By Ambar Chatterjee
‘Dabangg 3 should be avoided like you should avoid a plague’
Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Kichcha Sudeep, Arbaaz Khan, Saiee Manjrekar
It is safe to say that Salman Khan and Prabhudeva peaked their interpretation and presentation of the masala potboiler genre with Wanted in 2009. Wanted was also the film that brought back Salman Khan’s fast obliterating acting career and made him the “Bhai” that he is today to his fans. Salman gave another two well-executed and well-acted films in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan while Prabhudeva made a successful entertainer in Rowdy Rathore (remake of the Telugu Ravi Teja starer Vikramakudu). Apart from the ones mentioned above, both their filmographies have been getting increasingly worse and they might have just hit the rock bottom with Dabangg 3. Post Race 3 and Bharat, I had stopped expecting anything from Salman Khan films but this film took lame and thanklessness to a whole new level.
Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) has been transferred to a new area where he first tames a gang of comedic dacoits who ransack wealthy marriages and mistake testicles for Gulab Jamuns. After that is done, we get some cringe-worthy scenes at his house where we see him happy hitting on his wife in a manner that would put the most lascivious low-lives to shame. His brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan), who is now a cop himself after doing his bits in the cringe-fest, is contacted by a girl who has escaped from a flesh trade ring. Makkhi and Chulbul arrive just in time to save a truckload of girls and Chulbul does something to the obnoxious and irritating Dolly Bindra (playing a pimp) that was the only laudable moment for me in the whole film. It is at this juncture that Chulbul comes face to face with the man who actually runs the flesh trade racket.
Balli Singh (Sudeep), an Uttar Pradesh baddie with a south Indian accent has been at loggerheads with Chulbul from the time when Chulbul was not Chulbul but Dhakkad Pandey. The enmity was because of a forcibly sweet acting girl, Khushi (Saiee Manjrekar), who loved Chulbul but Balli was smitten by her too. Balli does some terrible things to her and her family after he learns about her and Chulbul and Chulbul can’t do anything to save her. This is the turning point in his life and he becomes the cop that he is today owing to that tragedy. Years later, Chulbul stands face to face with his greatest enemy who he thought was dead. What will Chulbul do? What will Balli do to finish off Chulbul once and for all? These are the question that drives the narrative of the rest of the film.
Dabangg 3 looks like an interesting concept on the paper but don’t be fooled by it for a second. Here is a film that believes that the mere presence of its leading man is enough to pull in the crowds and ring the cash registers. Everything about the film reeks of overconfidence and of the fact that the director is taking his audience for granted. The first Dabangg was somewhat entertaining even though it made a caricature of its protagonist and some of the antagonists. In Dabangg 3, everything is treated like a joke. There are major characters killed but we never feel a thing for them. The hero is never threatened and even if he was, I am pretty sure that the audience would not have cared since he is unable to forge any relationship with the viewers.
All Salman Khan does in the film is dress up and stand in front of the camera as if he was hosting an episode of Big Boss. He even delivers his dialogues with a similar ring to it. He tries to dance in a few songs which look awkward and plain out funny. The few action sequences that are there are choreographed to match his sagging speed and depleting energy and they look awful. Even a kid could point out the body doubles and the exact frames where they are used. This not only makes the action sequences unworthy of any reverence but also ineffective in terms of the screenplay. Why I hated Salman’s indifference to the role and taking the audience for granted even more was because of the fact that he has, in the past, proved time and again that when he wants, he can act pretty well (Veergati, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan). Here was a film that desperately needed him to deliver on the acting front and he just didn’t want to.
Salman Khan carries forward the nepotism bandwagon by giving Saiee Manjrekar a role that could have been done better by uncountable other actors or struggling artists. She is completely devoid of any charm or personality and literally sleep-walks through her role as if it was nothing more than a TikTok video. Sonakshi Sinha has little to do apart from gyrating to mind-numbingly infuriating songs or getting her behind grabbed by Salman. Her role is as limited as it was in all the other Dabangg films and for that I am thankful. Kichcha Sudeep is a great actor and he is one of the brightest shining lights of the Kannada film industry. Here, he is reduced to a stupid and one-dimensional antagonist who doesn’t have a clue of what he is doing and why he is doing it. He couldn’t have done anything better with the character that he was given. That also begs the question, what made him take the role in the first place. Arbaaz Khan’s Makkhi adds insult to the injuries and so does the cheap stand-ins for Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia.
There is a scene in the middle of the film where Chulbul is shown a video of the vicious treatment that is being meted out to Khushi and her family by Balli. Chulbul looks at it and the camera stays on his face to give us his reactions but Salman doesn’t bat an eyelid. He remains shockingly normal. If there were any normal human being in that situation, he would have cracked up. It should have been the director to tell Salman what to do in this situation but Prabhudeva failed in this basic move as a director. That’s how bad his directing is. He has made a few entertaining films before but most of them were remakes and that explains why he is so inept at handling material that is original and doesn’t have a precedence to lay back on. This time he forgets to even add to some gusto to the action and should have stopped Salman from dancing altogether.
Dabangg 3 is a disservice to Indian cinema. There will be those who would be trying to defend it by calling it a masala-potboiler-no-brainer but the fact remains that it is mind-numbingly boring and pedestrian. Salman Khan makes the mistake of considering himself bigger than the film. Prabhudeva does the same mistake as well but he also has to deal with his own inadequacy of making a film effectively without any previous successful execution to fall back on for pointers. It is sufficient to say that Dabangg 3 is the kind of film that should be avoided in a manner you would avoid a plague. If you don’t want to waste 162 minutes of your life on something that is neither entertaining nor makes any sense, steer clear of this catastrophe of a film.