In typical Bollywood fashion Dabangg, directed by Abhinav Kashyap and staring Salman Khan, covers a variety of different plots; including romance, crime, revenge and comedy.
However the main plot revolves around a police officer Chulbul Pandey (Khan) and his family including his step brother Makhanchan (Makkhi). Chulbul makes an enemy of a corrupt politician Chedi Singh, who decides to destroy the Pandey family one by one. Chulbul and Makkhi then take revenge on the politician after finding out that Singh killed both their parents and blew up his political opponent, using Makkhi as an unwitting bomb delivery man.
Bollywood is hard to review from a western perspective because it is just so different from standard Hollywood story telling. The film is governed by an emotional logic that is entrenched in Indian culture, so there are some leaps that western audiences have to make in order to follow the story and become invested in the characters. That is not to say that it is worth making those leaps, because Dabangg is wildly entertaining.
Though the song and dance numbers, the over the top action, and elements of comedy provide effective distraction, elements of the film, and also a lack of somethings in the film, reveal a very dark undercurrent to the narrative.
Romance has always been a big part of the film story, especially Bollywood film. The development of a releationship between the two leads told in song and dance is always a big crowd pleaser. However in Dabangg, an action/revenge film, it feels tacked on and underdeveloped, almost as if it is a convention that the film cannot part from. Similarly the treatment of the female lead Rajjo that perhaps reveals the misogynistic problems in the film. Rajjo is virtually absent from the main story, she is threatened with violence over payment for a pot, and most telling, after her father dies, Chulbul interrupts the mourning presiding telling Rajjo to stop grieving the death of her father and marry him.
As already mentioned our hero and main character Chulbul Pandey is a police officer,
battling a corrupt politician who killed his mother and stepfather. However alongside being an overtly misogynistic character, Chulbul or as he likes to call himself Robin Hood, is also a corrupt and violent police officer, who takes money from criminals (that he doesn’t give back to the bank), he shoots his own men and abuses his power to marry himself at his brother’s wedding, and this man is our hero. It certainly says something about an Indian society that they would accept a corrupt policeman as the wholly good hero against a corrupt politician as wholly evil.
The high production values and the upbeat songs of Dabangg only partially cover up a film with troubling implications. Though this critic is unsure whether the film is being critical of the society it seeks to portray or not, what is clear is that there are some societal problems that lead to a misogynist corrupt police officer being the hero of a film made in the 21st century.
Credits and Stats
Directed by Abhinav Kashyap
Produced by Arbaaz Khan, Malaika Arora Khan and Dhillin Mehta
Screenplay by Dilip Shukla, Abhinav Kashyap
Starring Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadi and Anupam Kher
Music by Songs Sajid-Wajid, & Lalitt Pandit
Background Score Sandeep Shirodkar
Cinematography Mahesh Limaye
Edited by Pranav V Dhukar
Production Company Arbaaz Khan Productions
Distributed by Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd.
Release Date September 10 2010
Running Time 126 Minutes
Budget ₹420 Million (US$ 6.2 Million)
Box Office ₹2.15 Billion (US$ 32 Million)