made them look too good for ages.
There's a bit of romance with a Mr Nice Guy who turns up to rescue Praful from her difficult circumstances - while their relationship is sweet though not saccharine, it becomes an unnecessary distraction after a point. The dude is just too nice - put him in a ghagra and he'd be a '90s heroine. The other characters in the film are all one note and don't really make an impression.
Hansal Mehta's Simran has what seems to be Kangana's personal motto in neon: jee le apni zindagi. If you're a fan, you can forgive the film for its flaws if only to see 'Simran' running to catch a metaphorical train...not for a happy ending with a man, but for a beginning for herself.