During my college days at BHU, Varanasi, in the 80’s, these little ads for movies in the local Hindi dailies would exhort us to see a particular movie by exclaiming, “Maar-dhaad, naach-gaaney aur romance sey bharpoor, mahaan samaajik chalchitra. Poorey parivar key saath dekhein!” Dabangg harks back to the same era and I could repeat the slogan for this movie as well.
Hurrah, the return of old-time Bollywood! Dabangg has neither the Mumbai underworld nor the nattily-dressed NRI Vicky Malhotra (of Karan Johar fame). It is set in small-town Uttar Pradesh of today and has an endearingly- named chief protagonist, Chulbul Pandey. You know you are in for a rollicking time the moment Salman Khan, playing the role of police officer Chulbul Pandey, makes his entry. Kya entry hai boss! Salman breaks into the den of the baddies and proceeds to smash them to pulp, and in what style! He hoses them clean to star with and then announces, “Abhi to nahlaya hai, ab dhulai karoonga!” And what dhulai he does starting from those amazing tricks with the hose-pipe and then the good old fisticuffs. Then follows the classic scene where all the participants in this scrum are sliding around the floor thanks to the spillage of a copious amount of oil. Even during this rather hectic maar-peet, Salman breaks into a jig, dancing to the caller tune of the mobile of someone he was mauling just a moment ago!
And it is Salman all the way after that. Salman fighting, Salman singing-and- dancing, Salman romancing, Salman delivering one-liners. The crowd in the multiplex where I saw the movie this morning was going berserk.
Chulbul grows up with his stepbrother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan) as his mother (Dimple Kapadia) marries Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna) on the death of her husband. Chulbul thinks his stepdad is always unkind to him and hence he hates him, and Makkhi too. (But he does adore his mother.) They have an uneasy coexistence till Chulbul moves out of Prajapati Pandey’s house after his mother passes away (suffocated to death by the chief villain, we are told towards the end of the movie).
The chief villain, Chhedi Singh (Sonu Sood) is an aspiring politician who goes to despicable lengths to further his political ambitions. He manipulates into Makkhi doing his dirty jobs. Like, for example, delivering a bomb in a crateload of mangoes to his mentor in politics so that he (Chhedi) could get the party nomination for the forthcoming elections. But Chhedi is ultimately bested by our Chulbul Pandey in the climax, full of blood and gore. And a bare-chested Salman!
Chulbul is not only brawn and machismo, there is a romantic side to him as well. He falls for Rajjo (debutante Sonakshi Sinha) and convinces her to marry him. While she has a substantial role, the script writers, in a master-stroke, have written virtually no lines for her. What an introduction for Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter! The Shotgun who stood out in his movies by his loud acting and even louder dialogue delivery! Sonakshi manages to convey her emotions with her eyes and her body language. She has done a terrific job and her’s must rank as one of the most impressive Bollywood debuts in recent times.
There are cameos by veterans like Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Mahesh Manjarekar and Tinnu Anand. And an item number by Malaika Arora- but naturally- as it is her home production.
One word for the director, Abhinav Kashyap. Terrific! The way his brother Anurag Kashyap has blazed a new trail with Dev D and Gulaal, Abhinav too will go places in Bollywood. It takes a smart director to take the routine masala and whip up a lovely meal that is Dabangg.
The strength of the movie is that it does not pretend being “meaningful” cinema. It knows it has just one job on hand, and the job is to entertain. And does it entertain!! It holds you enthralled. All two hours plus of it!
Go watch it! Poore parivar key saath dekhein! Remember to smuggle-in a bagful of unshelled groundnuts. And enjoy scattering the shells on the floor as you munch along watching the dhishoom-dhishoom. Just as we used to in the earlier era. The dainty- and prohibitively priced- multiplex popcorns won’t do for Dabangg, you have to hear the crack of the shell collapsing between your jaws as you extricate the nuts from within.