For a person who still continues to live in the Victorian era of morals and believes in simple, clean English language where every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed neatly, the jokes in Dabangg came as a cultural shock. I for one just couldn’t believe that Sallubhai could stoop to that level.
That, in fact, is the main problem with the otherwise sleekly made Dabangg, which is an out and out Salman Khan film. Produced by Arbaaz Khan and directed by Abhinav Kashyap, younger brother of Anuraag Kashyap, the film has several flaws but at the end of its two-hour running time, one smilingly curses the film and wonders why one can’t hate it outright.
The reason is Salman. Even if you are not a die-hard fan of this Khan, you will end up admiring his handsome looks and for once in the entire film he appears to be enjoying each scene and dialogue. There are hardly any scenes without him in the frame and those short scenes where he isn’t one just waits impatiently for them to get over so that Khan reenters with his stylish gait and impeccably fitting designer clothes.
Sporting the Clark Gableish moustache of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, Chulbul Pandey (Salman) is an out-and-out corrupt cop heading the remote Lalgunj Police Station located in Uttar Pradesh. (Currently characters from UP and Bihar with their own style of speaking Hindi are dominating Indian films and tele-serials). He is corrupt but doesn’t believe in hoarding the booty alone. He shares it with all his police force and that is how he declares his name as, “Hum Robin Hood Pandey urf Chulbul Pandey hain,” and has an unbelievably loyal posse of cops around him who are willing to take a bullet for him.
Chulbul has his own way of dispensing justice. Once when his stepbrother Makhanchand Pandey aka Makkhi played by Arbaaz Khan, beats up a worker in his factory, Chulbul’s way of dispensing justice is to beat up Makkhi till the victimised worker asks him to stop. His way of ensuring promotions for his subordinates is to shoot them in their limbs, declare it as encounter injury and get them promoted! After one such incident he asks his force, “Aur kisi ko promoson (promotion) chahiye?” to which a constable says, “Sir, aagli baar.”
He is the Dabangg — daring, strong, fun-loving (he jigs every time a ring tone sounds off) — cop who doesn’t hesitate to approach his lady love Rajo, played by debutante Sonakshi Sinha (veteran film actor Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter), with a proposal of marriage on his own. He doesn’t hesitate to approach the state home minister Dayal saab (Anupam Kher) to get his suspension order cancelled in return of any favour that the minister wants.
Chulbul’s only weak point is his mother, unsuitably played by Dimple Kapadia. The grey streak in her hair, the dialogues spoken in an unconvincing UP dialect can’t make her appear as a UP waali. Added to this is her vegetable-dyed designer silk saris, which suit the kittie party gang of Mumbai and not a small village. This is one role which we are sure she would love to forget. She is the one person Chulbul trusts and loves. So her death and rejection from his stepfather, played by Vinod Khanna, really hurts him. Age still hasn’t taught the senior Khanna lessons in the acting department.
One person who matches Sallubhai with his brawny body and acting is Sonu Sood playing the villainous Chedi Singh. He certainly doesn’t look menacing, which is good, though he too isn’t really convincing to be a typical UP wallah, the way Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi were in Ishqiya. But then no one should be compared to Naseer.
What stand out in this entire film are the fight scenes. They are better than the earlier Sallu starrer Wanted, and so fast that you don’t know when one action ends and the other begins. The same fight director, S. Vijayan, has crafted the fight scenes in Dabangg also. What superb editing. Not a single extra shot, every second in the scene is accounted for. Even the camera work is okay — no dirty or unusual camera angles.
There is no need to talk about the music at all, as by now almost all songs of the film have become hits. While having fun even college girls have started humming the song, Hud Hud Dabangg. Of late every Rahat Fateh Ali Khan song is becoming a hit, and every other film has at least one song by him. Even in Dabangg he has sung for Salman as he serenades Sonakshi with Tere mast, mast do nain, mere dil ka le gaye chaen.
And then there’s the item number, Munni Badnaam Hui Darling Tere Liye, danced to by a somewhat stone-faced and aging Malaika Arora (one wishes it had been Rakhee Sawant) and sung by Mamta Sharma and Aishwarya. It may not yet be as popular as the Sunidhi Chavan-Bipasha Basu Beedi Jalai Le, but it has become a chartbuster.
For a debutant director, Abhinav Kashyap matches his elder brother’s talent. But he can’t have his actors dressed in designer clothes while playing simple village folk.
All said and done, Arbaaz Khan’s Dabangg featuring Salman Khan in the lead might not be a hit with the sanitised and elite crowd of multiplexes of Metro cities, but it surely has hit the bull’s eye with frontbenchers of single screen theatres in smaller towns and villages across India. Salman is really rocking and even with all the controversies that he has a penchant of getting into, 2010 clearly is his year – By Surekha Kadapa-Bose