Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DABANGG 2: Kiss Kiss Dabangg Dabangg

After watching the first half of Dabangg 1, I felt I had pretty much gotten the gist, so I never finished it. The opening of Dabangg 2, with Salman Khan's Chulbul Pandey wreaking havoc in the villains' lair, gave me a sense of déjà vu that was almost overwhelming. The one thing I didn't expect from this movie was surprises. Nevertheless, Dabangg 2 did produce a couple of raised eyebrows.

The first surprise was the ethical shortcomings of pretty much everything Chulbul did. At the risk of sounding like a scold (main maan hoon!! cut me some slack!), why is Chulbul taking his younger brother to hang with bar girls to celebrate the brother's new job with the police force? It's true that the result is a kind of fun item number featuring a wriggling Kareena Kapoor splashing booze all over the room in Bollywood shorthand for "everyone is really drunk now."

But is this really the message Young India should be getting about the role of the police in a democratic society? Sigh. (Also, I'm guessing that the brother's wife, who is off studying to be a teacher so she can support the family, would not feel all that thrilled about her husband's new job if this is how it makes him behave.)

While we're on the topic of questionable cop ethics, I note in passing that most of Chulbul's heroics culminate in his acquisition of piles of money, whether it's a gangster's squirreled-away stash or a suitcase full of rupees that a father has brought to ransom his little boy. I don't care how conniving the businessman father has been--making him hand the ransom over to the police instead of to the thugs kind of blurs the line between them, don't you see, Chulbul? If you're a cop, you don't get to play Robin Hood. You're already supposed to be one of the good guys.

Salman in Dabangg 2, or
close approximation.
The other, equally unpleasant surprise was that the movie was just plain boring. How nice for the Khan brothers that they've gotten their hands on that Matrix camera that allows the audience to see slow-mo projectiles whizzing over Salman's torso or to see Salman kicking in a series of villains' faces 1! 2! 3! 4! while whirling in midair like a pole dancer. But I never expected a movie to make me say, "Ho hum, Salman has dodged a flying machete with a yogic back bend yet again." And that's what this one did.

The dances are all the same. Salman does the belt-buckle wiggle and some suggestive hand motions. He's always dancing in front of a phalanx of men (let's call them "Salmanellas") who look touchingly eager to be backing him as he does his musclebound moves.
Dabangg 2, Salman Khan

But while dull choreography is pretty bad, the really unforgivable boringness happens in the final scene. We've already noted that Chulbul's fighting technique is unstoppable: he can mow down a lairful of evildoers without breaking a sweat. He encourages little children to sit and watch his dhishoom-dhishoom because there's so little chance of anything going wrong. I'm no screenwriter, but I do know that in order to give us a little suspense, the climax of the film must therefore supply some reason, however threadbare, for Chulbul to be not quite at the top of his game. Superman has trouble with kryptonite. Marty McFly has trouble with being called "chicken." But Chulbul has no apparent weakness. So, out of the blue, a couple of goondas get in a solid blow to our hero's face (this allows the Matrix camera to slow-mo the single drop of blood that drips photogenically from Salman's brow). Chulbul falls down (???); the chief bad guy walks off gloating; Chulbul gets up again and mows down the rest of the gang. And really, when the chief bad guy is a middle-aged politician, what other outcome could be possible when he's the last man standing against a shirtless Salman?

So it comes to pass that "Kung Fu Pandey*" beats the dumpy villain to a pulp when he should have been thrashing the screenwriter instead. Then the evildoer is handcuffed, after which Chulbul shoots him dead and swaggers off righteously.

You'll probably see all of this again in Dabangg 3.

*The only funny joke in the movie.

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