DABANGG - Blu-ray review

...a perfect masala entertainer.

rpruthee's picture

"Why do you wear your sunglasses at the back?" -- Dayal Babu
"So that I can keep an eye at the front and at the back" -- Chulbul Pandey

No doubt, 2010 has been a banner year for Bollywood in terms of revenue generated at the box office. Even though "3 Idiots" was released in the Christmas week of 2009, it generated a chunk of its revenue in 2010. After "3 Idiots" was declared the highest-grossing film in India, the South-Indian superstar Rajnikanth showed his star power in a sci-fi action thriller, "Enthiran" ("The Robot" in Tamil, 2010). The film smashed all box-office records, making it as the biggest hit of all time. While Rajnikanth toppled Aamir Khan, Salman Khan's "Dabangg" ("Fearless" in Hindi) quietly surprised everyone with its success at the box office in the summer of 2010; as they call it in India, a "super-duper" hit. The film's smashing success during its run brought Salman Khan's dying superstar image back to life. The resounding success means that Salman Khan now belongs in the upper tier of Bollywood superstars that currently includes Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Saif Ali Khan.

It is interesting to note that the top three all-time movies in India are all different movies not conforming to any specific style. "Enthiran" was the first genuine attempt in India at the sci-fi genre with its ultramodern, special-effects presentation; "3 Idiots" narrates the lives of individuals against an urban backdrop; and "Dabangg" is set in a rural region with no whiff of modernism. But at their heart, these movies have one thing in common: They are all entertaining and appealing at the same time. Nonetheless, "Dabangg" sticks to the Bollywood "masala" formula, yet with a lot of flair and heart. Stylistically, the film borrows several elements normally seen in a South Indian movie, especially in the execution of over-the-top extended action sequences. With its punchy dialogue, "Danbangg" is more of a tasteful parody on rural Indian life than anything else.

The film's plot is pretty straightforward. After the death of his parents, Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) lives with his uncle, Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna), who despises Culbul's presence in the house. Chulbul routinely fights with his half-younger brother, Makhanchan Pandey (Arbaaz Khan), on relatively minor issues. Prajapati's wife, Naini Devi (Dimple Kapadia) understands Chulbul's behavior and occasionally supports Chulbul, even at the expense of making both Prajapati and Makhanchan unhappy. We see Chulbul as a police inspector, and even though he is financially independent, Chulbul still continues to live with his uncle. Along the way, Chulbul chases a group of bank robbers who stole money from a local bank for their political gain. Leading the pack of robbers is a local goon, Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood), who uses all his powers to eliminate Chulbul. Chedi uses the tension between Chulbul and Makhanchan to his advantage and asks Makhanchan to join his gang. Meanwhile, Chulbul falls for a local village girl, Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha). Chulbul is soon pulled into the world of love and later marries her. Finally, Chulbul's family is pulled in Chedi's scheme, resulting in fighting and bloodshed.

"Danbangg" takes a simple plot and introduces uniqueness to the overall experience with its over-stylized action, understated comedy, and superb dance numbers. What's more, the film uses realistic rural elements in the plot like the dialogue, the names of characters, and the family upbringing seen in villages.

First, let's talk about the action. Within the opening moments, the film takes us right to a railway station, where Chulbul is fighting with the robbers. When I first viewed this action sequence, I was totally blown away by Bollywood's attempt at creating its own version of "Matrix" style action sequences. Chulbul is no ordinary inspector as he possesses superhuman fighting qualities with deadly instincts. He can swing the robbers, make them stop halfway, kick them all over, and then drop them yards away. You see the slow-motion technique used to energize and to bewilder us, and it works remarkably well. There are many segments like this, with some action scenes running a little longer than desired.

