Dabangg 3, Review: A Bad Dab at Bangg 3 theory
There must be a theory that if the first two instalments of Dabangg have worked, a third one must be attempted. The theory probably stipulates that this will work even if it has a skeleton in place of a story, that a host of insider jokes, tongue-in-cheek references to another superstar, repetition of dialogue and the smash hit song of the earlier two Bangs, will replicate box-office magic, that the directorial abilities of Prabhudeva will stitch it all together. This big theory has several big lacunae and even the postulates are full of flaws. Critics will most likely see through these holes and even die-hard Salman fans will find it hard to root for their idol’s latest offering.
Both a prequel and a sequel, Dabangg 3 goes back in time and then comes back for present day action. Happily married Assistant Superintendent of Police Chulbul Pandey arrives at a billionaire wedding to confront a gang of dacoits who have looted all the gold on offer. He single-handedly beats them black and blue. After they surrender, their leader confesses that he was a used to be a poor wedding band leader, until he decided to rid wedding guests of all their precious metal belongings. All of them go back to their original trade.
A woman escapes from a truck-container that is full of women being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. She reaches the police-station and lodges a complaint with Makkhanchand ‘Makkhi’ Pandey, Chulbul’s step-brother. Showing bravado, Makkhi takes the woman to the site, in a police jeep. There, they find several containers, a large number of gang-members. Chitti Walia, the gang-leader, lets the gang loose on Makkhi, who now regrets coming there alone. Just in the nick of time, Bulbul arrives on his motor-cycle and deals with the goons with his iron fists. Walia claims high-level patronage and dares Chulbul to hit her. At first, he holds back, saying that, as a matter of principle, he does not hit women. But when he is severely provoked, he slaps her hard, twice.
Walia indeed has connections in high places. They try and get the guilty released, only to be given the treatment by Chulbul. It turns out that the operation is run by a minister in the Uttar Pradesh state government, through a ruthless Don called Balli Singh (pronounced Bali Singh in the film). Balli Singh is the same man whom Chulbul had encountered once and, after a car dog-fight, Chulbul had tilted the criminal’s car across a precipice. It seems that Balli managed to miraculously survive the fall. Balli was also rescued and taken to hospital by Qhushi after he had run over a man and was himself knocked over by another passing car. Qhushi was Chulbul’s fiancé, and he was waiting for her to complete her medical studies before marrying her. This was before he had joined the police force. Balli had fallen in love with Qhushi, and when he discovered that she loved Chulbul, he had brutally murdered her and her parents. Framed for the murders, Chulbul was jailed and put on trial. A good police officer sympathised with him after he showed exemplary courage in preventing an attack on him and a planned jail-break. He was released and decided to join the police force.
All five persons who contributed to the script are found wanting—Salman Khan (story, co-screenplay), Prabhu Deva (co-screenplay; also director and dancer cameo), Aloke Upadhyaya (co-screenplay and dialogue) and Dilip Shukla (dialogue). Every time somebody sets out to make an action-comedy starring a superstar like Salman Khan, the challenge is to make optimum use of the available resources, some of which remain constant. If such a project if a sequel/prequel, the resources are familiar, and unless retouched carefully, this familiarity breeds contempt. Such contempt abounds in Dabangg 3.
Familiar resources include almost the entire cast from Dabangg 1 and 2, a hero who has six packs and will display them, who will beat up a dozen goons heavily without the need for weapons, who will self-parody at the drop of a hat (or trousers, as soon as the belt is removed), who will dance with oddball but familiar moves, a title track that is bound to be reused, and more. We know that there will be new and formidable villains to lead to the clash of the titans climax. But is the journey that will make it worth the 142 minutes of runt
What we are confronted with is a flashback story that is mildly interesting, some off colour footage about two men in a toilet, urinating, husband and wife in long, suggestive, repetitive banter and kicks in the abdomen of henchmen. These are not and cannot be substitutes for a solid plot. Going by the jump cuts and the cast listed on Wikipedia, the film must have been 280 minutes long when it was dumped on the editing table. Half the names in the cast were simply not there on screen. Unless Wiki got it all wrong, their roles have been entirely excised, at substantial loss to continuity and the narrative flow.
