Every movie that stars Salman Khan is essentially the same. He plays a tough guy who doesn’t play by the rules who meets a girl who teaches him the meaning of love. There are action-packed fights, some awkward scenes of courtship and a few equally awkward dance numbers.
Typically, Khan’s movies are completely serious. The only attempts at humor are when Khan’s character berates and humiliates his underlings, and the jokes almost always fall flat.
Dabangg (“Fearless”) is the rare Khan vehicle that acknowledges the absurdity of his macho, alpha-male persona. Perhaps it’s just a chance for Khan’s younger brother, Arbaaz — the movie’s producer and co-star — to take the mickey out of his big brother. Whatever the reason, it’s easily the most enjoyable Salman Khan movie I’ve ever seen.
This time, Khan plays Chulbul Pandey, a cop who shakes down criminals for money. He nicknames himself “Robin Hood,” even though he keeps all of the money he steals for himself.
Dabangg opens with a fight in a warehouse. Chulbul takes on a gang of about a dozen criminals by himself, using only a firehose as a weapon. There are a few instances of Matrix-inspired special effects, but they are outshone by the intricate fight choreography, as Chulbul is surrounded by attackers.
The rest of the police force arrives while Chulbul exits the warehouse with a bag of pilfered cash. Asked what they should tell the higher-ups about the fight, Chulbul shoots a deputy in the arm, so that the officer can claim he was wounded in action and earn a promotion. Everyone is happy, and Chulbul walks away with the money.
The scene is immediately followed by a dance number to a tune about what a badass Chulbul is: “Hud Hud Dabangg.” The abrupt transition is hilarious, and the Khan brothers know it. As a fan of ’80s & ’90s action flicks starring Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Schwarzenegger and the like, I assert that many of those movies would’ve benefited from their own dance numbers.
Dabangg‘s plot is formulaic, with the requisite love story and predictable double-crosses. Chulbul falls in love with a woman, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), who encourages him to reconcile with his estranged stepbrother, Makhi (Arbaaz Khan), and his step-father. Little does Chulbul know that Makhi is secretly working for Cheddi Singh (Sonu Sood), the corrupt politician from whom Chulbul stole in the opening sequence.
Dabangg is well-paced and doesn’t linger over Chulbul’s emotional development. He grows as a character, but the majority of his time is spent fighting, engaging in political intrigue, and dancing.
The dancing alone makes Dabangg a worthwhile movie for American fans of action flicks who like a little levity mixed in with their butt-kicking. Plus, the subtitles add an air of sophistication. Tell your friends you’re seeing a foreign film, even if you’re really just going for the shootouts.