When Sudeep, who plays the antagonistic character named Baali, arrives on screen and exhibits the villainy, we revel in his exemplary presence. In short, Sudeep shines in a Salman Khan film.
It all began with the humongous success of the first in the series of Dabangg. Salman Khan as Chulbul Pandey was quirky and funny. This idiosyncratic Indian cop from a rural part of North India had something about him that made him immensely likeable. The dialogues, especially, were hilarious. He, for instance, jocularly asks slim policemen to be on his left, fat ones to be on his right and fit guys to be right behind him only to realise that none of the policemen cared to follow the orders and ran past him. He also realises that he had just spent a huge sum of 500 Indian Rupees to talk only for a minute with a woman he loves. And, his English is rib-tickling too. (Remember what he says after shooting at the ground unbeknownst of the fact that the man lying on the ground, whom he was aiming at, has long run away? – “There’s always a first time, always a next time… next time”.)
Dabangg 2 tried to bask in the glory of its predecessor and was an absolute disaster. There was nothing new about it. It just used the story of Part One as a template. The Chulbul Pandey that we knew from Part One was missing. He was flavourless in Dabangg 2 to be precise. Dabangg 3, directed Prabhu Deva, attempts to address the question of ‘doing something new’. A subplot, which is a prequel of Part One, greets you here. But, does it work? The answer to this is a big “No”. Salman is colourless both as Chulbul Pandey and Karu Pandey (this Karu version is another trial to do something new-ish). The right question here would be – What part of this ‘prequel’ works? When Sudeep, who plays the antagonistic character named Baali, arrives on screen and exhibits the villainy, we revel in his exemplary presence. In short, Sudeep shines in a Salman Khan film.
More than Salman, it’s the Sudeep factor that gives us some respite from the state of boredom that the film leads you into. (The fast-paced narrative somewhat helps to keep you awake.) As Baali, his stare itself is spine-chilling. The danger is also felt in the background score whenever he appears. The camera shows him through the gaps of small Natraj idol and he looks ominous. He looks stylish as he, standing in front of a lady and not facing her, stabs her with one hand without any sort of remorse. He wears an evil look as a red light engulfs him while standing near a fire. He is also involved in a ‘dramatic reveal’ where, at first, his face is veiled behind a shadow and, later, he appears flying in the air.
Except for a couple of instances (The mistaking-balls-for-gulab-jamun scene and a cameo by Ali Basha are hilarious), the comedy is bad in the film. It feels odd to sit through a plethora of comedic scenes with the blank countenance.
The songs composed by Sajid-Wajid in Part One were captivating. Dabangg 2’s music album was a huge hit too. This third part lacks that magic. (Well, that iconic Dabangg theme music, that sounds like Bollywood version of Ennio Morricone, stays.)
The cameo of heroines in Dabangg franchise continues. Sonakshi Sinha, as Rajjo Pandey, had a charming disposition about her in Part One. The romance in that film was simply fantastic. But the sheer irrelevance of her character was palpable in Dabangg 2. In this third installment, not only the character seems irrelevant, but we also get irked whenever this character makes an appearance. An introduction of a new character named Khushi (acted by the newcomer Saiee Manjrekar who looks good in her short stint) doesn’t give the wings to the romance part either. It only makes matters worse as the Chulbul-Khushi love angle takes off just like that!
An interesting element, and the only lovely aspect in the film, is that ‘prequel’ itself. (Salman Khan himself has written the story and he seems to have gotten this prequel thing right in some ways.) It’s really not a perfect summation to the events of the past but has answers to some of the things about Chulbul Pandey that we liked in Part One. Why does he keep his goggles on his back collar? How did he come up with this infamous “Chhed Kar Denge” dialogue? How did someone like ‘him’ get into the Indian Police? Why was he called Chulbul after all? Dabangg 3 nicely creates a whole new universe for itself answering all of these questions in its own unique way.
Salman is revered by many. He understands that. He uses that to good effect. He, in the film, has conveyed several messages to his fans. Whether it’s ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ or ‘Dowry prohibition’ or ‘Women empowerment’ or ‘Stopping violence against women’ or ‘You reap what you sow’, he has all sorts of great things to say. As the film comes to a close, he even leaves us to ponder upon the possibility of his plunge into politics. But, will that be enough for the film to work?