S and I, with our friend, Neel, watched the newest Salman Khan starrer "Dabangg" last night in a movie theater in Columbia, MD. Not particularly fans of Salman, we were nevertheless intrigued by the news that it had broken the record of 3 idiots in the first week alone; so we took the half hour drive and checked it out for ourselves.
With extremely low expectations of the movie, I was ready for anything. Generally, S and I have always trusted the movie reviews by Nikhat Kazmi, a senior editor with the Times of India, because seldom it has been that our experiences have not resonated with her write-ups. Ms. Kazmi gave Dabangg four stars out of five, and wrote a generally positive review about this Khan Family production (Oh, yes! Salman in the lead, with his brother, Arbaaz, playing the underdog, and a smashing item number by Malaika Arora-Khan, in this Arbaaz Khan Productions movie). We decided to take Ms. Kazmi's cue (as we have done countless times), and leave our brains at home.
Boy! Was there a pleasant surprise waiting for us! I am not ashamed to admit that we enjoyed every minute of it! Completely mindless, the movie had no pretension to any message or subtlety; it was just plain old story-telling in the late 70s-early 80s Hindi movie ishtyle... A larger than life Salman, unabashedly corrupt in his role as inspector Chulbul Pandey, but with a frank degree of Robin-Hoodiness that makes him difficult to dislike. A hackneyed tale of sibling rivalry, but Arbaaz - undoubtedly a good actor - expressed well the angst of the younger, weaker brother. Sonu Sood, with a sculpted torso (and sadly, chicken legs), settled well in the role of a believable villain. Most of the other actors were in cameo roles, sharing the screen for short periods of time. We were surprised to see Vinod Khanna after a long time, and Dimple Kapadia in a deglamorized, albeit significant, role. Special appearances were put in by Mahie Gill and Mahesh Manjrekar, as well as veteran actors Anupam Kher, Om Puri and Tinnu Anand. In presence of such established industry regulars, Shatrughan Sinha's daughter, Sonakshi, the lead heroine opposite Salman, held her own quite well - although a large part of her role consisted of her giving smoldering looks; she is pretty and emoted adequately when required.
The songs by the Sajid-Wajid duo were hummable (my particular favorite, the title-song, 'Udd, dabangg, dabangg'), sung by the familiar voices of Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Sukhwinder Singh and the distinctive Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Malaika was, of course, stunning as usual in the item number (by one Lalit Pandit), although the song somehow lacked her erstwhile Chhaiyaan-chhaiyaan magic. The fight sequences were well choreographed by S Vijayan; although almost all the signature moves (Matrix-type bends, leaps, falls, high kicks and punches) were reminiscent of similar sequences seen in Hollywood action movies, they were brought together into a cohesive whole that was thrilling. Salman also got to do his Hulk act where his shirt tears off and flies away - but a shirtless Salman has always been dear to the masses ever since his Maine Pyaar Kiyaa days. The dialogs were peppy and smart, very UP-Bihar belt type, with a surfeit of jokes that were sometimes downright silly - but they resonated well with the overall impression and flow of the movie. The cinematography by Mahesh Limaye was pleasing to the eye with scarcely a jarring moment, creating a nice, enjoyable visual experience.
It was undiluted fun! No higher cerebral activity involved, we enjoyed the thrill ride of Dabangg very much, as did the other viewers judging from their expressions.