Rowdy? Unsteady? Go!
Director: Anees Bazmee
Actors: Salman Khan, Asin
The climax of a film like this is always special. In Dabanng, the hero had shoved a tractor's exhaust pipe into the villain's mouth, the screen had turned red, and the hero had torn his 'wife-beater' vest off in ways of the former WWE star Hulk Hogan.
Here the same hero (now called Prem) fights another villain (in Rastafarian dreadlocks), with a rose. He strikes the strongman with flower petals. The fellow goes off flying to a pillar. His shirt gets shred into bits and pieces.
At this point, one of the lackeys in the hero's crew screams, "Prem, isse accha mauka nahin milega (You won't get a better chance than this)." Better opportunity for what? Yeah: to take his own musky, thick sherwani off, finally reveal a shaved chest, chiseled biceps for the first time on this screen, as crowds at my theatre go berserk to a collectively strange, anticipated moment of male erotica. Well.
This is the corny, cultural, popcorn empire of King Salmander. The film stars Salman's friends, brothers, in cameos (Arbaaz, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, the Katrina Kaif look-alike Zarine etc), and as many buddies for punters and producers (Sohail, Ponty Chadha, T-Series…). I'm at a theatre aptly called Gaiety, a shanty single screen in a shady corner of Bandra - an otherwise tony suburb in Mumbai. I feel lost among little kids, sweaty young boys in tight Ed Hardy T-shirts, Pathani suits, salwar kameezes, amidst a sea of burkhas.
The city by now probably has about a hundred multiplexes. Gaiety, part of the legendary G-7 (a seven single-screen theatre complex), down a dirty gully, facing a noisy railway track, remains still the most reliable barometer for this nation's entertainment buzz. The supposed under-classes here have traditionally figured out the fate of a film on its first Friday for years.
The movie breaks into a song, with inspired poetry: Dhinka chika dhinka chika... The hero puts his hands in the pocket, twirls them around; gently slaps his bum. He starts dancing outside a "house-full" board of a film called Ready, within this film! Audiences again break into a riot, crazy cacophony. The noise could be intimidating to the uninitiated. You can barely hear yourself. Between the action sequences, one-liners, songs, and Salman making an entry in slo-mo in almost every scene, anything else you may hear about this critic-proof flick is of unnecessary academic interest alone. Yeah, shit happens. So does a huge hit.
If you must know, Sallu plays a bigda hua (spoilt) son to parents roughly his own age. He lives among naughty uncles and subservient aunts. A girl (Asin) -- from a warring family of dons -- lands up at his house to somewhat seduce him, and warm up to his family. He's looking to marry a girl who's khurraat, kameeni and honhaar (a mix of good and bad). The girl's just right for him. He then slips into her Mafiosi household to set things right.
There are loony dons. There's joint family. There's wedding. It shouldn't take you long to figure the film's been directed by Anees Bazmee (Welcome, Singh Is King, No Problem, Thank You). The material supposedly belongs to a Telugu film. So do the movie's sensibilities. This is how Bollywood blockbusters got made (or remade) in the '80s. Only they're set abroad now. Budgets have gone up by a few times. Films are roughly the same.
One Ram Pothineni plays hero in the original Ready. Salman is at present the closest North India might get to a Rajinikanth. He doesn't play a role. The character plays Salman. Sometimes he doesn't bother lip-synching to his own lines, wanders around disinterestedly, often looks straight to the camera that's as much in love with this casualness. Stardom's cyclical. Akshay Kumar had a similarly inexplicable run around 2007 (Bhaagam Bhaag, Bhul Bhulaiya, Namastey London, Welcome), until, for the same unknown reasons, he just ran out of luck (Tashan, Chandni Chowk To China, Kambakht Ishq, Blue, Tees Maar Khan, Khatta Meetha...).
Salman's re-grounded masala (Wanted, Dabanng) is still novel for the time being. He walks into Gaiety to briefly say hi to his audiences. There's a special NGO screening for the underprivileged (like me). This is the pocket where Salman's truly King Khan: whistles, roars, hooting never stop. The mayhem's hard to describe. It's a pop-cultural experience all right, and fully worth it. Unfortunately, there's also an entire film to sit through. Ah, my neck hurts!