Dabangg is just a showcase for its star Salman Khan. Its a sizzle reel for his acting style, his dancing abilities, his action skills and his movie-star swagger. Everything else is filler. Everyone else secondary. Which is why, Dabangg’s success or failure ultimately comes down to Salman Khan’s performance. And thankfully, he’s more than up to the task.
The movie is certainly entertaining. It has a very specific aim. That aim doesn’t involve a thought-provoking story, a radical plot or the like. It is only out to give you your money’s worth and it almost accomplishes that task. Almost. Depending on your outlook, it may even have succeeded.
The story deals with Chulbul “Robin Hood” Pandey (why can’t all of us have names as cool as this?!), a corrupt cop in Uttar Pradesh. Chulbul lives with his mother (Dimple Kapadia), step-brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan) and step-father Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna). Although he loves his mother dearly, Chulbul doesn’t get along with Makkhi or his step-father. His cocky ways ensure that he makes quite a few enemies, chief among them Cheddi Singh, a local politician (Sonu Sood). Meanwhile, Chulbul falls in love with a simple maiden Rajo (newcomer Sonakshi Sinha). Soon, his professional, family and love life collide and, to put it crudely, shit hits the fan. How he gets the girl, defeats the villain and makes everything hunky-dory again is what makes up the 124 minute duration of the film.
Now, that duration is very short for a Hindi film and its because there is precious little happening in the film. The 1st half, in particular just consists of Salman Khan mouthing one-liners, Salman Khan beating baddies, Salman Khan wooing the girl and Salman Khan dancing. The story itself hardly progresses. It’s only in the 2nd half that someone behind the camera seems to have remembered the task at hand (make a movie) and this leads to the movie having severe pacing issues. The 1st half moves at a snail’s pace, delving too extensively into 1 crony of the villain, while the 2nd half moves at unwarranted breakneck pace, skimming over crucial events which lose their impact as a result.
Moreover, and it may seem ironic, but for a movie with such a thin storyline, there’s a lot of flab and excess in Dabangg. Characters like Om Puri’s rotten police officer are useless and extremely unnecessary. Some subplots/exchanges of dialogue like the mystery behind Roja’s nickname could have been easily excised. The 1st half comes to a standstill every 20 minutes due to a song-and-dance number and correcting all these flaws would have led to a movie that flowed very smoothly.
Enough about the criticisms, let’s talk about the plus points now. Dabangg is a very, very funny movie. Apart from the previously mentioned one-liners, there are some running gags which are priceless. The best example is a reference to Salman Khan’s earlier film Wanted. The action, which is ridiculously over-the-top is quite fun to watch too. There is a “Hulk-out” in the climax, that literally left me dumbfounded. The songs are picturized quite well, especially the title track “Hud Hud Dabangg” and “Munni Badnaam Hui”. Special kudos to Malaika Arora Khan, who looks worth a million bucks and dances as if worthy of them too. Atomic.
But inarguably, the biggest USP of this film is Salman Khan’s sterling turn. The dude is quite possibly the last and best action hero in Bollywood right now and he’s determined to mine that. His aura and charisma radiate off the screen and the movie comes alive whenever he’s on the screen. He gets some great lines and awesome action and he does it all admirably. If this movie had starred anyone else in the role, I doubt it would have turned out this well. Leading lady Sonakshi Sinha looks gorgeous and it’s easy to see why Salman falls for her. But, her character is painfully shallow and she has almost nothing to do in the film except make faces every now and then. The antagonist, played by Sonu Sood, fares better and is certainly menacing enough. However, the camera seems to focus on his abs a bit too much for comfort. This reaches nauseating levels in the climax, which is just two half-naked men piling on top of each other.
Among the supporting cast, Arbaaz Khan’s character’s runtime could’ve been shortened quite a bit, although he becomes quite vital to the proceedings in the 3rd act. Arbaaz does well with he’s given. Dimple Kapadia overacts a lot. It doesn’t help matters that her character is the clichéd quintessential Bollywood mother, one we’ve seen in countless other films. Vinod Khanna’s character is an absolute joke. He fluctuates his mind and changes his demeanour whenever the writers see fit. In the 3rd act, he is used just for emotionally manipulating the audience. Other players like Mahie Gill and Anupam Kher are too peripheral to the plot to make any difference.
Dabangg is a mixed bag. It will surely divide viewers due to its brashness and forthrightness. But all said and done, those looking for some silly goofy fun at the cinemas can check this out, and for Salman Khan fans, this is a must-watch.
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Photo Credit: Arbaaz Khan Productions