She was 14. He was the first man to take her breath away. He is back in form. She is back in love. But something is missing says Fatema Kagalwala

Posted: September 16, 2010 by moifightclub in bollywood, film, film review, reviews
Tags: , ,

Why ? Read on.

Let’s call it observations…

I love paisa vasool cinema. The front-bencher, seeti-maar type. The brazen ‘I am what I am, take it or leave it’ type. And if it has Sallu in an earthy, small-town part then I suck my teeth hard in anticipation. After all, at 14 this was the first man in my life to take my breath away.

Over the years, especially the last five or so he began to take my mind away and I relegated him to a parenthesis in my Bollyland likes.

But when the news of Dabangg hit the film circuit my ears perked up. No, I am not a dog, what I meant was I was all attention. Unusual name, small-town setting, earthy appeal (It looked like that at first!) and Sallu in a mouche! Touché! (No, I am not KM either.)

So the wait was a WAIT. Long-time since I had really waited for a film to release. Hud, hud Dabangg, Dabangg, Dabangg and Munni Badnaam Hui were playing endlessly in my mind.

Cut to stalls in a single-screen theatre, first day first show. I was tucked in quietly like an abla naari in a corner seat among jeering, leering, cheering crowd unable to hide her own enthusiasm. The audience was on an incredible high, catcalling and hooting much before the film had started. Even on trailors. If a director of those films had sneaked in to see audience reaction to his trailor, they just might have gone home thinking he has struck gold. No, the fact is Abhinav Kashyap, Salman Khan and Dabangg have struck gold.

Dabangg turned out to be an unabashed entertainer in love with its own gimmickery and un-self-conscious style. Sallu made me fall in love with him all over again, mouche and all.

He came striding against the sunlight in slo-mo against a thumping ‘Hud., Hud’ score and I knew I loved him again…you know that feeling…when you have loved with the gush of first love, heart beating at every phone ring, blushing-by-his-mere-mention type of love everyone scorns but secretly wishes for…and then you grow up and become all like a dry leaf with a stone for a heart pretending to be ‘mature’ but one day you meet that guy who made you understand the magic of spring…he looks different but that boyish charm is still there and you don’t know if he has changed…or forgotten…and you don’t know if you have forgiven…but then he smiles and you smile back and in that moment you love him again…a different kind of love that will remain and will now keep beating silently next to your heart asking for nothing…Well, I got carried away there, but you understand. Yes, I was back in love with Sallu. With that kind of love.

And Dabangg IS Sallu.

In marketing terms it means a repeat of the mad success of Wanted but in cinematic (I cringe to use a dignified word as that but I can’t find an alternative) terms it means Salman can get away with whatever he does.

I smiled and grinned as much at his antics, silly, stupid, oddball, endearing and all along enjoying the audience antics too. (This guy in formals sitting next to me evidently had bunked office to watch ‘first day first show’ kept dancing and laughing his guts out and every time he laughed he looked at me to share the joke. Quite cute. The ‘mature’ woman that I am I never looked back.)

But Dabangg works not because Sallu can get away with anything. It works because only he can do what he does. And he does it best here, by far. THAT is charming.

We have enough superstars who think they can get away with murder because their name sells, (AK, SRK, this K that K) and Sallu was one too until Dabangg happened. I mean, not that he is humbled or anything, anything but. I mean he kept committing murder till now and after a long long time has redeemed himself. Somewhat.

So what if it was with a film that had no story.

I can hear you waiting to shout, ‘you expected a STORY?’ What’s WRONG with you?’

But I thought that was the minimum I could expect, nai? Especially from a dhamaal, chavanni chhaap entertainer like Dabangg? (To be frank guys, I was expecting a LOT more but I always give credit where it is due.)

