This appeared in Bombay Times.....
‘Dabangg’ - Big ‘Bangg’ for your buck?
Salman Khan’s Eid offering may create history for shattering box office records, raking it in by the truckloads, and breaking the astounding collections of ‘3 Idiots’. But for me, the one scene that really and truly created history and will go down as an astonishing cinematic moment is the one of Salman Khan’s shirt tearing, popping and flying off his back… all by itself! The shirt deserves a special award for performing this remarkable feat – perhaps, it marks a first in world cinema! Imagine – a shirt with a will and mind of its own! A shirt that understands dramatic timing perfectly and helpfully strips itself off the wearer’s body. Wow! Whosoever thought of this stunt wins a permanent place in the Movie Hall of Fame. The shirt definitely stole the show and in a way, summed up the movie. Rarely does a script in our films work as subversively or slyly as this one. Salman as Chulbul Robinhood Pandey, the corrupt cop with a golden heart, parodies himself brilliantly! It is such a clever take on all that Sallubhai stands for ( mad genius, bad boy, man with the best lines in town), and that he succeeds in sending up his own persona so brilliantly, is a killer plan in itself. Those looking for a plot, be warned – it is flimsier than Munni’s ( Malaika in a sizzling item number that out-beedis Bipasha's) barely there costumes. Both are ‘badnaam’. The director claims he went back to the 70’s formula ( half brothers, wicked step father ) to come up with ‘Dabangg’. If so, he should have milked the genre still more and thrown in a wicked thakur and a tonga race. Instead, there is Sonu Sood as a wily goon of the local neta. Not a bad plan, given Sood’s intelligent performance and rippling abs ( unfortunately, his kurta is less talented than Salman’s shirt). The other surprising performance that competes with the Magical Shirt comes from Arbaz Khan playing Chulbul’s dumb brother. That leaves ‘Dhano’ … sorry, Rajjo, an impoverished potter played by newbie Sonakshi in sexy designer gear and perfectly applied MAC makeup , her hair cut and layered to salon perfection. If one can overlook the absurdity of it all - especially a Dubai honeymoon sequence , featuring Salman in Sheikh gear, complete with a photogenic falcon as a prop – Sonakshi is a thousand times more talented star-kid than some of the over- rated stick insects crawling around.
Let’s call this a vada-pav Western which would curdle Clint Eastwood’s blood were he to watch it. It is dangerous in the extreme when a big ticket movie’s box office fate revolves around just one factor – the hero’s star power. And nothing else. Going by that yardstick the makers of ‘Dabangg’ which means ‘fearless’ in ‘Khari Boli’ , are just that. It takes guts and supreme confidence to place all your bets on a single individual – Salman Khan. Clearly, the gamble has paid off big time, going by the buzz. There is hardly a single scene which does not feature Chulbul. Since much is being made of his new look and ‘moochch’, surely SRK had sported it earlier in ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ ? None of this matters when the movie is a hit. … the music has clicked ( two really catchy numbers, including a boozy ode to getting hammered called ‘Peeni Hai’ and the mandatory Sufi inspired number to appeal to Salman’s core constituency in the Middle East). Oh – there is also the much appreciated Buckle Trick – Salman’s hot new dance move during a hectic number in which he fiddles provocatively with the buckle of his belt.
Let’s hand it to the main man – he has pulled it off – the stunts and pelvic thrusts are pure Salman. Nothing new there. But it is the naughty self- parodying, which is so camp, so out there, which delivers the biggest punch. What’s left for this guy now – all he needs is a cape. And he can call himself Superman. Officially.