I was beside myself with excitement for the release of this film. I mean that almost literally. Despite the fact that some five to eight percent of my town’s population is desi, there have only been two Hindi films shown here in the last ten years, before this one – Barsaat (Bobby Deol & Priyanka) and Ra.One. The last Hindi film I’d seen at the cinema before this one was Shahid Kapoor’s six-month long comafest Mausam, and I’d taken a 350 kilometre trip specifically to see that one!
Given that history, I was ecstatic at the idea of a Sallu blockbuster actually showing HERE, barely two kilometres from my house. After I watched and fell in love with Dabangg, my excitement at the thought of getting to see the sequel on the bigscreen the very next day hit mesospheric levels. The fall from such dizzy heights was truly epic – very much unlike the film itself.
Perhaps I am the jinx, my presence in the cinema guaranteeing that the film will be a disappointment, a yawning chasm of, well, yawns. Certainly that was true of Barsaat and Mausam. In my defence though, there was no way I could have foreseen that the one adjective above all others that summed up the sequel to Dabangg would be “boring”! It was everything the first film wasn’t, sadly.
Dabanng was lively, full-on entertainment, with a truly threatening villain, a love interest who rose above her role, and action scenes that were both fun and advanced the storyline. It also had an old-school item number that deservedly became an instant hit. Dabangg 2 on the other hand was limp and lifeless. Everybody in the film seemed to be going through the motions. The first film crackled with the sense that everybody involved was having a great time, the sequel sagged with the sense that everybody involved wanted to get their money and move on.
The sense that this film was little more than a cynical grab for cash was strongly reinforced by the outrageous product placement. I have worked in market research for 20-odd years and generally have no problem with product placement at all. But even by Bollywood standards the inept crudeness of the plugs for a phone and a money transfer service was breathtaking. Both those ads though, were at least brief – as subtle as being hit over the head with a hammer, but also as quick. The idea of a whole “item number” being dedicated to a brand of adhesive tape? Words fail me! In Dabanng’s item number Munni sang about having “Bebo ka attitude”, in Dabanng 2’s item number, Bebo herself turned up looking gorgeous and flogging sticky tape. A perfect encapsulation of what went wrong with this film.
In the first movie, Sonakshi Sinha was a revelation, transcending her almost non-existent role and making me care about her character. In this film, she became the cipher her character was written as in the first. There was no spark, no sense of the independent woman she managed to create in Dabangg. She, like everyone else in the film, seemed tired, flat and bored.
Both Dabangg films were created as Sallu vehicles – he is the reason for their existence, and both depend on him more than anything else for their success. The fact that he too seemed to be performing by rote guaranteed that Dabangg 2 would be a dud.
The film wasted its villains too. Prakaash Raj’s character never seemed to be a real threat to anybody, and the excellent Deepak Dobriyal was totally wasted as the lecherous brother. Instead of building a storyline around a conflict between Chulbul and a credibly frightening villain, the first half of the film followed the pattern of another Sallu film, HAHK – song after pointless song spaced out by a few minutes of go nowhere dialogue.
There were some funny scenes, especially involving Chulbul’s teasing of his stepfather with “Aasmaa”. The Aasmaa scenes during the end credits were my favourite bits of the whole film, actually. But occasional bits of humour couldn’t save this film, nor could the heavy reliance on flashbacks to the excellent first film. I can’t recall a film that used so much footage from its predecessor, but padding this film out like that did not help.
There were about thirty people in the cinema for this showing. It was only the third Hindi film here in ten years and of course, everybody there had already paid. Despite that, two people gave up on it just after where the interval would have been and walked out. I saw them go while I entertained myself tweeting about the film and checking Facebook, and did not blame them at all. The fact that the first sequel reached the level of unoriginality and tedium I normally associate with a second or third sequel pretty much guarantees that I won’t be watching Dabanng 3, even if they screen it in my garage.