Some robbers celebrate their success in their hideout after a daring heist, only for one man to come knocking on their door, a lowly police officer whom we think will intervene and bring justice to his town in Uttar Pradesh. Like a western film, he's a one man show taking on every thug in a no nonsense, no holds barred fashion, employing deadly force without remorse, and blessed with the skills seen by the Transporter with a hosereel, Neo's bullet time technique in the dodging of bullets, Ong Bak's Muay Thai knees to chest, and well, even The Incredible Hulk at a much later point in the film!
That in itself should indicate the attitude Dabangg adopted, especially when during the intense introductory fight sequence the proceedings got interrupted by a thug's mobile phone ring tone, and the cop pauses to dance a little jig, before adding that he likes the tune so much it should be sent to his mobile. Directed by Abhibnav Kashyap and co-written by Dilip Shukla, the filmmakers have created an awesome alpha male type whose shoulders they firmly rely on to carry the film from start to end, and rightly differentiated itself from the tons of cop films available from Indian cinema with having a character that lives and breathes its title Dabangg (Fearless), alongside being an awkward romantic, a filial son to his mother, and pretty much multi-faceted in all dimensions.
The character of Chulbul Pandey is one of the most charismatic that I've seen coming out of Bollywood recently, and Salman Khan adds his own fine touches to make him really over the top, complete with an unmistakable swagger, attitude and wit. Chulbul instantly becomes one of my favourite anti-heroes, whose threat made to his enemies include the pumping of so many slugs into their bodies that they won't know which hole to use for breathing and farting! But from the onset we know that he's not an honest cop, giving himself the moniker of Robin Hood because he robs from his prey, and well, pretty much keeps the loot for himself, sharing some spoils with his colleagues. Rather than getting promotions for his many successful exploits, he prefers to live life as it is with his lowly paid job and a bunch of merry men type colleagues, where his reputation is stratospheric amongst the local community, and being quite the go-to cop to assist the down and the trodden.
Dabangg is a play up on the corrupt cops and politicians in India, and it's done in an extremely cartoony manner that provides sheer entertainment in the form of its kinetic action done with a tinge of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and plenty of over the top moments for laughter. It ribs counterparts' cop films, though never disrespectful. If you think that Indian films have rather exaggerated fight choreography, perhaps the treatment that this film adopts will change your mind about it, and adds a lot of fun and colour to a film that doesn't take itself too seriously when it comes to entertaining the masses with some over the top action that as a finale, seemed like that of a typical epic Western shoot-em-ups with plenty of explosions thrown in for good measure. In fact, there are plenty of Western elements put into the film, from action as mentioned, to even the music - Udd Udd Dabangg remains my favourite from the film for its cheesy looking moves that tells us in one song, just what Chulbul stands for.
Central to its story are a few sub plots running in parallel, involving Chulbul's falling in love with and the romancing of the headstrong Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha in a film debut), the Pandey family problems with the non-recognition from his step dad Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna) to whom his mom (Dimple Kapadia) marries, and his step brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan), a non too bright, good for nothing who finds support in Chulbul's political enemies. Yes, politics does get mixed up into the film, with corrupt, power hungry politicians (Sonu Sood) looking to consolidate power, with everyone not hesitating to seek out the point man in the community to collaborate with, in a mutually beneficial partnership sealed with hush-hush yet open secrecy. Being the man with the plan, Chulbul has his hands full, and it's half the fun just to see how he solutions each situation primarily for one man's benefit - himself, especially when enemies come at him both from within his family, and externally.
I can continue to wax lyrical about Salman Khan's performance, and I will be honest to admit I haven't been quite convinced with his roles in Veer and London Dreams, though I must say this role of his has converted me into a fan. He plays up the caricature of Chulbul really well, achieving a spectrum of emotions required and delivered where it mattered - the action sequences, to put his rippling muscles to good use, when not kept under wraps in his impossible tight uniform, slicked hair, pencil thin moustache, and a pair of large shades he has a penchant to hang backwards on his collar, for a reason you have to watch the film to find out! Not every actor has natural charisma, but Salman Khan here just oozes plenty as he makes this role his own.
Dabangg swaggers its way into my shortlist of some of the best films this year. Do yourself a favour, especially if you are in need for a film that strikes that fair balance between seriousness, comedy and great entertainment!