Salman Khan. That's both a superlative and a complete sentence in itself (in the context of the movie of, course). He's all of Dabangg! Exclamation and exaggeration included. It's a quintessential made-for-Salman-film, if any such thing existed. Propriety can take a walk.
Chulbul Pandey must be one of the one of the most unapologetically wacky action-hero-characters conceived in the recent past. Khan is all quirks and brimstone, playing Chulbul Pandey, a small-town cop from Lalgunj with a penchant for all things eccentric.
He breaks open a door to make his entry, belts out the cheekiest of one-liners, wears his goggles at the back of his collar, breaks into a dance when a phone rings in the middle of a fight with bunch of armed bank robbers, and knows all the suggestive dance moves in the world.
A self-styled Robin Hood, Chulbul Pandey is a law onto himself in this lawless land. Needless to say, Salman is in his element, brandishing a brazenly rustic, unadulterated mustachioed machismo. It comes as quite a relief from the suave, urbane, metrosexual onscreen ways of the modern hero.
Stepfather Prajapati (Vinod Khanna), mother (Kapadia) and a dimwitted sautela bhai Makkhi (Arbaaz), make up his family. Chulbul hates his stepfather, having been at the receiving end of typical stepson treatment all through his childhood. His affections for Makhi also suffer so much that Chulbul even hijacks his half-brother's marriage.
Sonu Sood plays a local politician, Chhedi Singh, who has scores to settle with Chulbul. He devises a cunning plot to manipulate their mutual animosity to get even with Chulbul. Sonu Sood, it must be said, does a great job with his old school villainy.
Then, there is Rajo (Sonakshi SInha), Chulbul's love interest. It is heartening to see a good old-fashioned village belle. She makes a confident debut, holding her own in a film that is unabashedly hero-centric.
First-time director Abhinav Kashyap plays to the gallery. Dabangg is bucolic, with truckloads of very slickly-shot action episodes, and a boy's hostel brand of sense of humour that evokes guffaws by the dozen and a handful of contemptuous grins. The nifty packaging does the trick.
Abhinav Kashyap's made an over-the-top entertainer, and he makes no bones about it. He does a great job of it as well. It's never easy to reinvent classic formula, and for a first timer, he deserves all the accolades.
There are plenty of songs as well. Sajid & Wajid have ensured the music stays true to the film. The item number Munni badnam hui easily takes the cake. The background score, especially in the action sequences, might remind you of some Antonio Banderas films, but who's to complain, for it all adds to the effect.
On the flip side though, the film is not without its flaws. The purists might say the film juxtaposes story-telling with Salman Khan's style (antics. if you want to be mean). The script is a mish-mash of all the potboilers we saw as kids. It's all a little too indiscriminate. You wouldn't be surprised if Salman Khan tears the screen open.
Like it or not, you just might get entertained. Defying logic, perhaps, but cinema essentially is as much about willful suspension of belief as anything else. How much you like it might just be a matter of how much belief you are willing to suspend.