If you watched the trailer and thought “I think I can guess the entire plot of this movie”, you are correct! You can guess the entire plot of the movie. But if you watched the trailer and thought “I’m not sure, I want to see it and see what happens”, or if you skipped the trailer entirely, you can skip this review too and just read the “no spoilers” version instead.
Whole plot in two paragraphs:
Salman and Sonakshi have a little boy, still live with Arbaaz and Salman’s Dad (now played by Prakash Khanna, Vinod’s little brother), and Arbaaz’s wife has disappeared and is not mentioned. Arbaaz is still working as a police officer with Salman and a young woman comes into the station saying she escaped from human traffickers who still have a bunch of young women on the outskirts of town. Arbaaz goes with her and Salman shows up after them. They arrest everyone, and then the big boss of the gang Sudeep calls Salman on video call and they are stunned to recognize each other. Flashback! Years earlier, before Salman was a cop, he fell in love with a young woman. They got engaged, with an agreement to wait until she finished medical school. But Sudeep also fell in love with her at first sight and decided he was going to marry her without even talking to her. He sees her with Salman and is overcome with jealousy. He kidnaps the girl and her aunt and uncle (the flashback reveals her aunt was Sonakshi’s mother, they were cousins), and then sends a video to Salman, bringing him there in time to watch them all die. Salman is framed for the murders and arrested, but in jail saves the life of a police officer who helps him get out of the court cases and into police training. He thought he killed Sudeep years ago right after he got into uniform, but now they are face to face again. INTERVAL
Sonakshi makes Salman vow not to seek vengeance or get angry because she doesn’t want to lose anyone else. And then bombs go off or something in the city? It’s never super clear but it seems to be Sudeep’s fault, and he has also arranged for all of Salman’s loyal officers to be transferred. Salman comes into work and declares he is still a police officer, meanwhile a bunch of bad guys break into his house and attack Sonakshi, he shows up last minute to save her once she takes back the vow. Meanwhile, Arbaaz has been recruited by Sudeep and offered a promotion above Salman and humiliated Salman in public. Sudeep pays off a bunch of police officers to help him transport a truck full of money, Salman fights back by stealing the truck and using the money to bribe the officers back to his side. Sudeep kidnaps the officers, Salman rescues them. Sonakshi is hit by a bomb? But is fine. Salman kidnaps the corrupt politician Sudeep is working with and gets him to give a video confession, then further records Sudeep killing the politician when he tracks him down. Sudeep realizes Arbaaz is working with Salman, kidnaps both Arbaaz and Sonakshi, and gets Salman to come rescue them. Salman reveals he secretly loaded the hide out with bombs in advance and sets them off, exploding EVERYTHING. While Sonakshi and Arbaaz roll their eyes about how he is taking so long to rescue them. Salman buries Sudeep alive, THE END.
So, the second half is kind of a mess as I write it out. The first half is tight though. Reveal that Salman had a tragic love story, the simplicity of Sudeep stalking and then killing her just because she rejected him, it all works. And there are some really nice little bits to it that fit with the overall story. We get to see Dimple again (yaaaay!) and we get to be reminded that Salman resented his place in the family as the stepson while his family actually did care about him and try to be fair. And we get to see Salman court this new girl in the same way he did Sonakshi, without hesitation or doubt but with deep respect for the woman. This time, they bring the proposal to her family, who aren’t sure since she is so young and Salman has no job, but Salman explains the matter of “dowry”. That is, she wants to go to medical school. Her aunt and uncle will be paying tuition, and that’s not fair, since eventually she will marry Salman. So while she is in school and they are waiting to be married, Salman will find the money to pay her aunt and uncle back. How sweet is that?!?!?! It’s not just reversing dowry, it has a logic to it. Salman’s family is getting the wonderful gift of a new doctor daughter-in-law, that’s not fair, to benefit from everything the aunt and uncle put in. Dowry should go the other way, you should pay back the girl’s family for everything they did to make this new bride so awesome for you. And this backstory all fits with the distinctive “Chulbul Panday” we know from the other movies, his determination to marry Sonakshi no matter what, and no long engagement. His attitude towards general morality, he would steal money from criminals and keep it for himself, but he would never accept dowry. There’s the blurred lines of good and bad, and then there’s the clear lines.
But the present day? I don’t even understand what all is happening. It starts out with the human trafficking, which expands to show how the politicians give them cover and Sudeep provides the terrifying muscle and reaps the profits. But then the bomb/riot thing barely starts and goes away, never to be explained. The idea of Sudeep having a gang of paid off cops that Salman then pays off to join him is good, but just a little plot detour and then it goes away. Arbaaz going undercover and pretending to be a resentful younger brother is great, but it gets a bit lost too. And Sonakshi is running in and out of there too, placing vows, and getting blown-up-but-not-really, and putting other vows, and so on and so forth.
Even when the plot is impossible, the spectacle is still fun. Explosions, fight scenes, songs, and so on. And as I said in the other review, Sudeep and Sonakshi are fabulous supporting players. So you can enjoy the first half for the logical progression and plot movements, and you can enjoy the second half for the randomness and the fun.
Oh, there is one thing I really don’t like, as a Dabangg series die hard fan. With this slight rewrite, Sonakshi is now the cousin of Salman’s first fiance, who was semi-arranged. Which means Sonakshi’s family must be equivalent caste to Salman’s family since it doesn’t come up as part of the engagement. And we see Sonakshi’s father as a happy healthy man, who starts drinking literally while watching his wife’s funeral pyre.
I hate this! In the first Dabangg movie, Sonakshi is a low caste potter. Her father has been an alcoholic her whole life. And Salman treats her with respect as the woman he loves and wants to marry. Not just that, as an artist who makes superior products! It was a moment of showing that his “breaking the rules” isn’t just an easy selfish character trait, he looks at society in a different way and just does not see or care about what other people think about. The offer to pay a dowry to his first fiancee fits right in with this kind of man. But the shift to make Sonakshi a nice respectable middle-class/high caste girl who just happened to go through a few years of a hard time retroactively changes everything. Blech!
So, yeah. Dabangg 1, really really great endlessly rewatchable super fun film. Dabangg 2, not as good but not bad. Dabangg 3, veering towards illogic and just not that good. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t give me much hope for the quality of a theoretical Dabangg 4. Although I will watch as many remixes of the title song as they care to make. It’s always good.