MUMBAI — After mistakes like “Tubelight,” “Race 3” and even “Bharat” (with the exception of “Tiger Zinda Hai”), this time, Salman Khan gets his act all correct: ‘Dabanng 3’ is a superbly unabashed mass entertainer that plays to the gallery the way his best films in the last decade (yes, even “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and “Sultan”) have done.
Single-screen audiences will take to “Dabangg 3” the way fish take to water, but more importantly, in the multiplex screen where I watched it, we heard whistles, calls of “Once More!” and applause in spurts. And when that happens with an upper-crust audience for a story that is actually as old as the hills, there are only two possible explanations: value-for-money and Khan himself! And we know we have a winner on hand.
Khan brings back Chulbul Pandey in what is probably his best of the three exercises in this franchise, which began in the first year of this decade. Nine years down, he is looking bulkier but still fresh, his acting is still intense, his action so effortless, his style so loved, that as Pandey the (almost) renegade cop, he can do no wrong.
Khan infuses his doses of overt yet subtle (yes, that’s the right way to describe it!) patriotism with references to conscientious duty, how cops get their respect and earn stripes for doing good (in the current CAB-NRC ruckus, this comes across as a timely and sharp pointer against vested interests!) and points out to crimes against women, including trafficking and rape. There is also talk of criminal reformation, as with the gangster (Nawab Khan) who gos back to his original profession of a band musician. Happily, the overdone cliché of inter-communal harmony is skipped (we guess that in the truly-secular Salim Khan household, that becomes redundant!).
The USP of the plotline is Chulbul’s hitherto-unrevealed saga of the past, where he had fallen in love with Khushi (Saiee M. Manjrekar), who wants to study medicine. Chulbul helps her get the funds for this (not by legal means though, because he is a Robin Hood!). However, a chance encounter makes Bali Singh (Kichcha Sudeepa—and as per the credit titles, that’s not a typo!), a ruthless criminal who also traffics in girls, get smitten by her. When he knows he will never win her, he kills her and her foster parents and frames Chulbul.
Out of jail with the help of a noble cop (Sharat Saxena), he kills Bali—or so he thinks. Bali survives, and stays clear of Chulbul till a chance encounter (Chulbul is now a cop) brings them together. After that, it is a deadly cat-and-mouse game between them, with Bali also inciting Chulbul’s weaker brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan) to come on his side as his elder brother has never allowed him to shine.
In a mega-action climax, Chulbul finally destroys Bali—now that’s no spoiler for a Khan film!
The Pandey family is the same—with his wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha in the second reprise of her debut role), a son now, father Prajapati Pandey (played with gusto by the late Vinod Khanna’s uncannily lookalike and erstwhile producer brother Pramod Khanna). In the flashback, Dimple Kapadia (who had been killed in the first film) comes back as the mother.
The cop’s seriousness and sense of humor along with his style has always been a winner—“Dabangg 2” had more substance and less style vis-à-vis the first film but had also worked. Here the style and humor quotient is increased. And we also have more (in quantum) action and spectacle, helped by Sandeep Shirodkar’s atmospheric background score for Anl Arasu’s slightly repetitious but otherwise ambitious action.
Prabhudeva directs the film with a few understandable South Indian touches (which will actually increase the mass connect, as the South’s action films are a pan-India addiction now!). However, the humor outside Chulbul’s relevance, like between the corrupt minister and his acolyte) is juvenile and plebian. However, for the first time since “Rowdy Rathore,” the director has a firm grip on the emotions in the plot, especially in the fluid jumps between humor and intensity.
Technically above average (Mahesh Limaye’s camerawork is splendid), the film has some good songs by Sajid-Wajid. It is always a relief to watch and hear songs that have been created FOR a specific situation. There are no re-creations, needless high-pitched Sufi strains or raucous Punjabi beats.
“Naina Lade Ke Lade” is the counterpart of the “Tere Mast Mast Do Nain” from the first film and its follow-up number in “:Dabangg 2”—this raag-rich song is beautifully composed. We have a gender flip on “Munni Badnaam Hui” in “Munna Badnaam Hua.” The title song is also reworked nicely. Since the script has pace, two songs at least act as needlessly interjected items, but thankfully, their audiovisual sobriety compensates for this.
The performances are all impressive. Khan is in peak form as mentioned. A slim Sonakshi is impressive and Arbaaz Khan makes a mark. Newcomer Saiee M. Manjrekar shows promise, but needs to work a bit on her expressions and more on her lines. Sudeep is excellent as Bali, his gently menacing intonations increasing the evil quotient. Only last week we witnessed a creepy reel villain who randomly killed people and was anti-women in “Mardaani 2.” This time, we get an equally depraved scoundrel who takes delights in cold-blooded murder and happens to traffic in girls!
This one’s for, in order, Salman Khan fans, devotees of the “Dabangg” franchise, and lovers of masala. Others may please stay away if they just want to troll this honestly commercial film.
Produced by: Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan & Nikhil Diwvedi
Directed by: Prabhudeva
Written by: Salman Khan, Prabhudeva, Dilip Shukla & Alok Upadhyay
Starring: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Saiee M. Manjrekar, Dimple Kapadia, Kichcha Sudeepa, Rajesh Sharma, Pramod Khanna,
Nawab Shah, Sharat Saxena, Medha Manjrekar & others Sp. App.: Prabhudeva, Warina Hussain, Sohail Khan & Mahesh Manjrekar