Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Bollywood Masala (Action Comedy)
Before anything, Dabangg in Hindi means fearless. When you live in an Indian city, your might lies in your brain, unless of course you work for a bhai. Villages are a different ball game altogether (no pun intended). Or so they are made to be in desi cinema, where you fight for your rights, take revenge, or whatever overpowering you do, you do quite literally as is purported. The 80s and 90s Bollywood produced a lot of action themes, and in the new millennium urban cinema mostly resonated with romance. Today, not many movies are based in Indian villages, and those that are, have undertones of politics and drama, spiced with action, mass murdering and what have you.

The plot of Dabangg written by Abhinav Kashyap, is set in Lalgunj, UP, where a reckless police officer Chulbul ‘Robinhood’ Pandey (Salman Khan) leads a life dancing to cellphone ringtones of goons while not sacking their loot. Chulbul is the only person that calls himself ‘Robinhood’ in the entire movie, so mind that. Before you stretch your imagination, his Robinhood-giri is limited to medical treatment of people he shoots with a gun for asking questions. Eg. . A constable under him who requests a promotion. Chulbul lives with a dimwit step-brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan), a mother who eventually dies and a step-father who has a dukhiyari face from time immemorial. Chulbul’s dislike for his step-father and step-brother leads the story after his mother’s death in the middle of the movie. A local uprising politican Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) manipulates the hatred situation by executing a cold-blodded murder of their mother, lighting up Makkhi – Sr. Pandey’s godown and by turning airhead Makkhi against his brother by pointing a finger. A little melodrama and anachronistic revelations later, the brothers unite and kick Chedi’s butt. At an unassuming juncture somewhere prior, Chulbul falls in love with a local pot maker Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) who reciprocates because I think she loved Chulbul’s dance in this song and his goggles. Chulbul and Rajjo are married, spend honeymoon in the Mid East, if you care.

Salman Khan is in your face. Wait, he never left the screen. If he stayed on one more minute, you’d be in a position to guess if it were time for Chulbul to do the do. Chulbul’s character required Salman to be immature, reckless, charming, sentimental, romantic, angry, all normal emotions but as a hyperbole to create a larger than life Chulbul. For a small-town cop, his mannerisms seem native, not coming across as overboard at all. Salman did not wear his trademark jaali-wali-banian and his signature bracelet, which could easily pass too. His dialogue delivery in UP tongue is appreciable and his Ganesh-Visarjan dance moves are apt. Salman was never a great comic anyway and as usual, has used his body and space to evoke laughs and at best, some toilet humour which do make you laugh. His face shows his age (44 trying 30) , but his physique is commendable. Flying high on success of ‘Wanted’, Salman’s absolute best though are in the action sequences.

Sonakshi Sinha as Rajjo was probably meant to be an eye candy in Desi attire. There wasn’t particularly much she could do in this movie, except say few sugar-coated dialogues and some stating-the-obvious. She’s had limited to say, but much more with the eyes which seems to be her strength – great expressions and great use of eyes to convey feelings. For a debutante, Sonakshi uses 3D space very well and delivers confidently in Salman’s presence. There wasn’t any naach-gaana for her, and no melodrama to show off her crying skills either. Although, in a limited timeframe she makes a good impression on the viewer and does not summarize as a victim of Salman’s debutante jinx (Bhagyashree, Sneha Ullal, Katrina lookalike in Yuvraaj, etc). While most folks play challenging roles with time, Arbaaz seems to be following a downward spiral doing the same old routine, playing a character that lacks substance and originality. Arbaaz Khan as Makkhi has played a a pretty mediocre role requiring vague expressions, foolhardy behaviour, insipid dialogue and stiff body language – really not worth any evaluation. He makes you want to hit him, and no, it’s not his acting talent. May be because there are (have been) no Arbaaz-isms to begin (or end) with. Oh, well. 

Sonu Sood as Chadi Singh mightily locks horns with Salman, both with a great body and a great performance. As a village bumpkin speaking rustic UP Hindi, Sonu fits the bill perfectly of a young and sly politician plotting his moves in a power struggle (which was not highlighted enough). He holds good command right in presence of stalwarts too. No negatives for Sonu, really. Debilitated presence of other stars, names worth calling out – Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Mahesh Manjrekar, Tinu Anand.

Director Abhinav Kashyap put together all elements of a Masala flick in equal portions and used Salman’s mass appeal to collage everything together. The plot has been done to death in the past in dozens of movies. For a formula film like this, there is little to do with Direction. In fact, the loose and incoherent flow of the story can be attributed to a mediocre, overarching script. Although, what is worth noticing is the treatment of the story, which brings us to Screenplay, also by Abhinav Kashyap. The dialogues in somewhat colourful and coarse Hindi add good flavour to scenes. Most of the scenes have Salman, and he does his bit well in adding some of him to every single of them. His off-screen persona/public image possibly comes across greatly through Chulbul Pandey. The momentum in the movie is not varying, it’s monotonous for a viewer who relates to a formula film. But if the inequation Salman > cinema, resonates with you, there is something for you in every 5 minute interval.

Cinematography by Mahesh Limaye takes the cake. For viewers familiar with Tollywood cinema of second half of this decade, the Cinamatography may seem straight out of a Puri Jangannath flick. But for Bollywood, which has been devoid of over-the-top stunts for a while, the camera angles, the flaring colour tones, the gory murders, Salman’s Matrixesque moves, people flying when Salman punched them (200 in number), the small-town Bazaars, the village outdoors, are all welcome freshness. Most visuals are compelling and shot in adequate detail. If anything, Dabangg may score an award for its Cinematography. Background Music by Sandeep Shirodkar does not fully complement the visuals; and is curbed by use of soundtrack and a borrowed Zorro-ish theme. There could have been music to complement Sonakshi’s scenes, while the action sequences have received their due. Music by Sajid-Wajid is average, with only two songs to call out – Tere mast mast do nain and Munni Badnaam.

Why 2.5/5:
The good: Salman Khan. Cinematography.
The bad: Humdrum plot, stretched too much. Mediocre Direction. Wasted performances from accomplished actors including Vinod Khanna. Salman is everywhere, even in situations when story had a good potential to take an amazing drift without him. Sonakshi’s screen time and role-importance. Bad background music. Malaika Arora looks 40, already.  It’s not a must-watch, even for Sallu’s fans. Dabangg is average, at best.

4 Responses to “Dabangg”
  1. Dhama says:

    I liked Sallu's characterization. Only he cud have done this….. n he didnt disappoint me.

  2. Sunny says:

    Yes, its out and out Sallu's film. Funny thing is Arbaaz (as Producer) acknowledges that's how they wanted the movie to be. For the role I even thought of Sohail – who is Salman's clone, minus the charizma. You are right, only Salman could have done this.

  3. varsha says:

    Loved the write up..for a change…not just critism but alos appreciation for sallu. Although missing is the mention about dimple kapadia and vinod khanna. Dimple is way better than Rakhi and i thank my stars that I did have to watch rakhi again on the screen. I wonder why he did not use helen (maybe bcos of her accent) otherwise the movie had every posssible member from his family.out and out masala movie….and what's with the googles??

  4. Sunny says:

    Thanks begum :). Dimple's mention is missing because in the larger scheme of things, all senior actors are totally undone including her, for their importance and role-lengths. I wish I could write about each of those limited characters, but some of my readers have complained about my lengthy write-ups which I have been trying to optimize! Will have to find a way to fit many more actor sketches in this length. Will remember for the future! And yes, the googles, you tell me!

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