Yes! I managed to catch this earlier than I anticipated because for whatever reason, it was playing in NYC from the 20th instead of the 21st so I was like fuck holiday shopping, I’m going to watch my movie.
However, because it’s still so early, if you’re a Salman fan and you’re planning to watch Dabangg 2, I would suggest you come back and read this after you’ve done so (and let me know what you thought!). It’s not that there are spoilers (there’s hardly anything to spoil). It’s just that I wouldn’t want to ruin your mood.
Because to be very honest, I was disappointed.
Here’s what happens: Chulbul Pandey and his very happy family have moved from Lalganj to Kanpur where he plans to kick some serious villain ass as the new thanedaar of Kanpur. So he kicks ass. He takes care of his family. He kicks some more ass. He romances his wife. He kicks even more ass. He takes Makkhi to watch the Fevicol Lady. Finally, he pisses off the Local Goon Who Controls The Town and said goon decides to teach Pandey ji a lesson. Kind of. If he could make up his mind.
In other words, you can file that under Masala Story Template No. 101. For almost an entire decade, every Hindi film had exactly this template, except they had a lot more conflict, drama, violence and most importantly, villains that made your skin crawl.
Because what’s the point of all the herogiri, even Salman wala herogiri, if it doesn’t have a villain worth his salt to bounce off of?
All the dark undertones in the first Dabangg have been completely removed in the second. There, Sonu Sood’s Chedi Singh may not have been the real threat to Chulbul but what made up for it was the more compelling conflict going on in the family, between father and son, between brother and brother. Those relationships were Chulbul’s achilles heel – his kryptonite, and that’s what gave Chedi Singh the edge over him.
Frankly, Pandey ji, you have it too easy in Kanpur. It’s like he’s in frikkin’ Disneyland. No problem in family. No problem in job. The goons are afraid of him. He roams about with his merry band of hawaldars (and Chaubey ji of course, plus the wonderful potbellied fellow who plays his boss) cracking jokes and snapping necks (but no memorable one-liners like the chhed one, though it is referenced many times) basically with no worries in his life.
It’s like Pandey ji sauntered into a Sooraj Barjatya film – everyone is happy and/or slightly worried for the entire duration until Something Really Bad happens for about 5 minutes in the final act and then everyone is happy again.
Prakash Raj’s Bachcha Bhai frankly, is a villain that just can’t get it up. He huffs and he puffs and he threatens to blow the house down but he never actually does anything. Except that one thing he does near the end that sets up the climax and final “showdown” (if you can even call it that) between Chulbul and Baccha Bhai’s gang.
I mean, how do you have Prakash Raj – the King Of All Villainy – in a film and make him such an ineffective, can’t-get-my-shit-together villain? Complete waste of the man’s time and talent if you ask me (which of course, you didn’t).
The film was made simply to allow us to bask in the khakee glow of Salman playing Chulbul – and nothing else. This can work for maybe the first 30 minutes. After that, only a true die-hard Salman fan could hope to remain entertained because literally, nothing else happens.
Who needs a story when we have Salman? Who needs a villain when we have Salman? Who needs conflict when we have Salman? And there is A LOT of Salman in this. A lot.
Has Salman Outgrown Chulbul?
I didn’t have as much fun watching Chulbul this time around because it seemed to me that Salman wasn’t having as much fun playing Chulbul. He comes alive and shines in the scenes when he’s interacting with Vinod Khanna (returning, delightfully, as Pandey Senior), Arbaaz (Makki) and Sonakshi (Rajjo).
But it’s when he’s playing the smart-aleck Supercop Robinhood Pandey that it seems like he’s not really buying it anymore. Or maybe the dialog wasn’t as sharp and pithy this time around so he didn’t have enough material to work with. The action is all been there, seen that. And you know Salman, when he’s not convinced about something, he has a hard time not letting it show on screen.
