Director: Prabhu Deva
Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Kichha Sudeep, Saiee Manjrekar
At one point in Dabangg 3, Chulbul Pandey says – hum class aur mass dono ke liye kaam karte hain.
This statement was true for the first instalment of the film which introduced us to the irreverent, rule-breaking, rogue cop Chulbul Pandey. Chulbul was the sort of law enforcement officer who pauses mid-fight to appreciate a bad guy’s caller tune. He also famously declares – hum tum mein itne ched karenge ki confuse ho jaoge ki saans kahan se le aur paadein kahan se. Chulbul, who combined wit with swag, was an absolute delight. But as the franchise has moved forward, the fun has leaked out of it like air from a balloon. Dabangg 3 is a joyless, exhausting ode to the superstardom of Salman Khan. It’s a masala movie with little spice in it.
As Chulbul, Salman Khan dominates every frame of this film. He’s also co-produced and co-written it. Salman had earlier written the largely unwatchable Chandra Mukhi and Veer so that should give you some idea of how this pans out. Dabangg 3 is set up as an origin story – we discover how Chulbul, whose name is originally Dhakad, became Chulbul. This means we get a de-aged Salman romancing debutant Saiee Manjrekar whose character Khushi hasn’t turned 18 yet. Khushi is a champion chess player who dreams of being a doctor. But she agrees to marry the jobless Dhakad. Dhakad is so progressive that he wants to marry only when Khushi has completed her studies.
Dabangg 3 tries strenuously to get on the bandwagon of women empowerment. So Dhakad smilingly tells Khushi that he will be fine if she decides to keep her own surname. In another scene, Dhakad, now Chulbul married to Rajjo describes himself as a patni vrata pati. Chulbul is even shown putting a drawstring in his wife’s petticoat. But it’s largely lip service because the female characters are written as docile and decorative. They are good for singing songs and being kidnapped by the villain. In different scenes, both end up tied and hanging in mid-air. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen this in a movie since the 80s.
But it’s largely lip service because the female characters are written as docile and decorative. They are good for singing songs and being kidnapped by the villain. In different scenes, both end up tied and hanging in mid-air. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen this in a movie since the 80s.
Dabangg 3 is a film that worships its hero – he swaggers, throws punches in slow motion, gives lessons on courage and responsibility to the general public and, of course, pulverizes everything that gets in his way. Every time his fist or foot connects with a bad guy’s body, the background score goes ballistic with crunching sounds. In one bit, when he arrives, the background music helpfully declares: Bad Ass. There’s even a meta-reference to Salman in the song Munna Badnaam Hua – the film’s director Prabhu Deva enters the frame wearing Salman’s trademark blue bracelet and the song goes: Dil tere naam hua darling tere liye Salman Khan hua darling tere liye.
But here’s what I don’t get – when so much time, talent and money is being expended to showcase the superstar, why not also provide him with a script? You see flashes of the fun and cheekiness that made Chulbul so entertaining in the first film but mostly, Dabangg 3 is a checklist of fight, song, family scene strung together in no particular order. Sonakshi Sinha purses her lips and wears colorful saris. Saiee does even less. The most effort comes from Kannada actor Kiccha Sudeep who plays the baddie Bali Singh. Sudeep gives Bali a nice poetic villainy. He’s a murderous psycho who wears beautiful scarves even when he’s heading for a showdown with Chulbul. I liked that.
When you step into Dabangg 3, you know you’re in for a Salman Khan extravaganza. Which would be fine if there was some attempt to tweak the formula or push it into a new direction. But sadly, the makers seem content to deliver another dose of the same. But it’s been 9 years. Even the mighty Chulbul needs an upgrade.