Dabangg-3: A jaded sequel

Wanted (2009) and Dabangg (2010) were special films in Salman Khan’s career, given that they were instrumental in renewing his stardom that scaled greater heights. The former (a remake of the Telugu blockbuster Pokiri) was directed by Prabhu Deva and gave the initial push while Dabangg confirmed the dawn of a new era for Salman. Therefore, it is understandable why he chose to end the decade with another edition of Dabangg, with Prabhu Deva roped in to direct the franchise for the first time.

The story is set in Tundla (a town in Uttar Pradesh) where Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan), a cop, is currently posted. He lives his routine life that oscillates between romancing his wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), troubling his brother Makkhi Pandey (Arbaaz Khan) and bashing the goons that threaten law and order. While rescuing a bunch of girls from a treacherous flesh trade gang, Chulbul’s path crosses with that of Bali Singh (Sudeep). The two have a past history, one that is painful for the former and he is determined to exact revenge this time around.

Franchises generally opt for a sequel or a prequel while planning a fresh installment. With Dabangg3, it’s a mix of the two. A large chunk of the first half is in flashback mode where we get to see Chulbul’s naive younger days when he was his world revolved around Khushi (Saiee Manjrekar). The couple is madly in love and just when things appear to be smooth, tragedy strikes and the trauma leads our hero to become the rough-and-tough cop that he is today.

We are all too familiar with the Dabangg franchise by now. But the problem with Dabangg3 is the lack of conviction. One of the memorable sequences in Dabangg was the childhood storyline of Chulbul, and it set the tone for the remainder of the film. With that still fresh in memory, it feels awkward to see a romance-driven flashback as the major reason for the protagonist’s transformation. The writing is half-baked and doesn’t sync with the previous Dabangg films.

Dilip Shukla, the only common link to all the three Dabangg films, has scripted the latest installment with the dialogues being penned by Aloke Upadhyay. The writers seem to be lacking in creativity and are happy to feed off the Chulbul Pandey fanbase. Salman Khan relishes those roles where he can let his hair down and as Chulbul, he has always done just that. Here though, he appears jaded and a lot of that exuberance is missing. 10 years is a long time indeed.

As the young innocent Chulbul, he struggles to be boyish (he is no boy anymore after all) and you are reminded of his 2017 release Tubelight. What happened to the Salman Khan who did Bajrangi Bhaijaan? Maybe that innocence can be tapped only by a good director-writer combo. Prabhu Deva, whose career graph has gone downward, seems least bothered by the finer aspects.

The lagging runtime is another dampener. The lengthy flashback portions test your patience. Post-interval, things do get better with some entertaining scenes and raw action sequences but the pace continues to be unsteady. Sonakshi Sinha and Saiee Manjrekar as the two lead heroines in the film have nothing significant to do. As the menacing antagonist, Sudeep is fiery. The face-off sequences between Salman and Sudeep are quite energetic, and the climax fight does pack a punch. If only the scripting was more fluid, we could have witnessed a thoroughly engaging duel.

On the whole, Dabangg3 is a largely jaded sequel that’s better than its atrocious predecessor but is nowhere close to the original. It takes the audience for granted, lacks conviction and isn’t pacy enough.

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