The character was just too safe. It’s as though they were in endless script meetings with the dictate: Don’t make him too weak, don’t make him too crooked, don’t make him too corrupt or irreverent – be careful not to ruin Salman’s carefully honed on-screen image. Arre Pandey ji, we need a little bit more danger, a little bit more spice from you. Otherwise, where’s the fun? Wouldn’t it be great to see Chulbul suffer a Batman-style breakdown, just completely shattered, before he rises again and beats the shit out of everyone?
Despite the weak material, and despite the fact that he seems a bit tired of this role, Salman is still a sheer delight to watch. If this film breaks any records at the box office, it will be based solely on Salman’s charisma and nothing else. Because other than Salman, the film as a whole has very little to recommend it.
Arbaaz – The Director [Slight Spoilers In This Section]
Arbaaz does show great potential as a director. Several scenes really stand out for the impact they make, though not the ones you would think. It’s the smaller, lighter moments where Arbaaz shows his skills – the scenes between father and son (the entire mobile-Aasma track is brilliant), bhai and bhai (lovely scene when Makkhi shows up at the police station), and some really sweet romantic moments between husband and wife too. As I said earlier, these are also the scenes where Salman does his best work.
The problem with these scenes, however, as lovely as they were, is that they have no real place in the narrative. They added nothing to the (almost non-existent) plot. Usually, the point of highlighting My Very Happy Family & Perfect Life is to foreshadow that something terrible is going to happen to someone really soon. In the old days, someone’s sister would get raped. Or someone’s brother would get murdered. Or someone’s father would get dragged into the mohalla on a freakin’ dog leash (Ghatak FTW!!). No such luck here. What does happen, though awful, is diluted of all of its potential impact because it’s over in one and a half scenes.
In the big Bachcha Bhai vs Pandey conflict scenes, Arbaaz relies too heavily on people walking angrily in slow motion and/or high speed towards the camera (a shot that happens to be one of my favorite filmy devices, but too much of a good thing and it starts to lose its impact). What’s more, all that glaring into the camera is followed by some really anti-climactic dialog. The “threats” from either side (endless variations of “I’ll show you who’s boss”) were completely empty and unconvincing. Some of the jokes worked, others fell flat.
The one villainy scene that stood out takes place right before interval, quite a stroke of genius that – because it leaves the audience so unsure how to feel going into interval – one minute you’re laughing, the next your jaw is hanging open. If only the other action scenes, had come even close to that. Most of them are just Pandey bashing people up in between cracking jokes – rather unimaginatively staged and relying very obviously on Salman’s star power and persona to sell the scene.
Arbaaz should forget about Dabangg 3 and direct a family-romance film instead – with Salman in it. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a truly tender Salman in anything, and Arbaaz managed to bring that out beautifully in several scenes in which Chulbul is interacting with his family.
What can I say about Sonakshi? She’s Mrs. Pandey now and her job is to look pretty, pout, blush, wear backless blouses, say “aayee” and “laayee” and not much else. What you see her doing in the Dagabaaz song (which is lovely) is pretty much her role in the entire movie. Her character in Dabangg, though short, was much more layered and interesting. Her role in this was the definition of female furniture.
Is Dabangg 2 Better Than Dabangg?
You already know the answer to that if you’ve made it this far. Not by a mile. Not by a freakin’ mile. This is not a movie that begs for a re-watch (the caveat obviously being how big a Salman fan you are, because one could watch him forever). There’s just nothing that memorable in it.
They say that Salman is the only star in Bollywood who is bigger than the script. This film will prove that saying once again, just as it did with Bodyguard and Ready. For me, Dabangg is a classic, one of the great neo-masala films and one of the only in its genre that had a specific voice and created a very specific world. Dabangg 2 sadly, falls under that category of masala that is designed for commercial purposes only – paint it by numbers and say Thank God For Salman Khan.
Get Filmy Rating:
I could give this an OMG for Salman alone, but for me at least, even Salman couldn’t save the script. So please don’t kill me but: