DIRECTOR: Arbaaz Khan
CAST: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Prakash Raj, Vinod Khanna, Deepak Dobriyal, Niketan Dhir
Chulbul Pandey is back. His return sees him take a leg up, from kasba to shehar, bachelor to husband, but at heart he is the same Robin Hood in khaki vardi, dark shades thrust down back collar, thin moustache adorning upper lip, and the most mobile belt on the planet. In Dabangg, the belt got its own trademark dance step, with Pandeyji and his cohorts jerking it up and down. In the sequel, the belt moves on its own. Look ma, no hands!
I felt like handing out the first half of Dabangg 2 not one but two exclamation marks because it manages what few Bollywood sequels do: keep it same yet make it different enough to hold our interest. The set pieces, having shifted from small UP village to a Kanpur chowki, come and go in nearly the same rhythm but there’s a little bit of lift in most of them. Introductory appearance in godown full of goons, waiting for Chulbul (Salman) and his fists and his dialogues. Taaliyaan. Scene with loving father (Khanna), and brother (Arbaaz) and wife (Sinha). Clap, clap. Sequence with bad guy Bachcha bhaiya (Raj) and his equally bad near and dear ones (Dobriyal, Dhir). All right, let’s get on with it. Arbaaz, the director, keeps it moving, and that’s wise. Because this is not the kind of film which should give you any time to think. Or blink.
And then comes the second half, and things start sliding. The dialoguebaazi loses its grip, and you start to fidget. The row ahead of me, Bhai fans all, have begun talking loudly, keeping one eye on the screen, another on their phones. It doesn’t really matter, because even the sporadic surprises are over. One near and dear bad one should go by half time. Gone. Which will lead Big Bad Wolf to give thundering bhaashan, swear vengeance, and get after Chulbul’s near and dear ones. Done. Things slowing down? Where’s the item girl? “Oye dekh, aa gayi.” And then, the climax, just the way it used to be in all the good old masala films in the ’70s, and in every recent superhit Madras-cut Bhai movie: our hero, single-handed, empty-handed, up against 20 bristling with kattas, talwaars and lathis. The Salman Shirt off, now, now, now? Okay, now.
No exclamation mark,