Dabangg— The Review

74 Comments

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.

There are two ways to appreciate Dabangg—-one as an out-and-out masala thriller, with the old-as-hills formula of estranged family, bonds of blood and bloody revenge, helmed by a crowd-puller who is one of the few remaining in Bollywood who has the physical presence to be a larger-than-life action hero (And no Aaamir Khan can put on as many packs on his midrib and as much as lean muscle on his arms but he will never even have a fraction of the front-stall appeal that Salman has). The other way to look at it is as a clever, almost subversive spoof of the action masala genre and here too the movie stands, to a large extent on,  Salman’s excellent comic timing and his ability to not take himself seriously.

The excellent way Abhinav Kashyap, brother of Anurag Kashyap, lays out the opening fight set-piece sets the mood for the entire movie. Inside a godown teeming with villains, Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) bursts in through the door. Caught in the hell-fire of his entry, a baddie lies on the ground, just perfectly in the line of Chulbul Pandey’s foot, which crushes the outstretched digits immediately like a piece of bubblewrap. After delivering a thundering dialog, Chulbul. using a hose-pipe like a gigantic …emm….snake that flies out between his legs, lays to waste the marauding men. In the middle of this carnage, one of the villain’s cellphone starts ringing a ringtone “Jalwa” from “Wanted”. Chulbul Pandey stops fighting and starts dancing, still throwing punches at the advancing enemies and its that dance, exaggerated in its hilarious pelvicness, that tells you that the story to follow is to not be taken seriously.

This is where “Dabanng” is a much superior movie than “Wanted”. The latter having being brought to you by Prabhudeva-Bonny Kapoor had, not unsurprisingly, none of the clever nudge-nudge wink wink that  Abhinav Singh Kashyap bring here through situations (An injured policeman tells Chulbul that he cannot use his left hand and Chulbul replies, in a deadpan way, that he has asked the government to install a “pichkari” for his “pakhana”), camera angles and song picturizations (As an aside, Munni Badnaam Hui Darling Tere Liye is not just strongly “influenced” by Dehaati comic-superstar Rampat Harami-Rani Bala classic Launda Badnaam Huya Naseeban Tere Liye but also by the song Launda Badnaam Hua Laundiya Tere Liye from Rock Dancer [Video] that predates the Rampat Harami song—-which makes me think there is a common source for both).

All this makes Dabangg a full-fledged, go-for-broke entertainer, to use a favorite line from Bollywood’s greatest reviewer of all time( Taran Adarsh) appealing to the classes and masses. And how many Hindi movies can you say that about nowadays?

A lot of people have used the word “brain-less” to describe Dabangg.

I disagree.

Dabangg, once you can get past its cleverly constructed mindlessness,  has a lot of brain (and I am not just referring to the villiains’ splattered dura mater) in it.

And, most surprisingly, even some heart.

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74 thoughts on “Dabangg— The Review

  1. Have you watched “The Expendables”? It’s a similar Hollywood throwback to 80’s blockbusters. Interesting how so many people are nostalgic for the kind of movies that they probably laughed at when growing up.

  2. “This is where “Dabanng” is a much superior movie than “Wanted”. The latter having being brought to you by Prabhudeva-Bonny Kapoor had, not unsurprisingly, none of the clever nudge-nudge wink wink that Abhinav Singh Kashyap bring here through situations”

    I don’t know why noth indians always try to belittle and insult South Indians at every possible opportunity. Wanted, with its plot line and technology, is clearly a superior product. Obviously, it is the inspiration for Dabangg. At a time when Hindi film industry was in slump and almost dead, Wanted gave it life and resurrected the industry. Instead of all of this, we never get our due praise. I don’t know when will South India’s great contributions get recognized.

  3. Ridiculous review. Dabangg is nothing more than a contrived attempt at trying to make the cliche look cool. That is IT. It’s the kind of stuff Rajnikanth has done for eons and has been super successful. Now, Bollywood is following suit. When no new stories can be manufactured anymore, they dish out the ancient texts of Bollywood by smearing it with South Indian style bells and whistles. And you call this ‘intelligent cinema’? Puhleez, mate. Its one of those movies that doesn’t even qualify for such a full blown review.

  4. And no Aaamir Khan can put on as many packs on his midrib and as much as lean muscle on his arms but he will never even have a fraction of the front-stall appeal that Salman has
    Now that is quite obvious.Coz Salman is the one with a MAN in even his name while Aamir has AAM in his name. Front benchers do not go to see aam aadmis on big screen.:D

  5. I can’t wait to watch this movie, simply because it professes to be nothing more than typical bollywood (or kollywood, for that matter) masala entertainment!! Added to it, Sallu in good form, what more can one ask for 😉

  6. GB,
    This is first time I am writing on your blog. I have not missed any of your posting in last year or so. you are a one of the sensible chaps around.
    Today’s TOI has stories about Salman’s unfortunate and stupid comments about 26/11. I will love to read your comment or article on that.
    Salman is surely not aware that his fans and front-benchers are not in Elite class. They are the ones who travel in train and got attacked at CST. Kama is not hospital for elite class. He should go and see who comes for the treatment there.
    But his intelligence sources tells him terrorist are not from Pakistan and Pakistan government does not have hand in this. Wow !! While acting as Police officer he has become intelligence officer. We must offer him job in CBI/Raw.

