There is a reason why Indians invented the masala film genre: done correctly, genuinely, and unapologetically, there is simply no better entertainment in the world! If Shah Rukh Khan can deliver an Om Shanti Om and Aamir Khan a Ghajini, then Salman Khan can surely prove once again why he is one of the indisputable superstars of Hindi filmdom. Directed by debutant Abhinav Kashyap (yes, brother of Anurag Kashyap), the Khan family (Salman’s, that is) delivers a rollicking punch with Dabangg. It has a potholed and predictable story, but the oozing star charisma of Khan combined with very creative action sequences and plenty of U.P. rustic cool makes Dabangg one of the most fun films I’ve watched this year.
The story is rather plain and choppy but really you watch Dabangg to see Salman Khan shine as the corrupt yet lovable cop Chulbul Pandey. It is his vehicle from start to finish and he truly has a ball in this role. He relentlessly (and singlehandedly, mind you) thrashes the baddies but also lets them go in return for filling his pockets. He calls himself “Robin Hood Pandey,” although he’s more of a morally sketchy one, rarely actually giving to the poor but definitely beating up the bad guys on their behalf. The action sequences are one of the highlights here. Choreographed by S Vijayan, they're creative and at times hilarious, and remind you of good old Rajnikanth and his signature fight scenes. Nothing ever gets too serious here, even an intense villain-thrashing session pauses as one of the goons’ cell phone starts ringing to which Mr. Pandey starts doing a jig.
The film lacks an emotional tug, which isn't entirely missed when there is another pulsating song or crackling fight scene coming up. This isn't meant to be a serious drama by any means. However, you do wish for some originality in plot to accompany the very colorful main character. The story treads the same beaten path of warring household, scheming politicians, traitors in uniform and the familial revenge. The romantic track between Pandey and Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha) works because of their snappy banter, a commendable debut by Sinha who displays confidence alongside Khan. She doesn’t have much of a role as such but makes the most of what screen time she does get.
In terms of acting, Sonu Sood as the villain Chedi Singh delivers a good performance, but his presence is justified mostly by the shirtless six-pack no-rules combat between him and Pandey in the climax. The middle portions of the film get drawn out and a bit boring and some of the hammiest acting by the supporting cast definitely doesn't help. Dimple Kapadia, playing asthmatic mother to Chulbul Pandey, comes off so unnatural that you might think she was forced into the film. Vinod Khanna gets the growling step-father act down, but that’s just about it. Arbaaz Khan as the “dimwit” younger brother Makkhi to Chulbul has a distressed look throughout. He, however, proves to be a far better producer than actor with this film.
Dabangg is a true-blue masala film, and an unashamedly loud one at that. Despite a shoddy script, the lead character is all you care about watching here. Chulbul Pandey is an immensely enjoyable character to get to know as the film unfolds and Salman Khan does him complete justice, doing cool tricks with his Ray-Ban Aviators included. He consistently delivers one-liners that were designed to draw applause and cheer. Sitting in a Manhattan movie theater watching this, that was surprisingly just what happened around me. Of course, I joined in too. Dabangg is the kind of film that promises a good time and delivers it. It doesn’t pretend to be serious cinema or meaningful even. It’s just good paisa vasoolentertainment with a hero you want to see again. Plain and simple.