Directed by: Abhinav Kashyap
I need to take a moment, and talk about Dabangg.
At first I was really flippant about whether or not I wanted to see this film. Salman, despite being my first Indian Film Crush, isn’t a huge “get me to the theaters” factor. And it seemed kind of… manish. I’m the first to embrace James Bond, Jason Bourne, Rambo, Rocky, The Godfather…etc* but there was something about Dabangg that didn’t entice me. Maybe it was the rainbow font or the fact that I worried that I would be left in the dust AGAIN by my lack of understanding in the Desi Humor Department.
Whatever it was I waited and waited and waited to see this film. I tried to go on the release date, but I felt sick, so I didn’t. Finally after an awful day of work with harassing coworkers I walked into the theatre after work and checked my brain at the door.
“Give it to me!” I shouted at the world and the screen. Double entendres intact and much felt, I might add.
Or I didn’t have to add. But I did.
Anyway this is basically what I looked like for the entire film. And beware, there are like 50 different emotions I’m trying to express, ranging from happiness, shock, awe, surprise, enjoyment, disbelief, “ugh, macho”, glitter (an emotion), pyaaaaar,and a new worship for men’s dress slacks.
For all that it is, and it is a lot, Dabangg totally delivers. You cannot go into the film thinking that you can analyze it, put it into a box clearly labeled and file it away. You can’t. It is one of those films that you just have to shut off your reality switch and go with. You have to take what Dabangg gives you, and only then will you be really happy.
It’s the male equivalent of Fluff, which is an interesting genre that I’m terrified of diving into.
I really liked this film for a lot of reasons, but there were a few glaring problems (for me personally) that kept me from falling heads over tops in love with it.
We’ll start with the good, because I want you to leave my blog thinking I’m a downer and a hater.
First off, I love the Masala. You all know that I’m a great devotee of the 70s and early 80s crazy that gave us all of the villain lairs, lost brothers, broken lockets and Maa drama. Dabangg is a throwback to those films**. There were so many good relics that I cried to myself in silent happiness. What did Dabangg have, you ask?
Let me tell you:
-Two boys, who happen to be brothers, but not just normal brothers, step-brothers who have a built-in resentment for one another.
-A Maa trying desperately to keep peace between her boys.
-A step father. Enough said, right?
-A good son, a bad son.
-The good son is a police officer and wears the police officer uniform. When he’s not on duty he is dressed in nicely tailored, plain dress slacks and a button down shirt.
-The bad son is always enrobed in wild patterns, scarfs, and sunglasses.
-Copious amounts of facial hair.
-The use of the word “dacoits”!***
-Intermittent and involved fight scenes.
-An end-all, full out fight scene comprising of the last 20-25 minutes of film time.
I probably didn’t even cover it all… but those are some of the things that I remember. It was so fabulous to see all of those ploys at work together on screen again. Sadly, unlike I excitedly expected, the ending dishoom was NOT in a villain’s lair. Such an oversight really made me sad. I guess we can’t perpetually expect full out spectacle.
The song pictureizations were another hit with me. I don’t know when I started accepting the fact that modern (meaning, in the last 2 years or so) Indian films had totally done away with full-on choreographed song and dance numbers, but I had. One song, MAYBE two done in such style are all but gone from Indian films now. Not to say that music still doesn’t play a vital role to the films, but that they’ve evolved into something different entirely. In Dabangg EVERY song was a ensemble number with dancers and flashing sets and attitude. It felt so good!
Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, or plan on seeing it again, keep an eye out for the dancers to the left of Salman, just right next to him. They were cracking me up! In the title song the guy couldn’t stop looking at Sallu, and in a few others I thought that they deserve to become Heros in their own right!
Munni. How do I even begin to talk about Munni? It’s the item number runaway hit of the year, and yes I thought it was extremely steamy (I loved the outfits!). You cannot listen to this song without dancing, I’ve tried. Always when I’m on the subway going from one stop to another I’m dancing to it. This is addictive stuff.
However, my favorite song was Chori Kya Re Jiya. Maybe because I was already feeling rotten about my coworker, or because it’s just a cute song. Especially with the handkerchief bit! Hello molten butter, meet my heart. I will say that this song sounds very close to Sadka Hua from I Hate Luv Storys... I don’t know. Blame the tuition I just spent on 4 years of aural musical training. And when I say “it sounds very close” I mean it’s actually very subtle, so if you disagree, that’s fine.
