Ramesh Sippy Grand Finale: Shimla Mirchi, Ramesh Comes Full Circle With Another Unconventional Love Story for Hema

Well, this was a perfectly pleasant little love story! Nothing revolutionary, but sometimes you don’t need revolutionary. And Rajkumar Rao finally gets his big dance number!

Back in 1971, Ramesh Sippy made his first movie. An unconventional love story that wasn’t filmed like an unconventional love story. Hema Malini played a widow/unwed mother in the eyes of society. She tries to live her life in her memories, to punish herself for past transgressions, but then Shammi Kapoor shows up as a widower who tries to make her live again. The story of a widow finding love again isn’t necessarily new, but the way Ramesh presented it was, with bright colors and songs and light romance, no big speeches and melodrama, that was new. And now, in 2020, Ramesh Sippy has made what will probably be his last movie. Hema Malini plays an aging divorced woman who has a relationship with a man less than half her age. And again, it’s light! This could be a dark story of age prejudice and gender prejudice and divorce, but instead it’s a nice pleasant comedy.

Image result for shimla mirchi poster

Angie warned me that Hema isn’t quite up to this role, and she’s right, she isn’t. But it didn’t ruin the movie for me. The story was so good that she just had to do a halfway decent job to make it work. And the rest of the cast was really good! Rakul Preet Singh continues her streak of surprising me with her comic timing, Rajkummar Rao gets the swoony romantic lead part I wanted for him, and everyone else does a generally decent job in a generally decent film.

One thing that is consistent with every Ramesh Sippy film is the value of the script. He helped discover Salim-Javed, and everyone respects a Salim-Javed script, but Ramesh still respects the script even when it isn’t Salim-Javed. He gives the writers time to perfect it, to create a story with no gaps and with the perfect ending. This movie has a good solid script, which is especially remarkable since it is the sort of low budget romance that I have gotten used to enjoying and then being frustrated at how the story feels too short, like they ran out of time and money to say everything they want to say. Not this time! Low budget, short, but the script was crafted to tell a full story in that limited time.

It starts with the script, but the rest of it was good too! There’s one song in particular that is just delightfully imaginative and fun. The sets are bright, the costumes are great, all the actors look good, just the basics of making a decent movie are followed, and they haven’t really changed from 1971 to today.

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Rajkummar Rao is on a family vacation in Shimla when he sees Rakul Preet Singh walking down the street and falls in love at first sight. He decides to stay in Shimla after he finds her again. He lives with his local friend and gets a job helping Rakul get her coffee shop ready to open. Meanwhile, Rakul lives with her mother Hema Malini and is encouraging her to make her peace with the fact that Rakul’s father Kanwaljit Singh left her for a younger woman and is not coming back. Rakul and Rajkummar become closer but Rajkummar is too shy to confess his feelings. He writes an anonymous love not which Rakul throws away, but then decides to copy and send to Hema to convince her that she has a secret admirer. Hema immediately falls in love with the secret admirer. But then sees Rajkummar dropping off a letter and decides it is him. Rakul thinks it is a simple misunderstanding (doesn’t realize Rajkummar wrote the letters to begin with) and begs Rajkummar to pretend just a little bit. They go out to dinner with Kanwaljit Singh and Hema shows off her young boyfriend. But then Rajkummar’s family comes to town, and see him with Hema. He lies/tells the truth that he is in love with Rakul not Hema, Rakul goes along with the lie, his family brings a proposal which Hema thinks is for her, there is a big dance number, and then Rajkummar and Hema talk alone and Hema explains that she has known the truth for a while but went along with the lie in order to help Rakul realize her feelings. Rajkummar leaves town and gives Rakul one last letter which makes her realize he has been in love with her all along. And then mails an invitation to his wedding. Rakul comes to the wedding, believing his family has found Rajkummar a bride. He strings her along until she admits her feelings, and then reveals that the bride his family has found is HER! And Hema came up with this whole plot and is there to give her blessing. Wedding, and then Dharmendra shows up as Rajkummar’s powerful and important diplomat boss who totally has a thing for Hema. HAPPY ENDING.

So, this is a really great script! Everyone has reasonable motives behind their actions and what they do makes total sense within the moment. Rajkummar wants to get to know Rakul better, why not take a temporary job helping her open up her coffee shop? Rakul is worried about her Mom, what’s the harm in copying out some anonymous letter to send to her as a little fun distraction? Hema has spent her whole life being trained to be a good wife of course she will spin out when her husband leaves her and she gets a new romance, and why not go after her secret lover hard once she finds him? And of course Rakul will ask Rajkummar to play along to let Hema down easily, she trusts him and she is worried about Hema, what could go wrong?

