Dabangg

Abhinav Kashyap’s directorial debut is a tribute to the 70s films set in small town India,where the hero was allowed a little naughtiness as long as he was the saviour of the poor.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Published: September 10, 2010 4:20:29 pm

Cast: Salman Khan,Sonakshi Sinha,Arbaaz Khan,Sonu Sood,Vinod Khanna,Dimple Kapadia

Director: Abhinav Kashyap

Rating:** ½

Da-bang. D-Bang. More Bang For Your Buck. The relentlessly publicised Dabangg comes with the kind of near-forgotten buzz that used to get generated back in those days when there were only single screens,and opening Fridays would see box office windows smashed by surging crowds.

There’s the inimitable Salman spread across every inch of the stretch. There’s new girl Sonakshi who has the smoulder-and-sweetness that’s gone missing from Bolly-hopers these days. And there is the unparalleled Munni doing the badnaam thing in an item number which rocks the rafters.

With all the ingredients of a masala entertainer lined up,what could possibly go wrong with Dabangg? It mainlines Inspector Chulbul Pandey (Khan) who makes up for his sissy monicker by prefacing it with Robin Hood. As in Hamaara naam hai Robin Hood Pandey,pyar se log humein Chulbul kahte hain : he doesn’t actually say it,but you hear the echoes of that classic line when Chulbul Bhaiyya opens his mouth. That’s what Abhinav Kashyap’s directorial debut is– an unabashed tribute to the 70s films set in small town India,where the hero was allowed a little naughtiness as long as he was the saviour of the poor,and a saint when it came to the women in his life,namely his mother and his legally wedded wife. The villain was given some wiggle room,but always had to lose in the climax,even if he was better built than the hero.

The trouble with Dabangg is not that it is crafted as a series of set-pieces,engineered to get us clapping and wolf-whistling: it is that kind of film. It’s that not all those set-pieces are uniformly good. The first half mostly works. The hackneyed second half mostly doesn’t. A few pre-interval sequences are fun : Salman can make us laugh,even when he’s doing everything we’ve seen before. He appears to have borrowed his pencil thin moustache and smart aviators from a recent Tamil film starring Vikram,and a couple of the tricks are very Rajni,but Salman makes them completely his. And there’s no one to beat Sallu Bhai when it comes to getting down and dirty and shirtless : there’s the mandatory crowd-pleaser of a scene in the slack climax when his shirt starts straining in places,and then comes right off,with an ear-bursting soundtrack. Bad guy Sonu Sood may be more impressively muscled,as evidenced by his bare chest,but naturally good guy Salman’s smooth,hairless expanse gets winner status.

For a first time heroine working opposite an A list Khan,Sonakshi,daughter of Shatrughan,gets off to a flying start. In a film where every single element is familiar,she brings a whiff of freshness. Uber item girl Malaika Arora Khan does a rousing hippy hippy shake.

Director Abhinav,brother of Anurag,gets the small town tone and tenor spot on: Arbaaz,who plays Salman’s brother,is called,delightfully,Makhhi. But Dimple Kapadia,as the long-suffering mother,is laughably wrong. Vinod Khanna,as the father who will see the light,is dull. And was that really Mahie Gill,there one instant,and gone the next?

Kashyap fails to keep the pitch consistent,and the dips become more clichéd and pronounced as the film progresses. Dabangg could have been the retro dhamaka of the year; I enjoyed only some of it.

shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com

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