For those who thought Chulbul Pandey in Abinav Kashyap's Dabangg was wacky and fun only because Salman Khan played him, here is more spoof-proof in the sequel of how Salman adopts, embraces and assimilates the characters he plays until one can't tell the star apart from the character.
This is not to say Salman is a method actor. He's just the opposite. Chulbul Pandey, if ever such a khaki-clad law-enforcer ever, would want to be as chirpy and obnoxious as Chulbul Pandey.
So what does Chulbul do in Dabangg 2 that he didn't do in Dabangg? Nothing, and everything. There's more of everything in the sequel and hence a sense of deja vu.
The fights which begin, end and bolster the plot, are done with that irrepressible mix of guffaws and grunts that Salman patented in Prabhu Deva's Wanted. Indeed it wouldn't be wrong to say that Prabhu Deva was the father of Chulbul Pandey, in a manner of speaking.
Here of course in Dabangg 2 Vinod Khanna is back as Chulbul's father. The scenes between Salman and his screen-dad are written with a delicious mix of irreverence and affection. There is a hilarious encounter on the rooftop of their Kanpur home where son asks his sleepy, annoyed father about the deceased mother (Dimple Kapadia, a mere photo on the wall in the sequel).
And then Salman leaves in a huff saying, "Mom was right. You're no fun to sleep with. I am better off sleeping with my wife."
Ahem. Save the blushes for a rainy day. Salman's Chulbul gives us no time get bothered with niceties. Chulbul simply sweeps us along into a tidal wave of wackily written and executed action sequences undercut by a sharp sense of self-deprecating humour.
The storytelling is breathless. The characters can't really keep pace with the breakneck storytelling. They are underveloped and largely kept in the shadows to accentuate the hero's larger-than-life (though blessedly never larger-than-laughs) persona.
Sonakshi Sinha, of course, enjoys playing the seductress in the shadows. In film after film, she plays the dutiful beloved soul-mate to the macho-hero. And really, her sartorial styling and the designer sarees and backless blouses in a film that pays a lot of attention to mofussil modes is way-way-way over the top. It's hard to see her expressions beyond the eyeshadows.
That reminds me — Sonakshi shares the shadows with Arbaaz Khan who as Chulbul Pandey's brother is delightful daft and goofy.
The villains have a coherent voice (never mind their livid screaming) and more space to develop as characters. The plot goes into spasms of explanation as to why one of the villains Niktin Dheer needed to take off his shirt in the climax. Really, Salman's shirtless act needs no accompaniment.
Prakash Raj does his usual snarling sneering arch-villain act, no surprises here. Deepak Dobriyal who gets to die in a rather gruesome way in the irate Chulbul's hands, is sharp and cutting in his brief role. Some of Salman's subordinates in the police station are also engaging.
But make no mistake. This film belongs to Chulbul alias Salman from the first frame to the last. Salman goes through the motions without any punctuation except a string of exclamations. While the other characters remain dutifully tenuous, Chulbul's comic-book valour is highlighted unapologetically.