Film Review: Dabanng 2
December 23, 2012
There has to be a limit to film star idolatry. I get the grand entrances, the zingy punchlines, the superhuman strength. But keep pushing it incessantly, as Arbaaz Khan's Dabanng 2 does with Salman Khan, and it quickly turns dull. This one's no match for the much more fun first Dabanng by Abhinav Kashyap, except for the sparkling character that is Chulbul Pandey.
Director Khan and writer Dilip Shukla (who also wrote the first installment), move the story from rural Lalganj to urban Kanpur. Besides that, little else changes in the template.
Chulbul stills finds plenty of scowling thugs whose bones to crush. He still takes money from those thugs and distributes it to the poor or "charitable trusts." His wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) is still there and still largely pointless as a character. But then again, this was never supposed to be about the heroine. And the villain has shifted from Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) in the first film to Bachcha Bhaiyaa (Prakash Raj).
The moments of building up the devilish Bachcha Bhaiya as the super-villain turn into little more than screaming matches. The villain is bad because he has a tilak, glares with those bulging eyes and is short tempered. Oh, and he is a politician, so I suppose that part makes sense. But there is no joy in watching him on screen. At least Sood's Chedi Singh had a wacky side in the first film.
Everything in the film is designed to lead to the next big action sequence, and that is one of the few saving graces here. The action sequences are well planned out, thrillingly executed and actually innovative. It's clear that the team takes great pains to choreograph each fight scene to outdo the one before it. So there's plenty of shattering glass in slow motion, creative use of industrial objects, people being tossed in all directions, and even a brief pause to enjoy one of the thugs' ringtone. Yes, the song it plays is yet another bow to Salman Khan.
But the film falls flat in every other aspect.
The emotional scenes leave a lot to be desired. While Chulbul's relationship with wife Rajjo is still playful, it's nowhere near as cute as in the first film, mostly because Rajjo hardly gets any screen time. And when she does, she's busy pouting.
Chulbul's dimwitted brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan) is more tolerable this time around but his track seems completely irrelevant to everything else going on in the film. Their father (Vinod Khanna) is not as stern and actually gets to have a bit of fun, but again, there is no point to his character either. The various character arcs and subplots stay disconnected from one another, with the only common factor being their connection to Chulbul.
Beyond that, the film comes off as a hodgepodge of events and characters all placed conveniently to worship the larger-than-life Chulbul Pandey. And such worshipping would put even Zeus to shame.
Salman Khan plays Salman Khan, and that is blatantly obvious throughout. The entire film is built around him. At times Salman Khan and Chulbul Pandey seem to have the same image. Yet the giddiness with which Khan attacked his role in the first film was more evident than it is this time around. He still has fun with the character, but it seems more rehearsed, more like work.
Even the 'Fevicol Se' song with Kareena Kapoor, the token item song to follow the chartbuster 'Munni Badnaam Hui,' feels routine.
The most unfortunate thing about Dabanng 2 is that it simply adds nothing new to the Chulbul Pandey franchise. The story doesn't grow beyond what the first film showed us. The stakes aren't any higher, and the new villain belittling the previous villain in a throwaway line doesn't count.
In order for the franchise to last, Salman Khan and team will have to push the boundaries of story and innovation much further, and not in over-inflating his persona. The character of Chulbul Pandey is charming and brutish all at once, and Khan shows incredible enthusiasm in bringing him to life. However, for the character to thrive, it needs a much more exciting script.
It needs to be memorable, from the dialogues to stunts to the songs. Dabanng 2, instead, ends up as a rather mundane follow up to a crackling first film in the franchise. It's a film you want to enjoy effortlessly but is unfortunately one you quickly forget as the credits roll.