Dialogue is a huge let-down, with generous use of proverbs, some apparently concocted, and rhyme, the worst example being Chulbul’s comment while rescuing the woman from being forced into prostitution. He tells the captors, “Instead of sending to an institution, you are sending them into prostitution.” Towards the end, the hero and the villain get into a ‘proverbial’ duel, where it is flaunted that when times a bad a man riding a camel can be bitten by a dog, that too a tiny Chihuahua (they are never more than 23 cms. tall). Incidentally, the writers and director give a whole new meaning to the term cliff-hanger, by having innocent victims tied to ropes and dangled from trees at precipices, by the bad guy, before they are dropped to their death, or rescued by the protagonist. Must be a psychological thing, for Mr. Villain was sent hurtling down in a car, remember? However, Mr. Villain survived, without much visible damage, so isn’t he taking a big risk by experimenting on the hapless?
Prabhudeva directed the Salman Khan-starrer Wanted, in 2009, in which, too, he played a police officer, and a sequel was set to go on the floors about now. Best-known for his dancing skills, he makes a cameo appearance here as a dancer, but there aren’t too many dances, neither are there too many songs. In any case, six songs seem too much for a film that is a half-hearted attempt at comedy, and stars an actor whose dance-steps range from mechanical to self-parodying, his physique, the cynosure of many eyes, not lending itself to the substantial fluidity of a Rishi Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Govinda (in their heyday) or Prabhudeva, his limited vertical reach notwithstanding. Not content with self-parodying, the film takes dig at ShahRukh Khan, sings an Aamir Khan film song, and even gets the heroine to say that she will no more utter dialogue like that of the “70s and 80s.”
Where weapons should be easily accessible, we have long bare-handed fights, with the men involved in the fracas grabbing hold of nearby objects that can be used as weapons. In one sequence, an entire brigade of brigands, consisting of men who have bodies that can match anybody, keep hurling empty beer bottles at Chulbul and his wife, instead of using weapons, or their own corpus, in the attack. This prompts Chulbul to say that he would have forgiven them, had the bottles been full and chilled! Humour, anyone? Self-indulgence is at a heady overdose level, especially when it spills over into the end-credits. Commercial plugs for Astral Pipes and Set Wet dot the audio-visual tracks.
Salman Khan exudes a lot of energy and his Hulk-like gait, but also exhibits and warmth and vulnerability, when faced with the prospect of seeing his loved ones meet their death. Only he is not a good crier, so they cleverly stop short of showing him in tears. For the rest, his swagger and laid back dialogue delivery hold the character where he stood in 2010 (Dabangg 1). Sonakshi Sinha displays three main facets: coquettish (including swaying hips and an almost bare back), familial and victim. She does not seem to enjoying the picnic as much as the Khans. Given second billing, Kichcha Sudeep, from Kannada cinema, does justice to a poorly etched role. His recent post on Twitter reads “Doin variety of roles n not restricting myself to only being a hero, is what has defined me as an actor n I will continue to do so. The awesome response Im receiving frm all across fr my role in #D3 is a result of this decision. Tnx to each one for accepting me as BalliSingh.” Apparently, he has spoken his own Hindi dialogue, and he is not bad for Kannadiga attempting a different language.
Saiee Manjrakar, daughter of actor-director, Mahesh Manjrekar (he is in the film too, in special appearance), is child-like and pretty. Arbaaz Khan, who directed Dabangg 2, reprises his role as Makkhi for a third time, like many others in the film. He is endearing in parts, except when made to execute wash-room humour or a poorly conceived great betrayal. Pramod Khanna, brother of late Vinod Khanna, is wooden, as the Pandey Papa, Prajapati, a part that was played by his brother in earlier editions. Dimple Kapadia is wasted. Dolly Bindra matches the profile of her role as Chitti, and is in character in the farcical flash forward on a popular song too. Warina Hussain dances to the tune ‘Munni badnaam hui’ (Dabangg 2010) remix, the nostalgic imagery of Malaika Arora, then Mrs. Arbaaz Khan, notwithstanding. Rajesh Sharma is unable to rise above his casting as a cartoonesque Minster. Bharat Dabholkar and Sharat Saxena are cast in minor roles. Sohail Khan makes an entry riding a motorcycle, mouthing a coupleof lines, and that’s all we see of him.
A newspaper report tells us Salman Khan Films have edited out certain controversial scenes from the ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’ title song. A few religious organisations had objected to sages and sadhus dancing and strumming guitar in the background in the song. The makers took to social media to announce that the scenes have been voluntarily removed from the song.
In the end, Dabangg 3 is a bad dab at a big bang. Having had two successful practicals, the theory has failed its third test. Is it time to say goodbye to the swag, swagger (Dabangg and Salman Khan staples) and svaagat (welcome, a recurring motif in Dabangg 3), debunk the Dabangg theory, and give it a dignified fade-out?