But I was willing to give up anything but not the small fact that it had a story missing…because it not only killed the film for me (I am a big girl, I can handle disappointment, you know.) but it killed itself. You know when a child has brilliant potential but he squanders it as he grows up by making the wrong choices? How do you feel when you look at that grown up? I felt the same way…

And why did I feel it let itself down when it promised dhamaal and gave dhamaal? I will illustrate with an example, the only one that has been continuously on my mind since I watched it. The 90’s saw a class act in the form of David Dhawan’s ‘Aankhen’. It starred three monkeys but what a show all three of them put up! As silly, stupid and oddball as it could get. Sometimes so slapstick you wanted to slap your forehead in frustration. But the film worked like a charm. Was it because of the charm of the central monkey who is still that generation’s Hero No.1? Not quite, it was because the film had a story and a crafty screenplay.

Dabangg did not have a story or story idea leave aside a screenplay. Its creative brief was ‘Salman Khan as he is’. For a ‘Coolie no.1’ or ‘Aunty no.1’ its ok. But it would have been criminal if ‘Aankhen’ went that path. All of us still love ‘Coolie no.1’ and ‘Aunty no.1’ (Oh, shut up, we all do. Next time, you are drunk tape yourself and listen to it the next morning!) but not as much as we love ‘Aankhen’. I loved Dabangg as much as I loved ‘Coolie no.1’ when it could have become an ‘Aankhen’.

Story-telling is an art fast dying in Bollywood. Style, technique and botoxed heroes are taking care of the gap.

But what was it that made kitsch so cool back then? Indraneel, one of the commentators makes a great point here. Kitsch entertainers were so superbly entertaining because side-characters were equally well-fleshed out and supported the hero every step. Same goes for the villain. In Dabangg neither the side-characters left an impact (and that was because of the way they were treated) nor did the villain. The enmity between the characters of Chhedi Singh and Chulbul Pandey was almost an after-thought, because the romance angle and father-son trouble angle ran out of steam. But WHY did they run out of it steam when each angle hand enough potential to contribute to making a complete enetertainer? Because the focus was the hero and nothing else.

Sad, when Salman Khan can be so much more than Salman Khan is. Oh, keep the chappals in control, he can. Of course he is not great, is often lazy but he is not as limited as he has been type-casted as. Not only is he a malleable actor, he is also is a class entertainer. He has vulnerability, can cry MUCH better than SRK and get into a character MUCH better than Aamir (even if its only of ‘Prem’, its STILL a character). Oh, and Sonakshi Sinha and he make a great pair I must say. Well, mostly because the way she has been styled. That sex appeal was electric and I was wondering, was it the same woman who looked so ‘saas-bahu’ type in pics??? And Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna made me interested to watch the dynamics of a small-town middle-class family. Arbaaz Khan was err…never mind, and Mahi Gill made me cry. Not because of her great acting, but because of the miniscule role this super-talented girl was relegated to. Does the industry really have to be so unfair? I won’t even talk about Anupam Kher, Om Puri and Murli Sharma’s roles…

And so after, all my rambling the point is, the film is a super-hit, the audience tore a lot of clothes (and my eardrums) and Sallu is a hit hero again after a series of flops.

But there is also a tiny point we miss out on, in this hullabaloo about Sallu. (Hey, it rhymes!:D) Dabangg is made by a debutante director whose first film is so assured it does not seem a debut at all. The choices he makes in story-telling (or rather whatever is there of it) are discussions of another day but the promise he shows is a gleaming hope for the otherwise gloomy Bollywood horizon. Because this kind of film is the toughest to make AND pull off. You see, all of the old guard have become senile and the new guard knows nothing but malls and the other section who knows tons more will not touch Dabangg type cinema with a barge pole. So it’s heartening to see that there is still some hope for the regular badnaam masala Hindi film.

Just next time, Abhinav, please remember to put in a story. More than anything else, I think you deserve better.

And Sallu, you deserve much better too. And so do we. Keep our hopes alive!

