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Nisha Susan

THE ONLY other category of creative person who will appreciate the high-tension act Abhinav Kashyap has managed in Dabangg is a particular variety of chef. The kind that spends his time updating butter chicken and khichdi without making it a grotesque mockery of themselves. Kashyap has somehow managed to cut out the fat of the 1980s pot-boiler, and modernise its mise-enplace without producing parody.

There are all the familiar ingredients — cops, robbers, villain’s godown that makes you coo with delight, oppressive fathers, suffering mothers, the lightening bolt of love for a girl who looks excellent in backless cholis, bumbling villains, arch-enemies, a few million phallic symbols. But they all come together in a way you have not seen in a long, long while and you didn’t see too often in the heyday of the masala film. Between the briskly-paced plot and the khaki tightness of Salman’s body, what you have is 129 minutes of unadulterated entertainment. Afterwards, you will walk around repeating gleefully the wild oneliners and convoluted insults tossed off by Inspector Chulbul Pandey and his gorgeous, smartass paramour Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha). This is dialogue, baby! But all this is somehow anchored in a world where the hero is brutally corrupt, the good politician will hire the corrupt for expediency and caste is explicitly discussed. (To see how this experiment could have gone horribly wrong, refer Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani.)

Kashyap has cut out the fat from the 1980s potboiler without making a parody

But Kashyap’s greatest coup has been in juicing out a highly self-aware performance out of Salman Khan. Chulbul Pandey is a highly competent and cock-sure character — an old-fashioned hero who takes on all comers with buccaneer panache. But it is also a performance that rides the razor-blade of self-mockery. In the Munni Badnam Hui number, for instance, Salman is suddenly that stiff, aging action hero who can barely dance, you faintly remember from another cinematic decade. It is a clever tribute but it is also just plain fun. All the songs have been visualised with great dollops of wit but Malaika Arora’s dancing makes the movie worth the trip by itself.

From the beginning you wonder out why the villain Cheddi Singh (Sonu Sood) is the only one taking his shirt off and showing his muscles in a Salman movie. By the time you get an answer, you’ll realise you are in a mutual admiration society — your fondness for Kashyap and Kashyap’s fondness for the enthusiastic, whistling viewer.

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