    Surely he wanted his movie to be hit in Pakistan and that’s why he said all this. I don’t understand why all KHANs in Bollywood have so much obsession and love for their Pakistani fans that they go to the extent to hurt their Indian counter parts. They know whatever they say against India/Indians it doesn’t matter. They will forgive and forget us.
    He can not dare to say Pakistan is terrorist state, even though he is not staying in Pakistan.
    Sometimes even though you don’t like you want to support SS/MNS banning KHANs movies.

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  8. Arnab, you are my go-to man for everything Bollywood, especially everything mindless Bollywood masala, but I must call you out on this one. If Johar-Chopra-SRK are the emasculating triumvirate, then surely it’s Farha Khan–and not Kashyap the Younger–who led Bollywood’s testicular renaissance?

    Sure, her films are kitschy within quotes, super-stylish and practically scream, “Don’t take us at face value, we’re ultra-sophisticated 21st century folks prodding fun at the gawar 80s while minting money from it!”, but if we get technical, then come on, isn’t it her that brought sexy back to reincarnations, black-and-white villians and heroes, drenched heroines, dream sequences, and Maaaa?

  9. Kishor, South India’s contributions are very much recognized on this forum through appreciation of your priceless posts. GB, I agree Dabangg is a great entertainer that thankfully does not take itself too seriously which is the reason it works. I wonder why you didn’t mention Arbaaz Khan’s wooden acting though. It is said that when the tax authorities raided his house they only found one expression.

  10. Rimi,

    I think Farah Khan did a piss-poor job in OSO of being nudge-nudge-wink-wink, not being able to define (perhaps because of limitations of the cast), whether to take the movie straight or with a dash of lime? OSO does have moments but it is nowhere in the “class” of Dabangg.

  11. The Johar-Chopra-Shahrukh Khan triumvirate cut off the nation’s throbbing testicles and replaced them with a pair of heart-shaped red balloons. !!!!!!!!! geinius ..how the hell did you think of that line !

  12. For me, Dabangg is a total paisa wasool entertainment. I laughed at Salman’s impromptu dance moves, one liners, and action. I watched it in a multiplex, yet i have never heard so many seeti’s and claps during a movie – so the whole debate about single screen/multiplex doesnt work. So what if the story is a rehash of old cliches – every bollywood film has them. Point should be – do the cliches work – and i think they do in Dabangg. People will remember atleast one of many one liners (and use them in day to day life) and Chulbul Robinhood Pandey will be remembered for a long time. Looking forward to Dabangg 2 (which i hope they name Hud Dabangg). Till then, Bhaiyaji Smile :).

  13. GB,
    As much as I disagree with the position you take in your politically inspired writings, you are still a master in your movie review.
    Last year’s bone-cracking “Wanted”, starring Bollywood’s undisputed Neanderthal and the new-generation Mithun Chakraborty …
    Priceless. Loved it. You can teach Bollywood dialogue writers about writing dialogues that refer to pop cultures and old-style dhisum-dhisum movies.

  14. I refuse to see a movie that stars an actor who mows down homeless people, shoots black bucks, and still rakes in the bucks. Will stick to Aamir and Hrithik movies, methinks.

  15. Yaar not done…….i think DABANGG is nothing less than a crap…..
    a big time crap thats it…
    you are bang on hen you say that today we dont get enough of crowd pullers…agreed but then we had a 3 idiots last december…it was not one of those kinds which could have been said as a intelligent piece….rather it was a very formula based film…and so a crowd puller……
    despite that it had something which it made sure it was not dismissed by people as a brainless stuff…Then why be so happy about crappy stuff like DABANGG….
    we harp about why dont we get to see good scripts/great films but then its in hands of people….and what we will get is a series of emaluations just like what happened after a another big time crap film called SINGH IS KING….and get prepared for line ups like KAMBHAKT ISHQ,DE DANA DAN,KHATTA MEETHA AND BLUE…

  16. salman khan is a criminal scumbag who would have been behind bars in any other country. he is a murderer of humans and animals and beats women. shame on you for publicising this criminal’s work. ppl should boycot this bloody movie.

    anyway, yr next article should be a response to arundhati roy’s ridiculous statment where she admits to supportign terrorism against the indian state:
    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/india-is-a-corporate-hindu-state-arundhati/130817-3.html

  17. How times change. The moment I heard about Dabangg’s impending release, I had a fleeting vision of mass hysteria in cinema halls and equally hysterical shot by shot scrutiny of the movie, its star, the ‘script’ by reviewers like you and others (notches below Taran Adarsh, I’m sorry to say but still)

    But what happened now? Where is the vitriol? Could it be that -Neanderthals have become suave metrosexuals? the Masala has become sushi? The dhinchaks have become synchronised? brawn has become brain?

