Early in Dabangg 3, Salman Khan’s character is chatting with his subordinates when he makes what may seem like a throwaway remark, “…hum class aur mass, dono ke liye kaam karte hai” (I work for the classes and the masses). Since “class” and “mass” are words used by the Hindi film industry to informally categorise sections of the audience, this is obviously more than just a casual comment – it is an allusion to Khan’s success across social strata since he turned out the blockbuster Wanted in 2009.
The effort to retain his cross-sectional appeal is evident throughout this dated, dull and clichéd film, which is what makes it such a mish-mash of conservatism and liberalism, almost amusing in its confusion.
Dabangg 3 marks Khan’s third screen outing as Chulbul Pandey, the comic-serious policeman who has no qualms about circumventing the law to serve the common people. In keeping I suppose with Hollywood’s trend of serving us origin stories of superheroes, this Bollywood venture is about how a useless, purposeless fellow called Chulbul became the chap we now know him to be: a destroyer of evil who is ever ready with a self-deprecating joke or gesture. By Film 3, he is the ASP of Tundla, still married to Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), a father, and up against a human trafficking don called Bali Singh played by Kannada star Kichcha Sudeep (his name is spelt as Sudeepa here).
The writers’ please-all aim in Dabangg 3 leads to many scenes of unwitting irony. Such as when Chulbul speaks of respect for women and gets furious at men who refer to women as “maal” just moments after he is shown dancing to the song ‘Jumme ki raat’ from the 2014 hit Kick in which Khan’s own character had picked up Jacqueline Fernandez’s skirt with his teeth without her knowledge and followed her while dancing. Then there is Chulbul taking a purportedly feminist stand on dowry and women’s education even as he describes himself as the “rakhwaala” (keeper) of a woman he intends to marry. The self-consciousness and duality of his liberalism become exhausting to watch after a while.
Equally exhausting are the rusty dialogues filled with rhymes, many failed shots at clever wordplay, some scenes of double entendre and others of downright crudeness.
Sample: Chulbul saying, “Hum unhi ko tthokte hai jo zaroorat se zyaada bhokte hai” (I only bump off those who bark too much).
Sample: Rajjo telling her husband, “hamare petticoat mein chhed mat karna” (please do not pierce a hole in my petticoat) when he snatches it away from someone who was fitting a drawstring in it, at which point hubby eyes her suggestively.
Sample: a random character who randomly enters a toilet where Chulbul’s brother is doing potty, at which point we are subjected to gurgling potty sounds.
Sample: Chulbul impaling his butt on a nail.
Sample: a bad guy’s crotch falling on a dagger.
Sample: Chulbul dropping his pants by mistake when he takes off his belt to whip someone.
Sample: Chulbul shooting a junior who asks how he can get a promotion.
All these scenes are designed to elicit laughs.
And then there are lines like this that are no doubt meant to sound smart but do not: Chulbul saying, “Ek hota hai policewala aur ek hota hai goonda, hum kehlate hai policewala goonda” (there are policemen and there are hooligans, and then there are those like me who are police and hooligan combined).
The story is not even worth recounting. It feels like a bunch of disparate ingredients hurriedly thrown together in a cooking pot. So does the music by Sajid-Wajid who have in the past created so many memorable tunes for Salman Khan starrers. Here they first recycle the Dabangg title track, then deliver two numbers that sound like first cousins of ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ from Dabangg, one terribly boring song in which Chulbul romances Rajjo and – c’mooon, they’re not even trying – ‘Munna badnaam hua.’
The SFX are bad. Even the choreography has nothing new to offer, which is odd since the ace choreographer-cum-dancer Prabhudeva has directed this film.
As far as acting goes, Khan’s charm wears thin as he tries hard to resurrect that unusual blend of gravitas and humour that worked so well in Dabangg in 2010. Here he comes across as almost embarrassingly juvenile.
Sinha has little to do but pout and look pretty. Her Rajjo is also throw up in their air by a massive explosion that somehow leaves her makeup completely unscathed. Why is this talented women wasting herself so?
An unimpressive newcomer called Saiee Manjrekar gets a large supporting role to which she lends nothing but her smooth complexion and lovely figure. The rest of the cast hams shamelessly.
Anyone who has seen Sudeep in his Kannada films knows that he has the charisma to match Salman, but he does not stand a chance here in Dabangg 3 in the face of a sketchily written character which does little but showcase his towering physique.
There is so much tomfoolery and immaturity in this film that the climactic fight sequence comes as a shock. It is so grossly violent and in-your-face that I could barely bring myself to look at the screen. And of course because it is a masala film by a commercially focused director with a major male star as the lead, it has been given a UA rating instead of the strict a it deserves.
And no guys, it is no longer entertaining when two male actors with fabulous bodies take off their shirts for no reason to engage in fisticuffs. This was a fun device when it was first introduced, especially because for decades before that, male stars had been completely careless about their bodies and it was assumed by both the industry and audiences that only women can and should be objectified. Now though, it is a boring formula. Gentlemen, we love the fact that you work out, so get your scriptwriters to find a more imaginative way now to let you display your sexy torsos, please?
Somewhere in the middle of Dabangg 3, Rajjo tells Chulbul that she will never again force him to take a ’70s-’80s style kasam (oath). Never mind the context. I do wish Bollywood would take a kasam here and now to lay Chulbul Pandey a.k.a. Robinhood Pandey to rest.