  1. Alok says:

    absolutely brilliant. yaar, seriosuly kamaaaal likha hai..jai ho 🙂

  2. kartik krishnan says:

    hmmmmmm story story…The Robert Mckees, syd fields, Lajos eigres were also kicked out of the window by Sallu bhai i guess. Don’t have anything more to add on Dabbang more than what’s being said everywhere … Just a few digressions

    Btw – few reccos for you – Dulheraja (superb Govinda-harmesh malhotra-kader khan-johnny bhai & even mohnish lusty behl). They even got the Keshto mukherjee lookalike’s character worked out 😛
    Haseena maan jayegi – Sanju baba, govinda, kader bhai, anupam, paresh…david dhawan in form … Ek baar dekhiye to sahi …
    Jodi no 1 could pass off too … Oye Control Yaar !!!

    Though a question – Regarding Aankhein, i thought the story taking a serious/thriller suspense turn of raj babbar look alike, radha seth, dead govinda etc etc became unnecessarily too serious IMO. Kahe ko unnecessarily genres mix kar rahe ho ? If you’r pointing out at that, I found it the weakest point of aankhein. Khama-kha serious ho gayi picture.

    However – i think it was Raja Babu where everything fell into place – mixing the sentiment-drama (or melodrama or what u will) with comedy & then the action climax. Raja babu is the better ‘Aankhein’ for me…

  3. kartik krishnan says:

    Oh and Sallu crying vs SRK crying. Did you see the Sallu crying in Hum dil… climax ? And SRK saying ‘Pal main paraya kar diya babuji’ to AB in K3G …. tough choices to make.
    Let me add up AK’s two memorable crying sequences –
    1. “Cheezein bigadti jaa rahi hain. Main khada khada tamasha dekh raha hoon. Jaise DJ ti koi aukaaat hi nahi hai”
    2. “Ek glaas paani milega ???” – TZP

    Saif’s crying ??? Check out one of the deleted scene from omkara when saif is crying in front of ajay devgan – talking about betrayl in love ….

  4. Rajan Joshi says:

    I am huge Salman fan just like you are. And eh I totally second every line of what you said… Dabangg could have been so so much better… If Salman wishes too he can leave competition far far away, but he has to wish to for that…..

  5. Akshay says:

    Great Take.Sallu can kick ass.Hoping for better movies from him.

  6. arijit says:

    Totally agree with you…I had gone in expecting to see something similar to an Indian spaghetti western film but if you look beyond the styling there isn’t much. In trying to pay tribute to 70-s cinema it keeps committing the same mistakes that 70-s cinema was guilty of. And too many songs kill the film…there are long stretches where practically nothing happens (in westerns also this holds but these periods are held together either by good acting or heavy stylization or a brooding tension). I also never felt attached to most of the side characters. Even if most of these were taken out the film would still be the same I guess.

  7. Fatema says:

    Alok – 🙂 glad u enjoyed it!

    KK – Agree on the reccos, I’ve enjoyed the ones you mention too. There are tons more that work. Picked the ones I did because IMO within that genre they come at the lowest rung yet entertain.

    As for ‘Aankhen’, I think its smarter than Raja Babu even though it might go bit awrily serious especially because it squeezed in so much yet managed to draw u in and make u stay. And formula IS mish mash of genres and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it if you can make it work.

    As for the crying competency or rather competition…well…shield yourself from my fangs cause I militantly disagree with everything you’ve said on it. Salman in Hum Dil De.. climax may make you wince (he made me too) but that was bad treatment not capability. Like I said he is lazy but check out his crying scene in Dabangg when he finds his mother dead. A bit abrupt or rather switch on but when he did switch it on his crying was heartfelt. Pity is he doesn’t do that all the time. He used to in his early films but that guy is no more.

    But the difference is try as much SRK and AK CAN”T do it. By no means are they lazy. By god both of them try hard to convince but the thing is neither of them have it. They just don’t. SRK can’t cry to save his life. He just contorts his face and the glycerine flows. And AK is forever trying to get into his character, even after the shot is canned. He killed the particular scene u mention from TZP just because of this sheer inability. Look closely, throughout the scene he is thinking ‘ab isko kaise bolu, isko aise emote karu ya waise?’ By far he is the best in RDB and yes that scene in the car is convincing! Wonder how ROPM got it out of him.

