Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dabangg 2 aka Dawhimper [dir. Arbaaz Khan]

Dabangg 2 is a textbook example of how you can drag the horse to water and push its ruddy face in up to its neck, but still can't make it drink. Here's a movie “inspired” by the its predecessor to a degree so discomfiting it seems to use pretty much the same screenplay, several returning characters, and near identical locations, only with the fun bits snipped out. Of course, there are a huge bunch of fools that equate every “masala” movie released as the same, and thus the so-called sequel is also a box-office superhit. But if anything it totally misses the point on what made Dabangg such a great entertainer.
While Salman Khan had already gotten into playing the exaggerated hero in films like Wanted, Dabangg's Chulbul Pandey was the ultimate crystallization of that character, a fantastic refinement of the populist arsehole spirit Khan embodied in his films and to another effect in real life. What made Dabangg stand out from other maar-dhaad naach-gaana stereotypes was the sharply tuned script that showed an understanding of the best traditions of Bollywood entertainers. The film had a strong dramatic bedrock in the conflict between father-son and the step-brothers, an evenly matched villain, memorable supporting characters, and in the midst of all the exaggeration, a freshness and consistency of tone that propelled the story all the while having fun with the tropes of masala cinema. In short, Dabangg wasn't just a random assembly of fights and songs.
Which brings us to the exact problem that Dabangg 2 has. For one, there is no dramatic conflict at all. The significant time devoted to Chulbul Pandey's interaction with his family consists entirely of some of the poorest jokes imposed upon an audience. He does not come up against the main villain (Prakash Raaj, playing the same character he did in Wanted, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, Singham and a million other movies) until about halfway in the film, and even then their confrontations are very lame compared to the spicy trading of one-liners in Dabangg. Everything between the action scenes is dull and annoying filler material; it was like my experience of watching The Expendables. Because of the near identical sequence of scenes in the first and second film there is no novelty at all, which lowers the fun factor for everything, including the fight scenes (choreographed by an Anal Arasu, a name that makes me laugh a good deal more than most of the jokes in this film). The slut item song is one of the most disgusting experiences I've had in a theater, it makes the corresponding song in the previous film look like the apogee of classiness. The film is supposed to have shifted to a bigger canvas in its move from Lalgunj to Kanpur, but the climax feels ultra-cheap in comparison. While Dabangg had an all-out police assault with a lot of vehicles and guns, the supposedly bigger villain of the sequel seems to have only a half-dozen men guarding that are easily taken out by a single-handed Chulbul Pandey. Like a friend of mine said, the cheapness makes it feel “like watching a Ram Gopal Varma movie”.
So in short, apart from the odd stray wisecrack or action shot, the sequel is a soggy non-entertaining affair, a huge comedown from the snappy badasserie that was Dabangg; this is Dawhimper.

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