There was a time when Hindi movies were made for men—- working class men, who would settle down in the darkness of the hall with their mates, smelling of sweat and grime. Handkerchiefs around neck and lungis drawn up mid-thigh, they would come to dance, sing, throw chawannis at the screen and whistle at the women on the screen. They couldn’t care less for story arcs and characterization as long as skulls were being cracked, dialogs were being delivered, and women were being drenched. Then things changed. Multiplexes revolutionized the business of movie distribution and audience targeting. The Johar-Chopra-Shahrukh Khan triumvirate cut off the nation’s throbbing testicles and replaced them with a pair of heart-shaped red balloons. Just as Diet Coke pushed out the Rs 1 colored water sold in plastic seen-through packs (also called jaundice test-tubes since there was a good chance of contacting the disease if you let that water cross your lips),old-time masala “movies for men”, non-stylized and formulaic, looked down upon as a “down-market”, were steadily slowly shunted to the low end of the spectrum, consigned to playing in B and C single-screens in the backwaters.
Last year’s bone-cracking “Wanted”, starring Bollywood’s undisputed Neanderthal and the new-generation Mithun Chakraborty, resurrected the commercial viability of old masala action. It was only going to be a matter of time when there would try to replicate its success. Enter “Dabangg”, a stunning two-plus hours packed with every cliche of the action thriller, legendary dialogbaazi of the kind you repeat years later (Cheddi Singh, hum tume itne ched karenge ki confuse ho jaoge—- ki saas kaha se le aur pade kaha se) and enough moments to make even the most jaded get off from the seat and do a seat-i.
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