    Times change indeed. Reading the review, seems the Dabangg formula has an X factor, a mutant gene. Hail the renegade movie – I cant believe I just might go for a Salman movie on reading this.

  18. Munni Rocks !! Salman with his pelvic thrusts and rajni istyyll action is superb .. Sonakshi way of saying “pandey ji” is music to ears… and yes Dhisum dhisum…… One Dhisum for common sense and the another one for logic… Both out of window 😛

  19. Shouldn’t this guy be behind bars for multiple cases of manslaughter ???? 5 years for criminal negligence at the very least. And look at him ….. making movies with a swagger ……

  20. @ Nishant,

    Brilliant dishum dishum!

    @Dibyo,

    And yes somebody with multiple criminal charges making movies, thats what Democracy means! Freedom buddy… Freedom to commit crimes

  21. Completely agree with Gargi. I would rather not patronize a third rate movie with my hard earned dollars for the schmuck that Salman is, shirt or no shirt. If suddenly you have taken to writing glowing euologies of “entertaining” movies, then maybe warrants Telugu/Tamil cinema warrants your audience ( just for the record, I am a North Indian, who lived in Hyd for a few years for work). They are replete with all the formulae in the book, dialogues and punches(pun intended :)) of Hiroshima proportions, virile men with moustaches, nubile damsels in distress, plenty of badnaam Munnis and oodles of Neanderthal chutzpah. Pokiri,Jalsa,Baba, Shivaji are points in case (there are many more which Southie janta can help me with) and these guys have been doing it for years.
    I would have loved to see a Gunda-like review, where you ripped through the movie and left it threadbare.

    Disappointed!

  22. All of you guys seem to forget that the smart, intelligent and sensible GB also has a “Gunda” side as well to his writing.
    Take this post for what its worth (not very serious) instead of looking at ALL of GB’s posts with the same lenses.

  23. salman khan is a criminal scumbag who would have been behind bars in any other country. he is a murderer of humans and animals and beats women. shame on you for publicising this criminal’s work. ppl should boycot this bloody movie.

  24. bah! hambug!

    this is effing prejudiced! You sound like an outright salman fan.
    are you a i-follow-sallubhai-on twitter kinda guy.

    I just hope that the remark that taran adarsh is the best reviewer was sarcastic. For God’s Sake !!!!

  25. Dont understand how salman’s past misdemeanours should come in judging the movie here. the movie is a mindless potboiler made for the masses and seems like being loved by them too, given the record breaking opening. By the way, the review is spot on, Dabangg is total paisa wasool. I m not a sallu fan but loved the movie. abhinav kashyap, take a bow!!

  26. As a person who regularly reads your movie reviews, I am bit surprised by your take on “Dabangg”. The taste in movies can be very subjective and hence it would be erroneous on my part to criticise your review. Also, I haven’t seen the movie (neither do I plan to see it). But I was expecting more kind of “tongue-in-cheek” humour like your reviews for “Wanted” or “Gunda” of “Jaani Dushman”, based on the extensive media coverage that this movie has received. Instead it seems you enjoyed the movie.

    My main gripe is when did the return of mediocrity in movies became a cause for celebration/praise? The movie is good because it revisits the mediocrity of 70s/80s? Nostalgia may be a reason to like that movie, but after reading your take on DevD or Kaminey where you praise them for breaking the norms of Bollywood, I am surprised that you praise “Dabangg” for revisiting the now forgotten Bollywood formula? And it is not just you – most of the Indian media is praising “Dabangg” just for what it is – a formula movie.

    If a clever spoof was a reason that makes movie watchable, then IMO, “Om Shanti Om”, is a much better spoof of 70s Bollywood, although it seems to take itself too seriously half of the time. You label that movie as more of a marketing tool for SRK rather than a piece of art.

    Just my 92.5 paisa.

  27. Until the last line of the review I thought you were sarcastic but I’m kinda surprised as perhaps that wasn’t the case. Any thoughts on Udaan? Guess Anurag Kashyap does deserve some credits for producing that movie.

  28. @Meghal: Can’t agree more. In terms of sheer formula, I’d much rather watch the funnier and more tongue-in-cheek OSO and Main Hoon Naa rather than humorless idoicy like Wanted or Dabanng.

    It’s like it has suddenly become cool to be lowbrow.

