Prabhu Deva is a multifaceted talent who can act, choreograph and direct. Having helmed money-making masala movies such as Wanted (2009), Rowdy Rathore (2012), R...Rajkumar (2013) and Action Jackson (2014), he is directing Dabangg 3, which will fail only if it is an out-and-out worthless film.
Why are the chances of Dabangg 3’s commercial collapse so slim? The answer is simple. India’s film-going masses adore Chulbul Pandey, the cop from Laalgunj in Dabangg, the first film, who is shown as living in Kanpur in Dabangg 2, the sequel.
Chulbul's character is played by Salman Khan, who has been hugely successful by being himself in most of his films. The cop, however, is rather unique. His peculiar walk is different from Salman’s in his other films. The dialogue delivery is another indication of the megastar's desire for imparting a distinct identity to the character.
Abhinav Singh Kashyap, who had helmed Dabangg, had played a big role in the creation of Chulbul as we know him. The first part had established the character with its idiosyncrasies, which were in full public view once again in the Arbaaz Khan-helmed sequel.
Producers of Dabangg 3 (Salman, Arbaaz and Nikhil Dwivedi) have ensured that the plot of the third film remains wrapped in secrecy. The motion poster and the teaser released so far have 'Chulbulspeak' and nothing else. Several actors are reprising their roles, the list of which includes Salman, Arbaaz, Sonakshi Sinha, Mahi Gill and Tinnu Anand.
Dabangg’s screenplay was a series of set pieces focusing on Chulbul. The stepson of a self-centred father (the late Vinod Khanna), Chulbul mouths funny one-liners, takes on dozens of villains, discards his shirt to flaunt his rippling muscles, sings and dances, and falls in love with a pretty girl whom he meets in unusual circumstances.
Others such as his selfish half-brother Makkhi (Arbaaz) or the one-dimensional villain Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) have roles to play in taking Chulbul's story forward. That is why they exist.
Dabangg was a blockbuster because Salman’s fans were impressed with their beloved hero, who was playing a character like Chulbul for the first time. Other filmgoers flocked to the theatres since the cop was a comic protagonist of the kind rarely seen in modern-day Hindi cinema. Plus, the film had Munni Badnaam Hui, the item song featuring Malaika Arora.
After Kashyap decided not to helm Dabangg 2, Arbaaz sat on the director’s chair. Seen in isolation, Dabangg 2 with its gut-busting moments and two hit item numbers (Fevicol Se featuring Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Pandey Ji Seeti that had Malaika) was a decent enough commercial Hindi film. It suffered in comparison only because the screenplay rehashed the formula that had been used by its predecessor with such success.
Salman was, predictably, the primary reason why the sequel did great business. Others didn't matter, which applies to most supporting characters in Salman films.
Prakash Raj played the main antagonist Thakur Bachcha Singh, a weak stereotype in a film dominated by the larger-than-life protagonist. The presence of others, be it Chulbul’s wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) or his half-brother (Arbaaz) helped tell a new but similar Chulbul story.
Dabangg 2 evoked a feeling of déjà vu, and it seems that the third film will make history repeat itself. The motion poster and the teaser suggest that the makers haven’t tried to tell a Chulbul story with a touch of novelty. That isn’t good news.
The upcoming film may have pluses such as a better screenplay and a more popular item number. It may attempt to make Chulbul more attractive with better-written witticisms and more unrealistic, gravity-defying action.
Most viewers would, however, like to see a film with a new approach to storytelling. Have writers Dilip Shukla and Salman, along with Aloke Upadhyaya who has written the dialogues, made a conscious effort in that direction?
That seems unlikely, although the truth will reveal itself only after the film hits the marquee on December 20.