A child is kidnapped. The goons are menacing.
Suddenly the ground starts to shake; is it an earthquake? A herd of wild elephants maybe?
“Oh no, it’s Chulbul Pandey,” says head goon, right before the man in question slams through a brick wall, then lunges out of an airborne car onto a suspended one, which then crashes to the ground in a haze of splintered glass.
Indeed, seeing is believing.
This is Salman Khan in the flesh, as raw as he can get and just as corny.
The action man reprises the iconic role of Chulbul Pandey that turned him overnight into a force to reckon with and kickstarted his second innings at box office gold.
The new and improved version is still that lovable Robinhood man in uniform, with several moments of heightened Kung-Fu Pandey-ness thrown in to pepper up the proceedings.
The sequel to ‘Dabangg’ picks up a few years after the first one left off in Lalganj, with Chulbul now living in the city of Kanpur, playing life out like an Ekta Kapoor serial, complete with wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), father Prajapati (thespian actor Vinod Khanna) and brother Makhi (director Arbaaz Khan).
Chulbul retains his supercop status, which he transferred with his reign of terror to Kanpur, along with his ability to break out into item songs at a whim or spout cheesy oneliners when threatened.
Bad guys drop like flies in his shadow, while female journalists swoon starstruck when he stops for a soundbite. But amidst this daunting persona, Chulbul is still your proverbial paradox who fears the wrath of his Rajjo.
However, his hot headed ways haven’t sat well with head don and local politician, Bacha Singh (Prakash Raj), who makes it his life’s mission to destroy Chulbul after an eve teasing incident sees his brother die at the hands of the supercop.
Fisticuffs ensue, blood spills, while brains and brawn are put to the test in gravity defying fight sequences that could even put Bruce Lee to shame.
While we have seen Salman do a lot of this in his last few films, the monotony has yet to set in, at least with the ‘Dabangg’ series, courtesy the dimensions of his character that have been allowed to breathe freely in the sequel.
Credit here goes to director Arbaaz and the writers, who take a shallow film like ‘Dabangg 2’ and transform it into a wholesome watch, with pockets of emotional quotient and depth to its characters and relationships.
Chulbul’s once tumultuous bond with his stepfather is now one of love and respect, with the duo sharing some pleasantly surprising father-son chemistry that turns the action man into a vulnerable child who’s been emotionally starved for a family.
Meanwhile, the camaraderie between Rajjo and him is just as charming as it was in the first innings, with Sonakshi proving an absolute delight on screen who somehow manages to marry conservative coyness with passive aggressiveness that only a wife can master.
How you wish there was more passion to explore in the film’s two-hour runtime, but Sonakshi is saddled with a song and dance routine through most of ‘Dabangg 2’, which leaves pretty less screen time for her to mouth many dialogues.
The other disappointment is the film’s hesitancy at exploiting the real-life chemistry between brothers Salman and Arbaaz. While we at least saw more of the latter in part one, the sequel has swatted Makhi out of the equation, which was probably the case considering Arbaaz has donned the director’s hat here.
Indeed, with his debut behind the camera, Arbaaz took a safe bet to bank on his much popular brother to tide over any technical difficulties he may face with filming. For the rest, he roped in Kareena Kapoor to sex up a sizzling item song with ‘Fevicol Se’.
But credit where it is due, ‘Dabangg 2’ could’ve just as easily turned into a hotch potch of Bollywood action and kitsch, much like the recently released ‘Khiladi 786’, but Arbaaz somehow manages to restrain himself and Chulbul, which is by no means an easy task.
Having said that, one can only see the cash registers ringing for ‘Dabangg 2’ in the coming weeks. If it beats the record of its first outing, we wouldn’t be surprised. This Kung Fu Pandey at his best.