The romance is built in lots of nice little moments, Rakul doesn’t even really notice Rajkummar until suddenly he is working all night to fix up her shop. And then they become friends, and he helps her when her shoes break, and she gives him her dumb little pink cardigan to wear, and it is all super cute. Going from that, to Rakul trusting him enough to admit her whole family drama and ask his help, to Rakul suddenly being jealous and not able to admit it, to Rakul finally understanding what she is feeling, all tracks. The same way that Rajkummar going from cutely shy and happy just to be with her, to confident enough to be a friend, to a little bit angry and acting out when she uses him for her mother without seeming to care how he feels, to finally sure of himself also tracks. It’s just a cute story, of a woman with so much going on (her parents’ divorce, trying to get her business going) that she can’t see the guy right in front of her, and the guy who is so shy he isn’t sure how to make her see him.

Hema’s character is the center of the plot and yes, it’s too bad that she isn’t fully on her game. She is supposed to be kind of wacky and overly in denial about her husband leaving her, and then over the top in her embracing of the romantic fantasy of her secret lover (getting a priest in to do a ceremony to bring him to her), and finally confident and sexy and awesome once she understands all that is happening and takes control. She should be someone a little unusual and different and not quite fitting with the rest of the “sane” people in the world, straight through. So we understand why Rakul is left to try a slightly insane solution to her denial, and we find it fun and funny to watch her with Rajkummar instead of slightly. If this had been Hema at her best, or Juhi Chawla, or Kajol, or any number of other great female commedianes of a certain age, this film could have been one of my all time favorites.

The rest of it is so good though! There’s a song where Rajkummar is shot with an arrow of love and then dances through the streets of Shimla surrounded by color coordinated dancers! And there’s a moment when Rajkummar offers to let Rakul step on his hand to save her feet from the dirty street! Really, I can sincerely recommend this film. If you are the kind of person who likes cute romance films with fun songs and Shimla street scenes.

12 thoughts on “Ramesh Sippy Grand Finale: Shimla Mirchi, Ramesh Comes Full Circle With Another Unconventional Love Story for Hema

    • I think you should, but only if you are in the right mood and without getting your hopes up. It’s not super super good, it’s just a decent film of the “small love story” genre. The kind you will mildly enjoy while watching and then forget it exists as soon as you finish.

      On Sun, Mar 8, 2020 at 1:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I think it’s just like Margaret said. Not terrible but not great either. I had a problem with Hema playing woman in love. She was unbearable in some scenes.

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  1. Interesting. I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this movie, but I came away with a really different impression.

    I managed to watch it on Netflix and felt definitely underwhelmed by almost every aspect of it. I may just be really, really fed up with the love at first sight trope right now. To me, the film almost seemed to be saying that Rakul owed it to Rajkummar to notice him after everything he had done for her – not cool.

    So maybe it is the fact that I was already frustrated with this movie. But that made me cringe at other stuff too. Like, I payed attention to the dance moves. Not a good sign if it’s not Hrithik doing the dancing. The big misunderstanding in the proposal scene just felt so fake, because it would be so impossible to sustain in real life. And there was one scene where Rakul was looking over Rajkummar’s shoulder, and the camera angle and the lighting and the music were all telling me she was feeling something important – and I just couldn’t see it in her face.

    These may all just be shortcomings on my part, of course.

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    I think I was missing Rakul’s Voice. The fact that she can’t tell Rajkummar that she loves him means the audience doesn’t get to hear it either. But every other character just assumes that she does and tricks her into that big confrontation at the wedding. Part of it is even that he’s such a great guy with a great job who can do everything. Blegh.

    And why does she have to be the one who initiates the big statement in the end? Rajkummar doesn’t grow at all from his experience.

    Plus, it felt like the movie’s solution to the problem would have been him telling her “I love you” upon first meeting. That is just weird.

    The whole sequence with the broken heel and the cardigan could have been sweet. But it was at that point pretty clearly established that Rakul was oblivious to Rajkummar’s attraction. So that pretty much killed the mood for me.

