Dabangg – Review
Posted by Editor on September 10, 2010 | 1 Comment
The phenomenon of commercial cinema is undergoing an interesting coming-of-age. It is in its second life-cycle. After dying a gory death in the 80’s the phoenix that rose was ashen in the 90’s and the gawky kid became a self-conscious teenager in the new millennium. And this teenager is yet to find its feet. Dabangg is an interesting illustration of this dubitable ‘growing up’ that is happening in fits and starts. If at all.
In an almost pro-active/reactive (depends on how one looks at it) reflection of the trend the film is unihibited and non-pretentious of its masala genre. It courts catcalls and gets them. Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan, endearingly over-the-top) is a fearless (meaning Dabangg) cop who is corrupt yet with a golden heart. He has troubled relations with his step-father (Vinod Khanna, pleasantly under-playing the middle-class small town father) and younger brother (unconvincing Arbaaz Khan). He wears his heart and guts on his sleeve and is our regular hero, stuff that all Hindi potboilers are made of.
Chulbul Pandey calls himself Robin Hood Pandey and does quite a bit of dispensing of help to the needy. But most of the time he spends courting his love-interest Rajo, (Fresh Sonakshi Sinha) and bashing up goons at random Matrix/Wanted-style. Dangerous combination but it is only Salman Khan’s screwball and over-the-top presence that makes it entertaining. While doing so, he keeps rubbing Chhedi Singh, (worthy Sonu Sood) a youth party leader, the wrong way, creating his nemesis. This, more by his Dabangg nature than anything else.
Like commercial cinema, the film tries to grow up till late. Three-fourth film later it realises the need for a story and stops the set up and lazy lounging. The mandatory revenge, fisticuffs, blood, gore and explosions happen but not without the also mandatory Salman shirt-off. The brothers reunite, father and son make peace and happy ending prevails in the Pandey household.
In the tradition of whistle-inspiring cinema, Dabangg is full of gimmicks, which Salman Khan makes watchable. But Dabangg sacrifices a few golden conventions of commercial cinema that made it what it was back before paanwalas and the underworld became producers, the chief being gimmick-for-a-cause. It forgets to substantiate the gimmicks for anything except comic relief. It works a few times but not when the film is wholly constructed around gimmicks that neither take the film forward nor establish plot points nor reveal characters.
The screenplay, reflecting commercial cinema’s stage of evolution, tries to bloom hard. It is pacey and tries to do away with exposition when it can be helped. This helps the gimmicks, weaving that surprise element as well as giving the film a stylish sensibility. However, it lacks juicy plot-points or if present, lack-lustrely placed. Mish-mash is potboiler formula and is inherently attractive. But the mish-mash of song, dance, romance, action, style, gimmicks, emotion here is haphazard leaving an extremely interesting setting and a worth-while hero crippled. Salman Khan’s style, corny sense of humour and grand screen presence are not enough.
The film does not seem a debut effort and declares the entry of an assured director. Abhinav Kashyap chooses gimmicks over story, laughs over moments and style over flow but gives away a feel of tight command over his medium. If only the script and characterisations had not let him down.
Speaking of flow, the editing is over-wrought with style. In trying to induce pace does away with coherence and in trying to grab attention distracts. The sound design is thumping, adding that larger-than-life atmosphere and it works delectably. Wasiq Khan’s production design is as usual authentic and earthy, something that the film promised but does not deliver.
Dabangg is Salman Khan all the way. He is like a bull let loose in a green field and performs with his regular ease for the comic, the goofy and the absurd. Sonakshi Sinha makes a refreshing debut and displays a controlled but striking screen presence. Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia as Chulbul Pandey’s parents attempt something they have rarely done and come away convincing. Arbaaz Khan plays the younger brother with minimal effort, this not being a compliment. Sonu Sood does his villainy job with surprising élan but talents like Anupam Kher and Om Puri are wasted in tiny roles which could have been done by anyone.
Dabangg is extremely popcorn-worthy, whistle-worthy and pro-front-bench. It had superb potential to warm the balcony hearts too, which Salman Khan does effortlessly, but sadly a hero is not a film.
Credit : Fatima Kagalwala