    And Saif is a class apart. Not in the league of SK, SRK or AK. He is much better than them but lacks that overpowering persona which all the three have and that is why he still remains under-exploited. But btw, IMO he was better in Parineeta than in Omkara. Not to take away from his class at but the latter was inherently easy to do because it was so different. Parineeta he had to play a normal guy yet he was true to Shekhar and brought him alive like I don’t think anyone else could have.

  8. Fatema says:

    Arijit – I wouldn’t say it makes the same mistakes of the 70’s and thats why doesn’t work. I’d say it doesn’t realise what made those films tick, doesn’t understand that sensibility to use it well in tune with our times.

  9. Thanks Fatema for mentioning moi. Yes, we have discussed Dabangg threadbare, but now let me just touch upon Vinod Khanna. What is this senior citizen doing?? Wanted last year and this now?! Or does he owe the House of Khans something? Why.. So pathetic was his state that he cannot even smile genuinely when both the guys are getting married..wonder whether he has lost his acting ability or were all the earlier directors big time magicians, Gulzar saab jawaab dein?

  10. Anand Kadam says:

    about crying….i dont think saif is better than aamir….saif was embarrising in that scene in hum tum when he is drunk and ranting ….he is good though in intense or cool dude kinda roles….aamir ofcource was amazing in that RDB scene……and i am not sure about SRK he haams up while crying..yes..but just check that scene in kabhi haa kabhi naa wherein he is playing the mouth organ and crying..he was too good then also the water scene in swades…….and pls sallu cant cry to save his life he is better left out of the comparison….

    • darkndusky says:

      @Anand…thanks for saying that SRK was good in KHKN and Swades….I loved him in those and in Chak De his Suriji act in RNBDJ….He needs to work in better movies for us to see his abilities…..

  11. jfc says:

    ” Like I said he is lazy but check out his crying scene in Dabangg when he finds his mother dead. A bit abrupt or rather switch on but when he did switch it on his crying was heartfelt”
    i swear i laughed with bunch of others when salman cried in that scene in dabang..u gotta be fucking kidding me ..

    agree with kk about aamir’s crying scene though…he does evokes everyone’s emotions when he cries on screen

  12. afzal says:

    I definitely can’t agree to you all. Dabbang is the height of mediocrity. There’s a few laughs here and there in the movies, otherwise, it’s an yawning experience.

  13. Sunil Sharma says:

    I am a Sallu Fan, I liked WANTED. I enjoyed discussing WANTED scene by scene with Friends. I waited for WANTED sorry DABANGG sorry SALLU. SALLU released in cinemas, I went on the very first day. I tried to enjoy cos its cool to enjoy DABANGG, everybody likes DABANGG, they all talk about it. I tried to be a part of the SALLU BHAI HORDE. I was fooling myself. I didn’t like it, but I said,”Kya movie hai yaar!” I hid my disappointment, cos its cool to like DABANGG!

  14. sahil says:


    definitely dont agree with u on salmn’s crying scene in dabangg,though i tried hard to like dabangg but that scene made me hate it even more, infact it reminded me of sohail’s crying scene in heroes. But its no point talking with a fan girl.On the other hand check out aamir’s closeup scenes in DCH, 2-3 scenes it will definitly move u. what makes u think saif is a class apart? really? 1-2 good movies here and there doesnt make him class act.

  15. Fatema says:

    Tsk! Tsk! Where is your sense of humour guys??? C’mon, I am not saying Kashmir should be handed over to Pakistan because it is a better country, am I? But then I am just a fan girl talking…

    @FC – Next time I am doing a post on why Emraan Hashmi is a better lover-boy than SRK! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.