Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dabangg: A pleasant surprise

S and I, with our friend, Neel, watched the newest Salman Khan starrer "Dabangg" last night in a movie theater in Columbia, MD. Not particularly fans of Salman, we were nevertheless intrigued by the news that it had broken the record of 3 idiots in the first week alone; so we took the half hour drive and checked it out for ourselves.

With extremely low expectations of the movie, I was ready for anything. Generally, S and I have always trusted the movie reviews by Nikhat Kazmi, a senior editor with the Times of India, because seldom it has been that our experiences have not resonated with her write-ups. Ms. Kazmi gave Dabangg four stars out of five, and wrote a generally positive review about this Khan Family production (Oh, yes! Salman in the lead, with his brother, Arbaaz, playing the underdog, and a smashing item number by Malaika Arora-Khan, in this Arbaaz Khan Productions movie). We decided to take Ms. Kazmi's cue (as we have done countless times), and leave our brains at home.

Boy! Was there a pleasant surprise waiting for us! I am not ashamed to admit that we enjoyed every minute of it! Completely mindless, the movie had no pretension to any message or subtlety; it was just plain old story-telling in the late 70s-early 80s Hindi movie ishtyle... A larger than life Salman, unabashedly corrupt in his role as inspector Chulbul Pandey, but with a frank degree of Robin-Hoodiness that makes him difficult to dislike. A hackneyed tale of sibling rivalry, but Arbaaz - undoubtedly a good actor - expressed well the angst of the younger, weaker brother. Sonu Sood, with a sculpted torso (and sadly, chicken legs), settled well in the role of a believable villain. Most of the other actors were in cameo roles, sharing the screen for short periods of time. We were surprised to see Vinod Khanna after a long time, and Dimple Kapadia in a deglamorized, albeit significant, role. Special appearances were put in by Mahie Gill and Mahesh Manjrekar, as well as veteran actors Anupam Kher, Om Puri and Tinnu Anand. In presence of such established industry regulars, Shatrughan Sinha's daughter, Sonakshi, the lead heroine opposite Salman, held her own quite well - although a large part of her role consisted of her giving smoldering looks; she is pretty and emoted adequately when required.

The songs by the Sajid-Wajid duo were hummable (my particular favorite, the title-song, 'Udd, dabangg, dabangg'), sung by the familiar voices of Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Sukhwinder Singh and the distinctive Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Malaika was, of course, stunning as usual in the item number (by one Lalit Pandit), although the song somehow lacked her erstwhile Chhaiyaan-chhaiyaan magic. The fight sequences were well choreographed by S Vijayan; although almost all the signature moves (Matrix-type bends, leaps, falls, high kicks and punches) were reminiscent of similar sequences seen in Hollywood action movies, they were brought together into a cohesive whole that was thrilling. Salman also got to do his Hulk act where his shirt tears off and flies away - but a shirtless Salman has always been dear to the masses ever since his Maine Pyaar Kiyaa days. The dialogs were peppy and smart, very UP-Bihar belt type, with a surfeit of jokes that were sometimes downright silly - but they resonated well with the overall impression and flow of the movie. The cinematography by Mahesh Limaye was pleasing to the eye with scarcely a jarring moment, creating a nice, enjoyable visual experience.

It was undiluted fun! No higher cerebral activity involved, we enjoyed the thrill ride of Dabangg very much, as did the other viewers judging from their expressions.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In which I reason with my brother...

Yesterday I expressed my outrage on Facebook at two news items that were reported in the Times Of India - one about India still topping the list of highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and the other about the existence of an 'Untouchability fence' in Tamil Nadu. My brother, ever concerned about my health and well-being, took me to task for my comments, that seemed to him too vitriolic and negative (and therefore, bad for my health in the long run). He interpreted the comments as indicating that I was ashamed of where I am from, and counseled that respect is rare for people who reject their roots. He admonished me that if I felt compelled to post negative news and comments, I should demonstrate fairness by posting positive news also - perhaps thereby preserving some sort of cosmic balance, particularly since [he said] "No place is paradise and no place is a total hell". He also accused me of searching for "every ill on the planet" to comment upon (Just FYI: this is called the SIWOTI syndrome, "Something Is Wrong On The Internet") - which was still all right, but what shocked me was when he uttered this tired old sermon, "Be positive and solution-oriented, not negative and angry", very Deepak Chopra-esque in its vacuity and naïveté.

To a random pearl-clutching crank commenting thusly, I would say, simply, "f*** off." But this is no crank. This is my sharp-as-a-tack brother; he loves me dearly, and I have nothing but affection and admiration for him. And therefore, he deserves a reasoned response. I could start by counting off the interesting, heartening, even exhilarating news items that I have shared on FB, but that would be petty. Let me address the more serious questions.