Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Arbaaz Khan, Prakash Raj, Deepak Dobriyal
Direction: Arbaaz Khan
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Dabangg 2 is better than its prequel. Everything is worse — the costumes (Sonakshi Sinha’s unicolour saris have the most unfortunate borders), dialogue, pacing, action, character arcs (the first movie has some), songs, villains, side-characters. Everything.
You’d think that Arbaaz Khan, the director, would have absorbed something — anything — even by osmosis from his studiously film-obsessed predecessor Abhinav Kashyap. But, I am saddened to announce that a Kashyap-free Dabangg is a hot mess. I will give Rs 100 to anyone who can prove it was secretly outsourced to Anees Bazmee.
To quickly recap, the first Dabangg was a) taut b) a distilled love letter to Rajinikanth and Salim-Javed movies c) made with superior genre relish d) full of life-affirming clothes. Also, Munni Badnaam Hui changed my life. So did Sonu Sood.
Dabangg 2 is made with schematic cynicism — I can literally picture the spreadsheet of tick marks that went into its fastracked script. There is the post-tiff love song, the item song, the masculinity-alcohol song and the foreign location love song. Similarly, Chulbul Pandey baits the villain, bonds with his father, brother and wife, has the benevolent-boss rapport with other policemen and is vengeful when required.
Strangely, Abhinav Kashyap protected the Salman Khan legacy better than the Khans themselves.
The new Dabangg gets Salman Khan’s physicality all wrong. When he finally went shirtless in Dabangg, it was with referential joy. In Dabangg 2, we are repeatedly spoon-fed the sight of his steroidal bulgy torso. Sizeum not matterum. Ahum.
The action in Dabangg 2 (when not plagiarised) is far too kinetic to be fun. Salman Khan need never locomote so. If you learn anything from the Rajinikanth school of action (and Abhinav Kashyap certainly did), you will restrict your heroes to contained spurts of energy. The rest is all meta self-sureness. You are Rajinikanth, what’s the hurry?
There is a movie-wide attempt to make Salman Khan dance. Like, really dance. It’s like they forgot to percussively telegraph his non-movement. Chulbul Pandey’s endearing and bottomless stasis is entirely lost in Dabangg 2. Chulbul 2 even walks faster (because he mistakenly thinks there is a plot to keep pace with?).
His lethargy in the first movie was no accident. You could even pyschologise it as the irresolution of his relationship with his brother and father. Our insouciant and self-destructive cop is unforgivably transformed, by Arbaaz Khan, into something more earnest and less watchable — an aggrieved saviour.
Here is the fundamental difference between the two movies: I can’t help but sense (now that I’m psychologising things) that Arbaaz Khan loves cinema less than Abhinav Kashyap.