  29. HI Arnab
    Great review of Dabangg – will go for it this weekend.

    On a separate note : it will be great if you can write a post on Commonwealth Games 2010 and the movie “Well Done Abba” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397492/) – it will be interesting to read how the ideas in Well Done Abba can be connected to CWG esp the concept of “Boudi chori ho gayi (My well has been robbed)”

    I understand that you have written a post on CWG (https://greatbong.net/2010/08/09/sab-ka-dhan-se-khel-commonwealth-games/) but this one will add a new flavor.

    Thanks
    Suvankar – Ananya

  30. @shan
    it was always cool to be lowbrow. just that you were never that cool kid. anyway, GB is spot on about the difference b/w dabangg and wanted. dabangg is a like a spoof of wanted in a sly manner.

  31. Dear Greatbong
    Have been greatly disappointed by your take on Dabangg. On reading the first couple of paras, I thought you were building the tempo for tearing apart the utter nonsense packaged as some stylish, uber-cool take on masala cinema that Dabangg actually is. However, your review transpired out to be a real let down for me. I have quite liked some of your earlier reviews and 9 out of 10 times they have been spot on, down to the last word. But very honestly speaking, Dabangg doesn’t deserve the kind of praise that you have showered on it. I just hope that the Indian audience doesn’t fall into this trap where they producers just keep producing films which they think have some ROI value and good stories and thougt provoking cinema becomes really rare to come by, the start of which has already happened..

  32. Dear Greatbong
    Have been greatly disappointed by your take on Dabangg. On reading the first couple of paras, I thought you were building the tempo for tearing apart the utter nonsense packaged as some stylish, uber-cool take on masala cinema that Dabangg actually is. However, your review transpired out to be a real let down for me. I have quite liked some of your earlier reviews and 9 out of 10 times they have been spot on, down to the last word. But very honestly speaking, Dabangg doesn’t deserve the kind of praise that you have showered on it. I just hope that the Indian audience doesn’t fall into this trap where the producers just keep promoting films which they think have some intanst ROI value and in the process, good stories and thought provoking cinema becomes really rare to come by, the start of which has already happened..

  33. I can’t stand Salman and I must admit a lot of it stems from his black-buck shooting, girlfriend-beating, pavement killing reputation. In fact Dipta just booked tickets and pretty much bullied me into going for it. And I’m glad I went. It was good fun and maybe Rajnikant has been doing it for ages but that is neither here nor there. The audience that watched this will not understand a Tamil film. It’s good paisa vasool and I dont know about the brain and the heart (I didn’t happen to catch them) but I had a blast.

  34. 3 idiots, Wanted, Dabangg, Dil Chahata Hai, Robot.. When will movies be made for women?? Or are we just supposed to enjoy movies-made-for-men as by-products??

    And there are people who are saying Dabangg is at par with Gunda and Salman is Hindi film industry’s Rajnikanth. Biggest insult to both.

  35. Liked the review a lot… thank you…

    My comment on the other comments:

    As a movie buff… I want to see all kinds of movies… So, my appreciation to Wake Up Sid, 3 Idiots and Kaminey is as much as to Wanted and Dabaang.. And that is the best part of our films, we provide all such kinds of movies… and movie buffs like me NEED all kinds of films to satisfy our appetite.

    I see some of the comments say that people are disappointed by the review and I ask… Who are you to judge? .. .this person has written his review… you either take it or leave it .. he is not writing the blog to satisfy you, he is writing it so that he can express himself .. and as far as I can see, he is doing a FABULOUS job. Let him be.. let him write what he wants to write and let all of us who like what he writes, read it

  36. Haha, it is funny how a review of a seemingly fun movie ends up as a discussion of the supremacy of non-hindi cinema and what not 😛 Also, I’m amused by people who objected to you liking the movie. The trolls are taking over the earth!

  37. Pingback: UpodCast Dabanng Special | Upodcasting- Under Promise Over Deliver

  38. I went to see Dabangg for exactly what it professed to be – an out-an-out masala thriller. And I was really disappointed. The dialogbaazi was nowhere near the best from Shotgun Sinha or Raaj Kumar or even Nana Patekar. The villain was not a patch on any of the great glorious baddies of bollywood (and I am not even talking about Gabbar here) and the size zero Malaika in and as Munni looked like Ethiopia’s answer to Yana Gupta (and Yana just about passes muster). Salman was the only saving grace in the movie, and he was reduced to using his pelvic thrusts to make up for the lack of enough great lines. Overall, a poor man’s zunka bhakar, and not enough masala. Give me the real thing anyday, or give me the poofter parade from Johar and the cool gang. This one is neither here nor there. And as his illustrious brother’s number one fan; I have the right expect more from this Kashyap sibling.

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  40. The opening fight scene with the pipe is actually pretty much an exact copy of a scene from Jet Li’s “Romeo must die”.

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