    As for Hema: Of course she makes sense with Dharmendra. But that’s Hema the actress. Couldn’t they have established someone who made sense for Hema the character? The older employee at the cafe seemed to at least appreciate her … And he came across as more of an “ordinary” guy, like she said she wanted after her powerful husband. Dharmendra is just basically the same thing again. In the end she doesn’t even get the younger guy.

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    • Everything you say makes sense and I agree with it. But it wasn’t enough to spoil the film for me. Just kind of knock it down from a good movie to a decent movie. Like you say, Rakul’s “voice” is missing in the romance. But on the other hand, she is a full character in terms of her relationship with her mother and father, and she has a job and career ambitions. Not like that makes up for it, but it is enough for me to be able to still enjoy the film. If she was some sweet silent stay at home type, one whose first risk in life was sending the letters to her mother and who had to be told to do that, and told how to feel about her parents’ divorce (as she was told how to feel about Rajkummar), that would have ruined the whole movie for me. There was the bare minimum I need to enjoy her character.

      But now that you’ve said it (although I love the Dharmendra cameo especially in a Ramesh Sippy movie), I also want Hema with a younger guy! Yes, Shakti Kapoor at the store, or even the caterer at the wedding would have been fun. Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, even Rishi would have been good.

      On Sun, Mar 8, 2020 at 7:37 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I started watching the film before your review, but got bored about a half hour in, so then I read other reviews online, which were 100% negative and tore the movie to shreds. I waited for your review, and you liked it, so I saw the whole thing last night. And it was okay, I don’t regret seeing it, but there was no performance that made me think “wow I’ve got to watch THIS actor.” And I was hoping the location of Shimla would play a bigger role than it did, because I want to go to Shimla, I’m not sure I could handle Delhi or Mumbai, but I’ve got my eye on Shimla. Her treatment of him after giving him her sweater the night before didn’t make sense. ANd Eva-e’s point that he never grew as a character is spot on. Also the ending was very strange but as always I wonder if that has to do with the fact that I don’t understand Hindi. But even with all those flaws, I didn’t think it was terrible. I didn’t feel like it stole two hours of my life, so it was okay.

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    • Exactly! “not terrible”. Worth two hours of my life. That’s good enough for me.

      On Sun, Mar 8, 2020 at 12:32 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I agree, it was ok. Not bad but also not something I will remember forever. Maybe because I wasn’t engaged much.. it lacked feelings.
    Rajkummar was cute. I liked the cupid arrow song because it was so old school, especially Rakul in colorful hats and hairbands. I think I miss this kind of videos.
    I was afraid how the white girl will be treated, because it’s always important for me in movies, and even a good film can be ruined totally for me if the white girl is portrayed poorly (Ustad hotel I’m talking about you) . Here it wasn’t terrible.
    The thing I disliked the most is that Rajkummar doesn’t have any backstory. He comes to Shimla with family, but who are they? Why they spend their holiday there every year? Where does he work? Is he rich? Why he knows all those languages? They explain it in the last scene of the movie.
    Also the climax was odd. I suspected how it will end, but it was a little rushed. Thanks God there was Dharmendra to save it.

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    • It was a bit odd that Rajkumar had nothing going on in his life besides Rakul. I would have liked some scenes of him doing something else, talking on the phone with his boss, or talking to his friend about something besides romance. Kind of strange, for once I want the heroine to have a little more to do with the romance and the hero a little less.

      On Mon, Mar 9, 2020 at 2:49 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I didn’t mind “Shimla Mirch” either and thought it was a pleasant enough diversion, but I gotta admit, I was a little bit shocked at how bad Hema was at times (like the whole climbing the tree to spy on her ex scene). Although I’ve always liked Hema, it’s mostly been because she’s so gosh darn beautiful and not for her acting prowess. I’ve never considered her more than competent as an actor, but she dipped below even that standard in “Shimla Mirch.”

    The movie also reminded me of a couple of other films that centered around Hema’s relationship with a younger man: Ek Chadar Maili Si with Rishi Kapoor and Ek Nai Paheli with Kamal Haasan.

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    • Hema is one of those people where I never thought of her as a great actress so much as a great star. So charming, so irresistable, so entertaining. But in this movie, somehow all of that was muted.

      And yes, I was thinking of Ek Nai Paheli too! Which made me realize that Hema is actually kind of too old for the role in this, in Ek Nai Paheli she was barely the right age (if we assume she had her daughter as a teenager), and now it’s 4 decades later and she is playing out the same kind of story and she is just too old to make it match right with her character,

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