Mayank Shekhar | Last Modified - Dec 21, 2012, 01:26 PM IST
The first time I tried to catch this film was at its premiere show at a mall in a working class neighbourhood Kurla in north Bombay. People in and around the neighbourhood had realised Salman Khan was going to be visiting. Crowds, mostly young men, pretty much took over the fancy mall, screaming by the escalator, running around the lobby, charging towards the barricades. Forget trying to get into the multiplex, exhausted by the whole experience I ran away, almost fearing for my life.
The second time I tried to watch this film was at a 9 am, first day first show. The theatre was almost packed. The audience was laughing away, even before bothering to hear the dialogues. They had come decided that would just love the movie.
You can review films. How do you review blind personal faiths, without quite being accused of heresy, or worse, blasphemy? Critics stick out like sore thumbs in the face of a phenomenon such as this. Never mind if that thumb is pointed up or down. I suppose reviewers in Chennai would know a thing or two about this. Super-hero Salman, in that sense, is closest to a caricature called Rajnikanth down south.
Sadly Pandeyji can’t romance in the same way as before. He’s married now. His wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) shops with his money, cooks and cleans, which is how he’d like things to be. As he taunts one of the villains Chunni: With a feminine name like that, what’s he doing here, “jaaye ghar basaye aur baap banne ka sukh de (he should go make a home and give the husband the pleasure of fatherhood).” But don’t get him wrong. Pandeyji loves his subservient wife. He tells her, “You’re not my slave. You can shout back if you want.” This is reassuring. The family is his weakness. He also lives with his father (Vinod Khanna) and brother (Arbaaz). This might make him relatively boring. But they don’t quite end up clipping the super-hero’s wings. Beyond the character, the songs sound repetitive and the stunts are pretty much all that you’ve come to expect from any action packed revenge dramas. As I said, the audience won’t mind and in any case, doesn’t care.
Given the recent series of similar, serious blockbusters, it appears you need three things to make a film work: Salman, Salman and Salman. Since there’s only one of those, he would do just fine. This relationship isn’t complicated. He shows up on the screen. His audience lands up in the theatre. This is how the third-rate Bodyguard or Ready became instant hits. Nobody knows or remembers the names of directors or co-actors of those movies.
Abhinav Kashyap’s Dabangg (2010), while a huge commercial success too, was still different. It was a film that was liked by audiences outside of the super-star’s worshippers. Unlike in the past, Salman played a character, rather than only himself. The film had a definite setting and it was in equal parts a self-aware spoof and sizzling entertainment. This explains the sequel.
Within two years, that same film has roughly been remade by Akshay Kumar (Rowdy Rathor, Khiladi 786) and by Ajay Devgn once (Singham). Dabangg 2 is relatively better than those movies but it hardly compares with the original.
As prophecied, if the world did come to an end on the day of the film’s release (December 21, 2012), you’d feel like a moron spending the last day on planet earth filling your mind and lowering your IQ with rubbish like this. Otherwise, you’d feel just fine, surrounded by Sallu’s bhakts who were probably in the theatre knowing that their super-hero in fact would save the world for them. He does. And yeah, like any other faith, this kind of idol worship is really hard to explain.