Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Dabangg: Salman Khan is the saviour
At the “Dabangg” screening, someone sitting a few rows behind me would scream hysterically whenever Salman Khan came on screen. She would cheer, shout out encouragement when he was beating up the bad guys and wolf-whistle when he was romancing the heroine.
In the beginning, it was endearing. But then it began to seem contrived, forced and totally unnecessary — just like the film. Unless you are a Salman Khan fan like her, because then you would be able to forgive anything.
This two-hour film looks like it was meant to be a successor to Khan’s 2009 hit “Wanted” and unfortunately, the makers decided to go about doing that in a somewhat calculated manner — ensuring the film looks like it is trying too hard to be “cool”, several times.
The writers try too hard to be clever with the dialogues and the characters seem to go more over the top than they should have. I am not going to talk about the story or screenplay, because I don’t expect that in a film like this, those two aspects would be given much importance anyway. This is a “mass” film you see.
Not that I am critical of such films but directors such as Manmohan Desai or David Dhawan made such films with some amount of abandon, something that is missing in a film that clearly aims to go back to the era of the larger-than-life hero and the coy but virtuous heroine.
Salman Khan is Chulbul “Robinhood” Pandey, an unscrupulous policeman in an Uttar Pradesh village who has no qualms keeping the money he recovers from bank robbers or using his forces to guard his own wedding.
He is bitter towards his stepfather for being partial to his stepbrother Makhanchand (Arbaaz Khan). When his mother passes away and all attempts at a reconciliation fail, Pandey moves out of the house but not before he marries village belle Rajo (debutante Sonakshi Sinha who has absolutely the same expressions when she is getting married and mourning her father).
When his detractors decide to use the cracks in the family to finish him, Pandey has to confront his brother and his enemies to win this battle.
The fact that the hero himself is corrupt is quite a departure from the Bollywood concept of flawless protagonists but director Abhinav Kashyap loses the plot in the execution.
The first half seems to be going nowhere and drags on. It is only in the second half that the action picks up. But when it does pick up, it is worth it. The action scenes are done almost Rajnikanth style — half comedy, half action.
Of course, the saviour of this film is Salman Khan. From the moment he saunters on to the screen and cocks an eyebrow, he has you charmed. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, so why should you? To do fight scenes in a comic manner is not easy but Khan does it with such panache, you can almost understand the whistles he gets from the audience. This is, in industry terms “paisa vasool”.
I cannot think of any other actor who could have carried out such a script and still made it look fun. If you do watch “Dabangg”, watch it only for Salman Khan. Everything else and everybody else is just trying too hard.