The arrogant swagger is back, and there's no reason not to strike while the iron is hot. A phenomenal success in 2010 that once again cemented Salman Khan's box office clout than never before, leading to a string of blockbuster after blockbuster, Dabangg 2 turned out to be fun in most parts, but overall it didn't feel that it pulled off the charm of the original, even with most of the cast returning for a second outing. Written by Dilip Shukla and this time directed by Salman's brother Arbaaz Khan, who also plays his screen brother, Dabangg 2 is that sequel that tried to emulate its predecessor for the most parts, and didn't manage to bring something new to the table.
As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So despite the film's Robin Hood aka Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) being transferred to the big city that he wanted to where we last left off, we find him in the city of Kanpur, where his adventures seemed to mirror that from his original outing. He continues to bring his small town sensibilities and police force corruption aka welfare fund donation modus operandi to his new station, with nothing less than a big bang entrance and obligatory effects laden fight to whet the audience's appetite for more to come.
The opening credits recapped most of the key scenes from the first film, before you get to hear the rehashed Hud Hud Dabangg track that's reworked for this sequel in Dabangg Reloaded. And in fact there are a couple of tunes here that sounded like upgrades from those in the earlier film, with a conscious decision to adapt and update to achieve a kind of aural link between the movies. Which was unnecessary, but felt that it provided a consistent sound, and feel, that we're in the same consistent world the characters are in. And not to mention an opportunity to continue from the previous songs too. There's the item number with the policemen getting rowdy in celebration, a night out to the sleazy alleys where Kareena Kapoor turned up in the Item Number Fevicol, and a couple of romantic ballads to reinforce that Chulbul is still very much in love with his wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha).
The relationships with his father Prajapati (Vinod Khanna) and brother Makki (Arbaaz Khan) have vastly improved given the end of the previous movie, now brought over here for completist sake, with the former being comedy fodder, and the latter obviously given a smaller role since Arbaaz is now at the helm behind the camera. The focus in this installment is centered upon family, with a significant number of scenes dealing with Chulbul and his relationships with each family member, whether making fun of dad, being lovey dovey with wife, or ribbing his brother, who's in his own marital rut. There's a new addition, though I felt it was hastily developed for the final act, just to give Chulbul reason enough to unleash hell.
The drama though served as a counterpunch in trying to save the film. While Chulbul Pandey is fearless, or Dabangg, family and the threat of having them harmed, somewhat blunted his approach for a bit, leaving him to think about loved ones, rather than to charge headlong with gusto to right the wrongs, and to deliver his brand of no-nonsense justice, often ending up with a villain's death through rough-handling, or via Chulbul's accuracy with a firearm. Don't expect ultra violence here, since the violence dished out by the hero continues in its cartoony style, and Salman being Salman, you will expect a ripped shirt for the sake of, sending his admirers and supporters into thunderous raptures.
What served to be disappointing is the lack of a strong villain in this one. We know how powerful Chulbul Pandey is, so it's important to get a credible villain who could hold his own as an equal. Here, there are three brothers who serve as the sequel's primary antagonists, led by Prakash Raj who plays Baccha Singh. But Raj, the fine actor that he is, cannot seem to break out of his usual negative triad leader role he had held on from his Singham days (also a cop movie), which in a way was too close for comfort with Singham and the earlier Dabangg film. If anything, there's a curious link between gangsters and politicians, and the corruptness that flows being the two groups, with one aspiring to become the other, and bringing about lawlessness to the wards they promise to look after.
Dabangg 2 still retains most of the formula of what made the first film work, with some cheeky wink-wink jokes for fans thrown in for good measure. But it's a real pity that structurally it was Dabangg all over again, for another outing. It's fun, but could have been a whole lot more. Oh, and do look out for Salman's new dance move that will likely be the talk of the town, involving that belt buckle hook and dance of his that's taken on a new, impossible, though crowd pleasing twist. Watch this with a rowdy bunch of fans for maximum impact!