In defence of Dabangg, not Chulbul Pandey

September 23rd, 2010

Fearless Chulbul Pandey doesn’t need to be defended, least from a pen-pusher. He has the brawn to beat the guts out of an army of lesser mortals  like me. And then he has the guts to try similar stuff on screen that he (the actor and not the character) did last year with Wanted . Salman Khan has rocked the Box Office this season. Paeans have been sung and reels of newsprint dedicated to praise the ‘real’ macho man of our generation.

Then what is the point of writing this blog post claiming to defend Dabangg?

Actually I have not yet recovered from onslaught of Dabangg hysteria of the last one month (20 days pre-release and 10 days of post-release celebration). The film has been in news: First, Salman invited a controversy by putting his foot in mouth by making a politically incorrect statement on the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai and then Zandu Balm caused pain to the makers of the movie this week.

It might be needed to reiterate that Dabangg has received the best opening in the history of Indian cinema and despite the controversies managed to sail well in the first two weeks at the Box Office. For the record, the occupancy rate for the film across most theatres where the film opened was over 80 per cent (both multiplexs and single screens). In the first week the occupancy in multiplexes was around 55 per cent, which is considered good as the film recovered its cost and made money for producers and distributors in the first 5 days of its release.

However, a voice that was lost in the din of Dabangg’s  success ran parallel to the whistles and cheers, though too low in magnitude to be noticed. “Haven’t we seen Salman do that before?” the voice asked. No one denied that the songs were good and the packaging was rather sleek (a runtime of nearly 2 hours and almost perfect action sequences) but the voice could be spotted in multiplexes in the second week when the occupancy fell below 45 per cent.

People might argue that Dabangg is a film for the single screen audiences. To put the argument in perspective, today when the film industry declares a film as hit it mostly relies on the collection from multiplexes. India might have over 10,000 screens but today context more than 60 per cent of domestic theatrical revenues for Hindi films come from multiplexes, which are just over 800 in number in India. So a Hindi film producer can not claim to make a hit film if he intends to cater to only single screen audiences.

The case might be different in south India, but that is for later  discussions when Rajnikanth’s Robot releases.

It is indeed true that Dabangg could not have been the hit it became had it not been on Salman’s rippling muscles, but we must also not forget the brawny films he did in the early and mid nineties — Kurbaan, Veergati, Auzaar, Suryavanshi — and this year’s Veer, which were all flops.

There are talks of a sequel to Dabangg and your guess would be as good as mine on how it would fare on the Box Office. Last year we had Wanted and this year we grooved with Munni in Dabangg but I sincerely hope that Salman does not limit himself to the brawn genre as underneath those muscles he has a funny bone which too we would like to see like an Andaaz Apna Apna.