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 ★ At Last a Sequel Better than The Original!

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PostSubject: ★ At Last a Sequel Better than The Original!    Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:24 am

By R. M. Vijayakar, Special to India-West Dec 24, 2012

MUMBAI, India



“Dabangg” (2010) was the biggest game-changer in the last few years: it had reestablished the vital importance of an all-good, all-popular soundtrack in a film’s box-office performance (which was missing since “Main Hoon Na” in 2004); it consolidated the return of the mainstream Hindi masala film with punch lines (which “Wanted” and “3 Idiots” had begun) and it marked the beginning of the biggest phase of Salman Khan’s career.

A sequel was thus indeed a tall order, especially for this reviewer, who never thought very highly about the episodic script of that 2010 film – I still attribute its whopper success to factors like music, Salman’s charisma, the public’s by-then acute and intense aversion to non-desi films, songs and sensibilities and thus seeking a respite, and Sonakshi Sinha’s curiosity factor.

And that’s the most pleasant surprise of the sequel: at every level, save perhaps the music (which is pleasantly melodious but film-driven rather than a film-driver like the original), “Dabangg 2” is leagues beyond the original: script, dialogues, performances, action and finally the crucial and biggest department: direction! A new director is born as the latest failed actor after Subhash Ghai and Shekhar Kapoor makes a resounding entry. We do not talk about Rakesh Roshan, who did have a fair innings as an actor.

It is easier to come out with sequels that are only franchise-based, that is sequels where the plot does not continue from the first part. So if “Golmaal Returns,” “Dhoom:2” and “Raaz – The Mystery Continues” were much better than their originals, it is creditworthy but relatively easy. But we have had very rare true (plot progression-wise) sequels and “Dabangg 2” is the best after “Krrish,” which was only technically superior to the first film.

For starters, “Dabangg 2” eschews the dark elements of the original completely. It is humorous throughout, but Salman Khan’s charisma and iconic status does not need over-the-top humor needed by even the other superstars. The humor remains gently amusing and often wry, with some trenchant but subtle social messages in the one-liners, like Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) telling Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) not to let him dominate in sexist fashion, or his comment on the qualifications of politicians, with villain Bacha Bhaiyya (Prakash Raj) being described sarcastically as “sarvaguna sampanna” (possessing all necessary virtues) needed by a current Indian ‘neta.’

The sequence where Chulbul sheds a tear recalling how immature his brother Makhan (Arbaaz Khan) used to be (with footage of a few seconds from the original), and how he has evolved has its impact, as does Chulbul’s passing recrimination to a cop in the way he abuses an elderly fruit vendor.

It is these small but many nuances that lift “Dabanng 2” (at a crisp and well-edited 2.09, thanks to Hemal Kothari’s deft scissors) from being a mere and mindless action bonanza to a value-based, emotion-rich experience where action ends up as only the bonus for hardcore Salman buffs. Through the ‘60s to ‘80s device of the hero and heroine losing their child right down to the funny end-titles, the film is rich in feel-good experiences in a progressive way.

The sequence about the riddle given by Chulbul to Makhan and why and how he finally solves it is the funniest part of the film, though it appears in interludes like the comic sub-plot of a Hollywood comedy. On the other hand, the bond between father Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna) and Chulbul as well as the easy relationships of Rajjo with both her pa-in-law and brother-in-law make for endearing viewing. Once again, the phone prank played repeatedly by Chulbul on his dad is a hilarious highlight.

Arbaaz Khan scores very high for a debut director, knowing exactly when and how to stick to the “Dabangg” canon, bringing in lots of freshness without losing direction or ethos, and even daring to be bold in what may probably be the first-ever bedroom sequence for Salman Khan! The director also knows the ‘Lakshman-Rekha’ of playing to the gallery, and so the Kareena Kapoor item song in a red-light area can be overlooked, and one can enjoy Chulbul’s Rajnikanth-like mannerisms with his glares, both at home with Rajjo and while hammering villains, as well as his dancing leather belt, which will freak out the frontbenchers.

Sandeep Shirodkar’s background music attempts with good success to replicate the canvas of the great background scores of Shankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji and R.D. Burman. The performances are of high order and the action (Anal Arasu) spectacular. Once again, over-the-top action on par with the Jackie Chan kind and South Indian cinema is a norm now in Hindi films, but Khan makes it instantly believable unlike the lesser stars who have to overdo it.

Vinod Khanna gives his first impressive performance since the early ‘90s in an extensive role and his chemistry with Khan is fantastic. Sonakshi Sinha does what she does usually – but better than before. Arbaaz is amazing even as an actor, while Deepak Dobriyal is effective. Prakash Raj could have been far more menacing and less mechanical – here is an actor showing acute limitations in his Hindi film graph, not all of which can be attributed to scripts, roles and directors. From the rest, Chulbul’s deputies and Manoj Pahwa as his seriocomic boss make a mark.

To sum up, “Dabangg 2” is easily Salman’s best since “Wanted,” both as a film and as a performance, and is a layered and deceptively simple entertainer that works at different levels for different cadres of audience. It is set to rock the box office but it will have enduring value as well.

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5 stars)

Arbaaz Khan Productions’ Dabangg 2

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