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Movie Review: Dabangg 2

December 24, 2012

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As an industry of thoroughbred masala movies, Bollywood is a difficult animal to understand – much less pass judgment on. On one hand there are those who live for mindless entertainment, eulogising even the most irksome codswallop to godly status; one can often find these ‘attention handicapped’ people belonging to certain star-backed factions – be they critics or choleric howlers in the comments section. Then there are those who live to thrash the ‘blockbusters’ with new-age, independent or art-house films, protesting favour to the pseudo-intelligent cinema – which there is too little of anyways.

To spank or slaughter a movie – as someone told me in a conversation sometime back – in the age of the internet is child’s play; all it takes is an internet connection and maybe a blog. Ergo: a long-line of media-age critics are born; good, bad, irrelevant, become a meaningless point of view backed by quick-tempered writing and personal bias, if anything else.

That is why I estimate that Dabangg 2, the self-effacingly natural extension to Dabangg, re-starring Salman Khan, will get a motley show of votes from these ‘so called’ critics of cinema. An entertaining blockbuster may not be their thing, but denying of what it is, is anything but stark biasness.

How did that Habib Jalib verse go? –Main nahin maanta, Main nahin maanta!

As Dabangg 2 opens, a ‘splat and splash’ title sequence recounts what happened in the first movie, followed by a homage-esque baddie beat-em-up (think of this type of opening to become its franchise staple). We learn that Chulbul Pandey – the coolest of avatars Mr. Khan has done to date – has a new affix appending his name: he is Chulbul, Robin Hood “Kung-Fu” Pandey. The tag has an uncanny adhesive-like quality to it; it sticks well to Chulbul’s frame as he whips baddies throughout the 120-odd minute running time.

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The action – the neatest mix of physical and wirework since the original – is offset by the subtlest narratives a continuation gets to expand on. Chulbul, with a once-estranged father and brother (Vinod Khanna and director-actor Arbaaz Khan) and wife – an enrapturing Sonakshi Sinha, who justifies the film’s ace song “Dagabaaz Naina” – are now stationed at Kanpur. As it happens (ala Singham style), it is a suburban state with a trademark goon, Bacha Bhai (a brilliantly stereotypical Prakash Raj), running for the local office.

The bulk of their interaction is about flexing muscles. Bacha Bhai – and his brothers – flex theirs, Chulbul flexes his; with Mr. Khan’s still-primed physique – and his puckish cheekiness – is there really a competition here?...I didn’t think so either.

Dilip Shukla’s screenplay flips the bible of sequel-writing away as it concentrates on prioritising. First served are Chulbul’s relations, then the waggishness and finally the mandatory clobbering.

Mr. Shukla’s sequencing gets results. It is breezily wholesome, even when it’s everything we’ve seen before. Even the songs by duo Sajid-Wajid, which include the Kareena Kapoor semi-show stealer “Fevicol” (though nowhere near “Munni’s” level), happen somewhere in-between without hindrance; as do the rest of the film’s many product placements.

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Dabangg 2 works primarily because of its unflustered assuredness of its own brand-identity and the brazenness to accept itself for what it is: a mix of the old, with the new – a new that is “dabangg” enough to flaunt its own flair-y, quirky quality.

If this were a cocktail, then the blend would have been yummy and instantly gulpable. Rarely does a Bollywood film warrant seconds – even when you haven’t finished firsts.

Directed by the debuting ace Arbaaz Khan (no fair, with the Abhinav Kashyap comparision), with cinematography by Aseem Mishra, editing by Hemal Kothari, and was produced by Arbaaz Khan and Malaika Arora Khan.

Released by IMGC Global, the film is certified U/A – a neck is snapped 180-degrees, but the bad goon was asking for it anyways.