Rarely does one come across characters in Hindi cinema which make a mark in the minds of the audience by their mannerisms or dialogues. And when that happens it opens up a window of opportunity for a movie franchise in which you get to see those interesting characters in action again. However, not all opportunities translate into successes. For instance, the combination of Munnabhai and Circuit was blessed by the audience as well as the critics, but harsher fate awaited Shyam, Raju and Babubhai from the “Hera Pheri” franchise.
Chulbul Pandey is one such character which has managed to draw the audience from their drawing rooms into the movie halls in recent times. The kind-hearted but corrupt cop sporting a pencil thin mustache, whose sunglasses hang from the back of his collar when he give a killer look was loved by the masses. The movie brought back the “good cop” genre and inspired a couple of similar movies where a police officer takes on some evil politician/zamindar. Ajay Devgn’s “Singham” and Akshay Kumar’s “Rowdy Rathore” are two examples of this. The success of Munni resulted in the audience being bombarded with other item numbers involving names such as Sheila, Chameli and Shalu. Dabangg, the first movie was a trend re-setter in this sense. It gave the single screen audiences something to cheer about. In times when everyone was making multi-starrers, the success of Dabangg breathed new life into the single-hero genre.
Dabangg 2 opens with a marquee of still-images from the first movie as the introductory credit rolls. The sequence where Chulbul Pandey is introduced is also very similar to the one in the first movie. In fact one of the characters says it aloud “Is baar sahab yahaan se nahin, peeche se aayenge”. And we see a police jeep break through a brick wall with Chulbul Pandey jumping out of it, grabbing hold of an iron chain to descend amidst the bad guys (the sanskrit term for this is avataraNa) and single handedly beat them to pulp. You might enjoy this scene appreciating the hat-tip to the first movie (and also The Matrix reloaded but we shall not go there). However, your enjoyment won’t last long when it dawns upon you that the entire movie is filled with such hat-tips which are not even subtle. The supporting cast which includes Vinod Khanna as Pandey’s father, Arbaaz Khan as the younger brother Mandbuddhi Makhhanlal Pandey, Mahi Gill in a blink-and-thou-shalt-miss role as his wife and the two constables who play Dubeyji and Tiwariji does a good job of what was expected of them – to ram these nostalgic moments into the minds of the audience. Sonakshi Sinha shines as Mrs Pandeyji in scenes when she’s not serving food or hanging clothes to dry. Those scenes include the two songs (“Dagabaaz re”, “Saanson Ne”) both of which are nicely pictured. Salman Khan does his usual thing. The common complaint I have with all these actors is that their portrayal appeared a bit lazy.
Now, any good movie which attempts to entertain the audience through the deification of the main character requires the presence of a strong negative character. In the first movie Chulbul’s father, Makhi ended up becoming unintentional villians who kept the tension alive for most part of the movie and the main antagonist Chedhi Singh played by Sonu Sood was brilliant. He was wacky, audacious and a perfect foil for Chulbul. In the second movie, with an actor like Prakash Raj (just check his roles in Wanted and Singham), you would expect something even better right ? This is where you experience the second let down. The character of Baccha Singh essayed by Prakash Raj is so forgettable that I thought I was suffering from Ghajni’s symptoms while watching his scenes. Unlike Chedhi Singh, Baccha Singh is neither funny, nor is he scary. He’s just a shadow of Jayakanth Shikre, except that it’s a shadow cast inside a dark room. The character is so poorly defined that the audience has no clue regarding what make him tick. There are a couple of sequences where he appeals to his brothers to use their brains instead of brawn to tackle Chulbul Pandey, but that’s just talk. We don’t see this translate into any strategising apart from the one scene where he calls a media conference to congratulate Chulbul Pandey for getting rid of a gangster who happened to be his brother. But nothing came out of this, since a couple of scenes later he just gives in to his other brother’s taunts and decides to clash with Chulbul Pandey head-on thereby announcing the climax of the movie. And the climax falls flat. There’s no build up. It was like watching the Australian innings in the finals of the 1999 world cup after Pakistan’s abysmal performance. Chulbul Pandey , as usual , enters the scene in his jeep on which probably more than hundreds of bullets are fired. As expected, nothing happens. He kicks open the jeep door and in a matter of minutes every body is lying on the ground. And as if justifying this sort of a “thanda” and a hurried ending, Chulbul Pandey says something to the effect of “If all the time is spent on goons like him, when will we get time to handle the others”. Dude! That’s an unforgivable excuse. We didn’t come to see a documentary on the number of villians who chauffeured into the hell by Chulbul Pandey but a larger than life clash between Chulbul Pandey and some ferociously evil character!
Another problem with the movie is the presence of too many songs, many of which are simply forced into the narrative. I’m sorry, but while “Munni Badnaam” was entertaining, the “Fevicol” song was outright crass. Some of my friends thought that the song was the only saving grace in the movie, but I beg to differ. No grace was saved anywhere in the movie.
The movie has a few entertaining moments, but nothing memorable. It seems that in one of the interviews Salman Khan said that if Dabangg 2 doesn’t work, then it’s an end of Arbaaz Khan as a director. It looks like that’s going to be the case. The movie might make it’s money, might even make it to “100-crore” club (it’s not an exclusive club any more), but I’ve seen even hard-core Salman Khan fans express their dissatisfaction with the movie.
Dabangg ended with a bang, but Dabangg 2 just quietly disappears from the view.