There is no attempt to develop the comedic moments; instead, the film banks on a specific style of spoken regional dialects. You derive fun from how the characters interact and react to certain situations in the story. In fact, Khan is so convincing with his serious tone in some lighter moments that you giggle in the end. Overly dramatized or unneeded comedy segments are never forcibly presented. The names of the characters are funny, too. Chulbul means "something mischievous," and it is normally coined for a baby girl. Likewise, Makhanchan is a typical rural name meaning "beautiful like butter"; and then you have Naini, another conventional name given to a female, which means "eyes." Laugh all you want, but they are actually some of the names used in rural India. Funny as the names sound, anytime the characters are called by these names, you only wonder if these are really realistic names or deliberate satire. I think it's both.

Even before the film's release, the songs became massive hits with the masses in both rural and urban India. Two chart-toppers, "Tere Mast Mast Do Nain" ("Your Two Beautiful Eyes" in Hindi) and "Munni Badnaam" ("Munni's Bad Reputation" in Hindi), have found their way to discotheques, automobiles, marriage ceremonies, radio stations, and YouTube.

However, in spite of several entertaining positives, the story line lacks depth and meaningful characters, apart from Chulbul's character. The story's predictability and simple characters bog down the family drama. The filmmakers have tried to use the same formula that made "Om Shanti Om" and "Ghajini" big hits. "Dabangg" brings in a superstar in the lead role, with a new female lead, and a relatively unknown actor as a villain, along with the inclusion of a strong supporting cast.

Of course, Salman Khan holds the entire film together, and this is the first film in a long time where I actually liked his performance. He keeps it simple by working with his strengths and by occasionally underplaying his character. He doesn't overact or bore us with soap-opera moments. He knows how to entertain an audience, and that results in wholesome entertainment for anyone watching it.

Big Home Video (a division of Reliance Industries) presents "Dabangg" in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded on Blu-ray using an MPEG-4/AVC codec. First of all, the 1080p transfer has a deliberate dusty appearance, partly to represent a rural landscape; the palette is not vibrant, as you would normally see in a big-budget Bollywood movie. Colors pop up now and then, but mainly in the songs; blues, oranges, yellows are some of the colors you see that are bright and solid. The print is crystal-clear, with no trace of any abnormalities. The transfer is crisp for the most part, but in a few instances I found the level of detail to be inconsistent; the close-ups are sharp, but long shots are on the soft side. Skin tones are realistically represented, as well. Overall, this is a soothing-looking transfer that looks really solid.

Big Home Video includes a lossless 5.1 Hindi DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Surely, "Dabangg" comes to life in this track. The speakers remain active throughout with crisp dialogue. Explosions and dance sequences leave a rumbling effect on your ears. The dance numbers trigger the rear channels, with "Munni Badnaam" sounding rapturous. Overall, this is a well-balanced track that perfectly represents the film's sound design. Also, the film can be viewed with English subtitles.

Starting off, we get a regular making-of featurette in which the producer, Arbaaz Khan (Salman's Khan brother), Salman Khan, and other members of the cast talk about the plot, the locations, and Chulbul's characters. Following this, there is a making-of-the-songs featurette in which the filmmakers talk about the set design, dresses, and music in the film. The extras end with a photo gallery.

Parting Thoughts:
Last summer, "Dabangg" was a smashing success at the box office, primarily owing to the presence of a charismatic star, Salman Khan. Featuring catchy tunes, a trademark rural setting, and a realistic depiction of regional languages, "Dabangg" never becomes a burden during its two-hour running time. It has all the ingredients of a true summer blockbuster. The film is hugely entertaining and only confirms Khan's stature as a superstar; how long Khan can hold on to his newfound superstar status depends on his future projects. Salman Khan, wearing his goggles at the back, has become another cultural icon in India, just like Aamir Khan's signature scare in "Ghajini." The sequel to "Dabangg" is already confirmed, but the release's timeline hasn't been firmed up yet. This Blu-ray is a solid-looking package with a splendid-looking transfer and a fantastic-sounding lossless track.


Film Value