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Dabangg 2  : Watch It or Dodge It?
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Friday, December 21, 2012
Action comedy
Arbaaz Khan
Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Prakash Raj
Shadow-boxing A Blockbuster

It’s a tough act to follow. And you have to be dabangg (fearless) to venture into filmmaking without a story or a screenplay. In that sense Arbaaz Khan is the fearless one here as the first-time director confidently debuts relying solely on his brother’s magnetic appeal and the drawing power of the franchise.

The Plot: It’s a one-liner: Cop Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan, but of course) has asked for a transfer to Kanpur to cleanse the small town of the menace of Baccha Bhai (Prakash Raj). And he does it using only his pow-pow power; smart cells and strategies don’t exist in this land.

The Good: As always, the fighting fit Salman Khan is a pleasure to watch as he goes at the action sequences with energy and enthusiasm. Grin-worthy is even his trouser belt moving up and down on its own in the dabangg title song (like his biceps danced by themselves in Bodyguard) – at least it is a mass-pleasing novelty, a missing element in the rest of the film. And Chulbul is good at family audience intimacy too with Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), this time as his wife. (A message for SRK: you don’t have to break your own principles and lock lips to show romance.) Also, in an otherwise emotion-lacking screenplay, the one shot of Salman weeping at the hospital tugs at the heart.

Sonakshi Sinha is charming and uses her large come-hither eyes well, and Kareena Kapoor as the ‘Fevicol’ girl is ravishing and raunchy.

The action sequences (Anal Arasu) are powerful, plentiful and single-screen friendly, without being gory.

Debut-making director Arbaaz Khan gets the tone right in every sequence. Delicate scenes like the one where Rajjo reminds Chulbul that he has forgotten his trademark dark glasses indicate that Arbaaz has a fine director’s touch. He also has a flair of humour (the Vinod Khanna-Salman Khan comic sequences, Arbaaz’s own dumbo act). You can’t help wondering, if only Arbaaz had an absorbing tale to tell too.

The Bad: Instead of etching out a story with a new stock of emotions and a screenplay that delights (don’t take a bow Dilip Shukla), someone seems to have sat down and made a checklist of what the sequel must contain, based only on what appealed in the original. Here’s how it goes:

Chulbul Pandey, the small town saviour -Yes, present

Rajjo, the love of his life -Yes

Chulbul’s tinted glasses - Yes

Chulbul’s action scenes - Yes

Chulbul’s cool guy factor - Yes (after the first pow-pow, his only remark is that the kid he rescued found it entertaining and that’s cool-funny, ok?)

Munni & Item Number - Yes (in fact there’s Malaika and Kareena for a double whammy)

Rahat Fateh Ali’s soulful ode to Rajjo’s eyes - Yes, we have it

And so it goes ad nauseam.

At a time when sequels merely coast along on the saleability of a franchise with no connection at all to the original story (eg Murder, Raaz, Golmaal, which are, strictly speaking, stand-alone films that piggyback on the franchise name), it is a pleasure to find a genuine sequel that takes off from the original and attempts to move forward.

However, it also works to its detriment because it leans too heavily on the original without a strong spine of its own. The old style opening credits promise to take you back to the 60s, but there’s the ‘Hud hud…dabangg, dabangg’ title song reloaded and when Munni (Malaika Arora Khan) makes a fleeting appearance in the totally chaalu ‘Pandeyjee seeti’ number, there’s an unnecessary hark-back to ‘Chalat musafir moh liya re pinjrewali muniya…’, the Manna Dey hit from the ancient Teesri Kasam. In other words, nothing fresh to serve, Sajid-Wajid?

Even Rahat Fateh Ali’s melodiously lingering ‘Tore naina bade dagabaaz re’ (forced in its placement, as are all the songs), makes you remember the same singer’s ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ in Dabangg.

Prakash Raj, so delightfully villainous in Wanted, has one stock dimension of ‘bad, badder, baddest’, making him an effete opponent because he really is not seen doing anything but scowl and shoot.

Unfortunately, the emotion quotient also goes nose-diving. eg. When Salman watches good-for-nothing step-brother Makhi (Arbaaz Khan) eager to turn a new leaf at the police station, the mushy emotion relied on is simply a flashback to the original when they were on opposite sides. The abrupt appearance and exit of Nirmala (Mahie Gill) too, makes sense only if one connects it with Arbaaz’s track with her in the previous Dabangg. So that’s it – the heavy reliance on what Dabangg offered two years ago, to evoke an emotional response in Part 2, is where the major fault-line lies.

Despite all this, it would have helped had there been smarter writing to aid the many action scenes. For instance, when Prakash Raj’s lusty brother (Deepak Dobriyal) warns Anjali (Sandeepa Dhar) that he will whisk her off from the mandap if she dares marry anyone else and Chulbul promises to be her protector, one would have expected the heroic cop to come up with a clever plan to foil him and finish him instead of just fetching up and bashing the daylights out of him, as expected. Actually, ‘as expected’ is the key expression here – nothing is a surprise.
With a frame in the end titles hinting at a third Dabangg with Chhedi Singh’s brother, Arbaaz would do well to take the series forward the next time around with a sparkling new story, like Rakesh Roshan does with his Krrish sequels.  

Watch It or Dodge It?

Watch it if you are a hardcore Salman Khan admirer and a Brand Dabangg loyalist!

– Bharathi S Pradhan
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