An Indian campy film never looked, sounded or felt so good. Take a bit of Sergio Leone‘s early Westerns, mix them with a bit of the Sippy brothers kitsch of the ’70s, get a psychologist to transcribe the dreams of every living BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, UP for the uninitiated) villager and bring in a director willing to pitch the same to a star who makes hay when he caters to the front-benchers in every single screen hall in small town India. BTW, the director needs to be influenced a bit by the Hollywood pulp films of the early ’90s and sticking with Hollywood, he better have watched a lot of Ernest Goes to Camp and the rest of the series.
The above is the surefire recipe for Dabangg that seems to have done wonders for a whole lot of sagging careers in Bollywood. Being from deep down south India, with a Bollywood IQ akin to a sherpas knowledge of the Deccan Plateau, I can vouch that I did enjoy nearly every frame of this movie.
Salman Khan hams it to the brim as the goofy Chulbul Pandey alias Robinhood Pandey – a corrupt UP village cop who lives for action and makes sure that the rest of the crowd die laughing at his antics. The action is shamelessly lifted from south Indian cinema (especially Tamil cinema) but in the hands and also the feet of Salman, it finds a worthy inventor who can find all the right moves without any lab trained stunts. I have always been willing to give this guy a bit of leeway when it comes to his acting or his life. No matter what he does, there is a charm in his hilariously choreographed mimes that would definitely break the fourth wall in a Marcel Marceau interpretation.
Dabangg is Salman Khan all the way. From the wickedly written dialogues with a whole lot of tongue in cheek moments to the incredible action sequences, one of which actually sees Chulbul’s shirt ripping off like the Incredible Hulks’, you have Salman masterfully controlling the screen time with the right mix of eye-popping pop action and slapstick devilry that would make Dada Kondke turn in his grave with his naada intact.
It does help that the film is held together with a strong script and editing that makes it easier for the director Abhinav Kashyap to bring together a motley set of characters who hold their own in whatever short scene they have in the film. Arbaaz Khan, as Makkhi Pandey the no good step brother of Chulbul, gets an unusual amount of screen time based on the fact that he is the brother of the star of the film and he also happens to be the main Producer of Dabangg. Malaika Arora Khan completes the family affair in this film by creating an ideal item number that works with a catchy tune and with the right amount of oomph from the Khan lass.
Sonakshi Sinha in her debut as the heroine in the film, does make a huge impression and she has it in her to make it big. Her beauty completes the kitschy feel of the movie and she stands out as an ideal foil to Sallu Bhai’s tamasha’s as Chulbul. She does have her lines in dialogues that drew whistles and shouts of appreciation from the 10 PM crowd that thronged the Gandhi and the balcony seats of the single screen Rex theatre on Bangalore’s Brigade Road.
I don’t know how much of a hand Abhinav Kashyap would have had in conceptualizing the various styles used in this dramatic action campy film. From the buzz in the media it looks like Abhinav Kashyap may have been short changed for the credit or there may be truth in the fact that the Khan’s had a prominent role to play in helping conceptualize and build the tempo of the film. Whatever the argument they did give the audience a lot to laugh about as they in turn laugh their way to the bank (a Trojan horse could not hold all the money that this film is gonna earn).
RIP – all the deceased criminals on screen. They served their purpose especially the evil and vile Cheddi Singh played by the surprisingly inventive Sonu Sood. There are a whole lot of comical encounters within the film that only serve well when watched, so I am just shutting up here.