Friday, December 21, 2012

Dabangg 2 tries too hard to be as much fun as its prequel

Salman Khan's Dabangg 2 releases worldwide this weekend with much resplendent badassery, heavily propagated by his blubbery fan following. Dabangg 2 was announced, right after its prequel set the ball rolling for Salman at the Box Office, resulting in a string of low brow crowd-pleasers that heavily dented the cumulative IQ of the cine-world. Thus, Dabangg 2's success is independent of critical plaudits or any sort of analysis, its also inevitable even when it releases on a regular Friday instead of a Christmas Tuesday. Dabangg was shameless fun in itself, and an immensely enjoyable movie despite its minimal content backing. The most delightful takeaway from Dabangg was the crass and goofy character of Chulbul Pandey, which had the audiences drooling at his plucky daredevilry. The promos of Dabangg 2 laid out the milieu straight up, playing to the vast galleries of fans who would do anything to see their bhai rip his shirt off. In Indian cinema today, bhai porn sells more than an Apple iPhone also. Picking up from where the first one left, Dabangg 2 seemed to have similar settings, similar cut promos, similar songs and what not. It almost looked like they put together everything that was left back in the edit table for the first one to churn up a more scurrilous cash cow. Indulgently, I did go for the movie on its premier night itself, in a packed theater to experience the most desi style viewing of a Salman Khan film.

Dabangg 2 starts off like a deja vu to its predecessor and follows a familiar discourse of good versus bad, without ever bothering to throw in a surprise or being concerned about the overt hegemony of the plot points in the first part. While Pandey's character was an offshoot of Dabangg, this one builds the whole clout around the crackling charisma of Pandey. Dabangg 2 pipettes itself from a emphatic focus on Chulbul and his histrionics, and believe me, most narrative points, songs or episodes have been planted to showcase that. And voila, because Salman is in top form as he provides unabashed entertainment for 2+ hours, despite the whiff of a plot that exists here. While Dabangg tried to build up a plot for most of it, Dabangg 2 transcendentally doesnt bother about it at all, infact into the second half, the film shows a striking similarity to Ajay Devgn's Singham, considering that Prakash Raj plays the anti-hero even here. It is a typcial assembly-line star vehicle which offers nothing new, and very soon it would be hard to tell apart whether you have just watched Dabangg 4 or Rowdy Rathore 3 or Singham 2. Delving into the intricacies of its storyline would shower a lot of shame upon me, so lets just say that Chulbul Pandey has moved to Kanpur now where he has a new political goon to face, who happens to threaten his family, which is all settled now. It has its regular action pieces and Arbaaz Khan and Dilip Shukla's writing just plays to the strengths of Pandey, giving us the zaniest moments we already know, yet we laugh, yet we have fun.

However, anachronistically enough, Dabangg 2 shows a baffling change in the language used here, as Pandey suddenly starts speaking in Hindi used in UP based films, as opposed to his normal Hindi in the prequel. But this change is, thank heavens, for the better, as it makes the proceedings funnier, as he infallibly goes through the strikingly unoriginal drill. There is a bunch of hard-hitting action, but none of it is gritty or edgy. There are a bunch of corny one liners, but none of them have a thing on a couple in the prequel. Sadly, Dabangg 2 surreptitiously tries too hard to be like Dabangg or spin off from the things that worked for it, but it always lags behind maybe because it is consumed in its own blithe, instead of attempting something new with an immensely likable character. 

Produced exclusively by Arbaaz Khan Productions, Dabangg 2 could have easily been sold to one of the production houses for billions considering the condescending star power it was riding on. On the other hand, Arbaaz has doled out all the money for it, knowing very well that the payback will be a gut busting multi hundreds of crore rupees.  Aseem Mishra's cinematography is pulpy and reminds us of the cinema of 70s and 80s expectedly. Sajid Wajid's music is comprised of the rejected tunes from Dabangg. While Pandeyji Seeti scores well as the pick of the lot, Fevicol Se is brazenly catchy, once you have seen it on the big screen. Despite Salman, Malaika and Kareena gyrating their hearts out to the songs, there is no single that matches upto the snazzy awesomeness of Munni Badnaam Hui, from the prequel.  Shashank Tere's Production Design is akin to the retro feel of the film but gets disruptively garish at times. Editing could have been way more crisp as most songs are thrown in without any real situations, but then such blasphemy comes with the baggage of such movies. 

With Chulbul Pandey two years ago, Salman has almost ushered in a barnstorming fan following for himself, that remains loyal to their star, who delivers absolute escapist entertainment to them, every six months. The best part about Pandey is that his nuances are not furtively taken from any character we know or have seen. It probably is a bizarre cinematic version of Salman himself, unapologetic and goofy. In Dabangg 2, Salman takes Chulbul one notch above in his unremitting idiocy but with the same badassery. Hes clownish, he sobs, he prank calls his father, he woos his wife and has a lot of fun doing anything which effectually makes him the darling of the masses once again. Despite a derisively weak script, the star in Salman provides everything he is capable of. Sonakshi Sinha spends most of the movie (read 20 minutes of screen time), looking justifiably exasperated, probably because she wanted even fewer scenes, forget about having an actual 'role' or 'character'. I would credit her for shameful special appearance in all films that she has apparently been credited as the lead. Prakash Raj inanely plays the same bad guy we have seen him play in all movies. Raj also has some stone looking guy as his sidekick who adds to the unintentional hilarity. Deepak Dobriyal looks miscast in an irrelevant role, that utilizes nothing from the great acting reserves he has. Vinod Khanna looks perennially worried on having done his 40th film as Salman's dad. Arbaaz Khan plays the simpleton brother of Chulbul, Makhhi, and does it decently well. His wife, Malaika appears in a song and is undoubtedly the best thing about this movie, because she manages to turn more heads than Kareena, appearing in the other number.

Dabangg 2 is just another product in this chain of movies that run on stars that have no public goodwill to lose. The only good part is that despite catering to people with low entertainment thresholds, it does not get overbearingly lame or affects mental impedance, keeping your 2 hours constantly enjoyable, and the credit for this totally goes to a spirited boisterious Salman who gets to do what he is best at. The sad part is that it tries too hard to be Dabangg but is staggeringly short of it. The Box Office outcome of Dabangg 2 is beyond debate as we are in an age where Salman can only compete with himself. The BO start has been phenomenal and it can only pick up from here. If you are a Bhai fan, you must have already watched it or booked your tickets. If you are not, I will never dare to say you should skip this movie. Who knows, even his fans would run over me!

Rating - 2.5/5