Dabangg 2 (2012)

Culbul Pandey is debatably the most sparkling character the Bollywood has ever created since the kind-hearted Mumbai thug Munna Bhai. This crooked, small-town cop, who combines irreverence with superhuman strength, is essentially a superhero without a cape.

Given that Dabangg 2 is a family production in every sense of the term – Salman Khan stars, his brother Arbaaz directs, Arbaaz’s wife Malaika Arora produces, and their sister Alvira Agnihotri does costumes – you can’t help but wonder why no one thought of binding in their father, veteran screenwriter Salim Khan, to cuff the script into shape. Because while there’s some fun to be had watching Chulbul Pandey bash up the bad guys again and share a gentle romance with his missus, nothing even tenuously interesting happens in this film.

Now posted in Kanpur, our rumbustious police officer hero applies his unique but unconventional methods of dispensing justice to keep kidnappers and thugs off the street. Having mended his relationship with his step-father (Vinod Khanna) and half-brother (Arbaaz Khan), and with his wife Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha) carrying his bun in her oven, Chulbul has none of the personal baggage he had to deal with in the earlier film. His only conflict here is with corrupt local politician Bacha Bhaiyya (Prakash Raj) and his hoodlum brothers, who have no regard for the law.

For Salman Khan fans, the film’s manna from heaven. He cracks a joke, kills a few goons, dances with original item girl Munni (Malaika Arora Khan) and a new item girl (Kareena Kapoor), takes his shirt off to display his age-defying, perfectly chiselled body, and then cracks another joke. Those who like a coherent narrative and dramatic arc, though, won’t enjoy the ride so much.

Arbaaz Khan, taking his first stab at direction, delivers a harmless and inoffensive film, but for his part, comes up with little that’s original, repeating bits from Dabangg, only tweaking them slightly.

A key problem with this sequel lies in the weak choice of villain. Prakash Raj, usually a competent actor, is reduced to a nostril-flaring, bulging-eyed caricature who poses none of the physical threat that Sonu Sood’s Chhedi Singh represented in the earlier film. Deepak Dobriyal, playing Bacha’s brother here, offers a deliciously slimy performance, but the character is terminated in what is possibly the best scene in the film, that takes place as early as interval point.

Expectedly Dabangg 2’s only strength is Salman Khan himself, who is the glue that holds together this slipshod film. He’s charming in his romantic, cheeky scenes with Sonakshi Sinha, he’s mischievous and endearing while teasing his father, and plain hilarious in his interactions with his sidekick cops. Sadly, Chulbul Pandey is an extraordinary man trapped in an ordinary, unexciting world in Dabangg 2.

I’m going with a generous two-and-a-half out of five stars for Arbaz Khan’s Dabangg 2. I think complicated times call for uncomplicated heroes and Chulbul Pandey fits the bill perfectly.