Another trend in Indian films that I’ve been seeing and that was absent (mostly) in Dabangg was a desire to be something other than an Indian film. I won’t deny that the industry is evolving into something new, and I’m excited about where it is going, but I have a somewhat irrational fear that Indian films will forget what they are, and where and what they come from. In my mind it is not a crime to give the masses what they want. It provides the audience with some enchantment and pumps money into the industry so that they can do other films that maybe don’t run parallel to the audiences’ immediate desires. With Dabangg it’s a total, 100% crowd pleaser, and it’s not ashamed of being such. There is no pretense and nothing that makes you feel like you need to expect anything from it than what it gives you.
A frivolous, rather female incentive to the film was Salman Khan wearing the most gorgeous trousers you’ve ever seen. I’ll be the first to tell you that naked men, and there are plenty of THOSE in this film too, do nothing for me. It is all about the clothes, and maybe it was the gratuitous filming and displaying of Salman’s….ahem…booty but I was alarmingly distracted by his pants. Not just his pants, but how well he looks in pants. This isn’t some random tangent either, I think Zac Efron wears pants very well, as does Matt Damon and Sean Connery. Perhaps it was more that Sallu wasn’t wearing acid washed, over stressed and deconstructed jeans that caught me off guard.
Vinod Khanna was in it.
I don’t need to elaborate on that point, do I?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Sonakshi Sinha made a grand debut in this film. An appropriate film, I think, for Shatrughan’s daughter. She kept reminding me of Preity Zinta though, just subtly. She has a zest to her that I think will be really exciting to see unfold as she is offered more roles and I hope that she keeps up her ease and grace in acting. I wasn’t bowled-over wowed by her, so to say, but I think that she has the chance to grow into an actress of great influence.
The cinematography style was very interesting. A little too stop-and-go for my tastes, but very fresh, lively and well considered. It wasn’t over done and it wasn’t so seldom employed that it was jerky and had no place.
Now that I’ve written you a novel, I have to tell you the hang-ups, and there are just a couple:
Dropped plot lines.
I hate this so much. If your going to edit away a story line you had best erase it in entirty. Otherwise it just looks like you hit a road block in story development and didn’t know how to resolve it. The inconsistency was very small, but it also annoyed me. The problem arose when Chulbul’s (Salman Khan) brother Makhi (Arbaaz Khan) steals his life’s earnings, thus bankrupting Chulbul… but Chulbul is still able to afford to take his bride on a honeymoon in Dubai and buy her fancy saris and set them up in a cute little married-people house. That’s really all there was to it, but I kept thinking “Wait… he has no money, right?”
I’m over thinking this… and it’s exactly what I’m not supposed to do!
Man humor… this basically means body humor. I’ve never had the patience for it, but what can you do when you have a film that basically takes the term “Machismo” and inflates it to the moon? You just have to roll with it and shake your head a few times.
Speaking of Machismo I have to admit that it was because of the Macho that I couldn’t embrace this film with loving arms so much as I wanted to. The posse of laughing idiots that follow Chulbul around and act as his personal laugh track in order to stroke his alarmingly UNFUNNY banter was just too much. There was so much testosterone
gushing cascading from the screen that I just wanted to scream. ESPECIALLY when I consider that Chulbul tried to win over Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha) by calling her into the police station where her drunk father was tied up and telling her that he had tried to rape a local girl; and then having the gall to LAUGH ABOUT IT TO HER FACE. And then he tries to strut around making her laugh like he is God’s gift to women.
Ugh. Just remembering it makes me want to punch something, vomit and scream simultaneously. As if that wasn’t enough add to such a disgusting trait and that Chulbul had very insensitive ways of busting into a situation and physically (through body language and attitude) implying that he was the end-all and you’d better buck up or back off.
Overall Dabangg wasn’t a disaster and I rather enjoyed myself while watching. There apparently is a sequel in the works, since the ending very conveniently provided the means for one… but for me, I think one Dabangg might be enough.
*The first movie that I can ever remember watching is Rocky IV at age 2. My father was rather distraught that his first born wasn’t a boy.
**There is a lot of hoopla about this film being very Southie. Having never seen any South Indian films I decided it was fair for me to omit that argument.
***It’s only my most favorite Hindi word EVER.