The ‘writing’ was on the wall – ‘Dabangg 2’ had nowhere to go but downhill with the helmer/ideator of the first, Abhinav Kashyap, well out of the picture. So as expected, the sheer rambunctiousness of the first is missing, the chutzpah and dynamism of the ’70’s flavoured story doesn’t even exist – instead what you get in this sequel is a brand extension really – a series of ‘item’ numbers choreographed to appeal to your baser instincts, interspersed with typically unrealistic and over-punctuated stunts leading up to a climactic showdown that doesn’t even make an effort to be half-way believable.
If ‘Dabangg’ had Zandu balm to cure you of the rigours of sitting through it’s highly stylised unabashed conventionalism, ‘Dabangg 2’ uses Fevicol to keep you rooted through a two hour plus runtime of assorted masala movements. The approach in the second one is entirely different from the first. And that was to be expected with Arbaaz Khan taking over the direction and Dilip Shankar sitting in on the creative.
The story is non-existent. The plot is basically a facile extension of the first. Chulbul Pandey(Salman khan) moves bag, baggage, family and his robin-hood like operations to Kanpur, another hotbed of crime. Even before he can get introduced to his defeatist colleagues he solves a kidnapping case and gets the booty invested in a charitable fund. After a few more such manoeuvres he confronts a sibling of the biggest crime boss cum politician in the city and wins that battle too. So the stage is set for some counter attacks leading up to the final showdown.
The lack of even a semblance of a story is galling. The characterisations are even more caricatured. It’s quite clear that there was no script to power this project and sheer greed can only take it so far. Even the central character of Chulul Pandey loses its sheen while becoming more Salman like in the process. Note Chulbul’s interactions with the media, his establishment of a Chulbul Pandey charitable fund and his ‘dadagiri’ over his family and you will realise that this film is actually trying to present the real Salman.
The lines between the reel and the real have almost disappeared. The Image and the reality have merged. It’s a kind of psychophancy that only desperation can bring about. After all Arbaaz’s career as a hero was going nowhere.
Salman’s attempt to shore up his brother’s career by making him a producer for the first film backfired in a way because Abhinav Kashyap walked away with all the praise and accolades. So the only way that Arbaaz could find redemption was by taking over the helming. And that he did but the handicap of losing the chief ideator was not easy to overcome.
And since there was no real inspirational idea behind the sequel, Arbaaz and team just expanded the concept making it look more like ‘Singham’. With Prakash Raj essaying the role of Baccha Bhai, the chief villain in this film, the similarities were one too many.
This film, unlike the first, basically tries overly hard to cash in on Salman’s star power. Every scene is intent on making Salman look good to the extent that even the action is unreal – choreographed more on the editing table than in real time. The gun fights are in fact the worst that we’ve seen in a long time. The villains shoot away to glory but the hero never gets hit.
In fact there are scenes in the film where the hero advances without weapons while the villains are fully armed or shooting at him. There’s no attempt to make anything look real. It’s a kind of obverse egoistical fantasy that bends all the rules of the game in order to let the hero come up trumps. The attempt to lend Salman Khan a mystique similar to the one Rajnikanth enjoys in the south is appreciable but not creditable.
The only somewhat original aspect in this film is its tone, which is playful throughout even during the fiercest of battles. And Salman must be credited for making it stick through all the segmented action sequences and the musical parade of dance numbers. The humour is not as punchy as the first but it manages to lighten the mood but not enough to overlook all the inadequacies.
Aseem Mishra and Mahesh Limaye wield their cameras with loving efficiency- from making a statuesque Sonakshi look delectable to giving the fevicol number picturised on Kareena an earthy sensuousness and vigour.
In fact the fevicol number is by far Kareena’s best item number performance. She seems to have abandoned her inhibitions and looks and moves like a woman well-assured of her own sexiness. Malaika’s presence in another number extends the Munni mystique a bit.
The acting in such films is not meant to have any long-standing effect and as such it’s a decent attempt by all players. Everyone seems to be in it to play the game of continuity. Even resplendent in all these masala elements ‘Dabangg 2’ doesn’t manage to entertain completely. Arbaaz helms this movie like he wanted to make a ‘Singham’ not a ‘Dabangg’ and therein lies its biggest failure. The frolic may be there but the fun is elsewhere!