10 minutes into Dabangg, written and directed by Abhinav Kashyap who previously wrote the dialogue for Manorama Six Feet Under, and you realize why Hindi has all but ceded this kind of territory to Telugu and Tamil cinema: it requires a very specific kind of movie star to work.
First, you need a Star. Somebody with a rabid fan base and the kind of charisma that can’t be manufactured, no matter how many years you spent assisting famous directors or learning to dance from master choreographers or who you call Pop.
Next, he must willing to embrace a dhishum-dhishum flick entirely unironically. He’s not trying to re-interpret, deconstruct or elevate it. He’s simply and methodically bashing in the heads of random people who get in his way in a manner that makes you feel like he’s doing it for you as a personal favor.
And the cherry on top is that he must do all of this with enough style to sell it. “It” being whatever it is he’s peddling. Explosions, murder in broad daylight, defenestration, stealing, drinking, hookers, you name it. You want to be him, your wife wants to do him – at no point do you think, “Who’s he kidding?” or “What a psycho!” even if it’s true. That kind of ruins the movie.
Even in South India where they like to keep in practice, this is a tall order. You might think your average gorilla in shades could pull it off, but watch Salman Khan prove you wrong. The man is absolutely in his element as he joyfully smashes up a small town, blows shit up, creatively murders various people, courts a girl by threatening to beat currency upon her… and still effectively convey the idea that at heart he’s just a sad little boy who wants someone to love him. Awww.
I can’t think of a single other actor in Hindi today who could have pulled this off. Salman’s Chulbul Pandey is a beast held barely leashed by a crisp white shirt, and his offscreen persona only feeds into the animal magnetism onscreen. Movies like these channel the fantasy of the exotic pet – the heady rush at the thought of taming such a potentially lethal creature through nothing more than love. But for it to work, you need a believably dangerous persona to fuel the character – and there’s nobody more enigmatic or unpredictable in today’s carefully manicured Bollywood than Salman Khan.
Is it “good” cinema? Well, it’s entertaining cinema. A more cohesive follow-up to Wanted, the only thing it aspires to is a good time and that it delivers with glee. Into every life a little popcorn must fall and Dabangg a.k.a. The Adventures of Chulbul “Robin Hood” Pandey is exactly that. What is it about, who goes where and why – it’s about watching Salman Khan beat the ever-lovin’ hell out of everything in sight, animate and inanimate. No false advertising here: it’s everything the trailer promised and then some.
Somewhere in this Salman-fest you’ll also find producer Arbaaz Khan perfectly cast as the dimwitted half-brother, the delectably Amazon-esque Sonakshi Sinha as the unexpectedly grim love interest who squares off with Khan the few times she’s allowed on screen, and Sonu Sood putting all the Villainy 101 lessons he learned down South to good use. Additionally, there’s a short but honorable list of character actors to give able support: Dimple Kapadia, Vinod Khanna, Mahesh Manjrekar, Om Puri, Tinnu Anand, Anupam Kher, Mahie Gill and Malaika Arora in an item number when she ought to have been off eating a sandwich.
With hardly any gore in spite of the hailstorm of violence that surrounds Chulbul Pandey, just a hint of sex, and a tragic mother who fails to make you weep even as her sainted memory turns her son into The Incredible Bulk, Dabangg is just what I needed this weekend.
September 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm
You said defenestration! I knew I loved you! So I gather this is a gazillion times better than Veer even though both are a bit smash-and-grab? I’m going to have to wait for DVD anyway, but I am so intrigued!
September 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm
We are planning to see this next weekend (had a date with Pawan Kalyan this weekend that couldn’t be rescheduled). Beth and I have discussed the lack of irony required to really sell this kind of performance and film. I LOVE IT!!!! I am not a great fan of Salman, but in the right role he is just unbeatable. OK. I will calm down now. I love what you’ve written, and think I may just love the film as well. Cheers! Temple
September 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm
The Incredible Bulk! Haha!! I am seeing it on Tuesday… very excited! I agree with Temple about Sallu being unbeatable in certain roles. He’s been rocking the promos so much I think the movie will be well worth my admission price 😀
September 12, 2010 at 4:19 am
The promos were so impressive. The step Salman does in Mast Mast do Nain is totally goofy-romantic and as you mentioned I can’t think of a single star in Hindi today who could have pulled this off.
September 13, 2010 at 12:07 am
Totally agree about that dance step!
Saint vs. Stain?
September 12, 2010 at 11:30 am
So… you’re saying “St. Salman of the Regressives” did deliver on the trailer’s promise that he would “cleanse” the crap out of “soiled” souls? Now is that supremely sexy or what?! 😀
September 12, 2010 at 12:25 pm
This was a fun read Amrita — I probably had more reservations about this than you did, but definitely worth a watch. In fact, I think I’m gonna go again…
September 13, 2010 at 12:45 am
Cant wait to see this. Tomorrow, tomorrow. Big grin.
September 13, 2010 at 7:34 am
I watched it this weekend and I’m not sure if I hated it or loved it. I knew I laughed through the entire movie… even if that wasn’t what the director intended…
Oh man! Imagine the fate of Indian cinema if this is all that’s gonna come out! Om Shanti Om was excused because it openly declared itself to be a spoof… this? What do we call it?
September 13, 2010 at 9:58 am
Can’t wait. That is all.
September 13, 2010 at 11:28 am
As someone with absolutely no interest in a Salman movie, no matter how entertaining 🙂 please tell me Sonakshi’s wardrobe was as lovely as the trailers promised…I drooled over the couple of sari-blouse combos shown…such simple, lovely saris, and delectable blouses….
M (in full-on mami mode!)
September 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm
Leia, Can you give a few examples of your laughs, which in your assumption,were unintended by the director?
September 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Let’s start off with that song… was that meant to be funny? The title track? The dancing? It is so reminiscent of the south indian movie stars dancing in the 80s!!!!
And the scene where he first meets that girl!!! Jeez!
Unless the director did mean this to be funny
September 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm
Ahem south indian? tsk tsk, a quick search of THIS blog would give you some 80s Hindi movie stars dancing like that 😉
September 13, 2010 at 1:28 pm
Leia, In my opinion the director and the actor are going for the quixotic persona that you think is unintentionally laughable. The peculiar mustache and the wacky name all go towards creating that persona. Now, its hard to say what reaction the director and the actor are aiming for, in fact I would even say that you can never go for a particular kind of reaction, you just take a point of view of the character and play it – but what I can safely say is that given the point of view of the character they seem to have in mind, I would be very surprised if the actor and director would find laughs unexpected.
I have written more about the character on BR’s blog here:
To put this in perspective, have you seen Agnipath? Mithun’s character in that movie , I believe, is pretty close to Salman’s character in this one. Its a legitimate heroic character with an unambiguous morality, but the zany way in which it is written and Mithun has played it has made it funny.
September 14, 2010 at 5:32 am
It could be just a difference of opinion between us, but I don’t think most of which we laughed at were meant to be funny. The dancing for one… and the bizzareness of the way he walks into her house and pretty much kicks out the mourners.
Was that supposed to be ironical?
There were parts of it which were supposed to be comical, but most of it was supposed to be what the film’s subtitle speaks of.
It is a good entertainer but I definitely do not get what people were raving about.
September 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm
I think the 1 scene that comes to mind was the stepdad-son reunion…..seriously cringe-worthy…
The rest of it though was probably intended – Salman has been watching too many telugu/tamil movies for sure and was definitely spoofing himself.
Like you, i laughed while i was there but forgot it 5 mnts out of the theater…..fun watch but not memorable…
September 15, 2010 at 6:47 am
oh yeah… that was quite funny… And I agree about the fun watch bit. just wondering why this is being touted as Salman’s best movie in a while, when it is pretty much like all his recent movies post Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
September 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm
I say entertaining *is* good. It looks like I’m going to have to watch this. Sigh. Do you have any idea how long it has been since I’ve watched a Salman movie? Sigh. 🙂
September 14, 2010 at 9:39 am
Watchalong material??!!!! 😀
B o o.
September 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm
God! I cant remember when was the last time I so wanted to see a Sallu movie!! sigh! kaliyug, i say!
September 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Dabangg is so bad that its good – no spoofy-goofy Farah Khan hilarity. Manmohan Desai would have been proud
September 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm
aiyoo, looks like you guys would just give an oscar for this movie:)
I like my once in a while masala too(they are plenty in tamil) but it will be a dvd watch at home not an all out celebration like every one seems to be having:)
though would have watched by now if it had aamir or rajni:)
Ps: i hope the twitter underworld wont kidnap like it did a lot of other bloggers:)
September 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm
Can’t believe I am excited about a Salman movie, but I really am looking forward to this one
September 14, 2010 at 8:33 am
“Malaika Arora in an item number when she ought to have been off eating a sandwich.”
lol – Malaika – what a skinny bitch. Salman – what a sexy beast!
Fun review – enjoyed the movie too.
September 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm
Agree with everything here!!!
September 15, 2010 at 12:14 am
LOVED!!!!!!!!!!!! Totally glad it lived up to the hype unlike crapola We Are Family. Chulbulji = AWESOME!
September 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm
@ Beth – oh this thing kicked Veer’s ass by a mile. No contest.
@ Temple – Yup, this is right up your alley. It’s like a Telugu movie except they didn’t just stick the songs in anyhow.
@ Pitu – yay! you loved it!
@ Solilo – the promos were where the love affair started for me. Another first where Salman and I are concerned!
@ S vs S – I prefer to think of it as a palate cleanser! 😀
@ Qalandar – I’ll see you there! 😀
@ Banno / Memsaab – well? did you see it? did you see it? 😛 And yes, definite watchalong material!
@ Leia – If this was the only thing they had in the theaters then Hindi filmdom would be in a bunch of trouble but the Noughties got really interesting in Bollywood, so a bit of “roots” cinema is welcome imo. If that kind of stuff isnt your cup of tea, however, this is like rubbing salt into fresh wounds.
@ M – well, she was on screen for about half an hour and you’ve seen bits and pieces of most of that in the promos so… yes 😀
@ Shalini / Boo / Veena – I feel your pain sister! 😀
@ BoC – precisely!
@ Sachita – well, let’s not get carried away! 😀
re: Twitter. Oh, the temptation is strong! But I remain verbose as ever so still need the space!
@ Viridiana – that makes two of us then!
@ RP – 😀
S vs S
September 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm
Speaking of palate cleansers, one fine whine you got going here huh? Good gawd. 😛
PS: Just noticed your little chirp (sorry “tweet”) on the sidebar, selling us on the awe’sven’ness that’s Swedish strangeness. 😀 Shall surely see Elvira Madigan sometime.
September 18, 2010 at 10:36 am
Watched it this evening and I totally agree – no-one but Salman in Hindi cinema could have pulled this off. An excellent masala movie and just totally entertaining.
I loved it!
October 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm
Waiting (hoping?) for a post on Robot. That’s one movie offering so much material for a review that it may be hard to stop at one post..
October 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm
There will be something up tomorrow. 🙂