I was lucky to be outside Kashmir when Salman Khan starrer “Dabaang” was released for it was a movie worthy of being watched in a cinema hall for all its TNT gauge action and beautiful heart stirring music, except the “Munni Badnaam” song which made me feel cheap as an audience although the whistles blowers and front-seaters had their day.
I am not an eager Bollywood buff, but this particular one, “Dabaang”, had me on the hook ever since I first watched the trailer featuring Salman Khan wearing cool sun-shade gear with a bubbly heart beating inside the boundary of the lenses. To be frank enough, I wanted to know where the pumping hearts came from. Was it an ordinary reflection or some hi-tech shades that were yet unknown to the lead consumer.
Oh, well the music did also get me started as did the hollering dialogue delivery of Salman Khan. On securing a berth for myself in the theatre during the first few days from the release date (there was a monitored houseful for the several weeks to come) I walked out happy, I must say. It was quite a treat for me as I am always out to catch anything that depicts how the society has gone awry and how much all of us, common people, pin our hopes on a “modern messiah of the masses”.
“Dabanng” occurred to be an action packed Bollywood blockbuster with throbbing music, great lyrics, a respectable screenplay and debauched dialogues. It was a movie of the masses. The masses loved it. But why, beyond the featured shades perfectly reflecting pumping hearts, did “Dabaand” hit the high notes. The critics did not stop short of calling “Dabaan” script-less and unappealing but then out critics don’t make our movies rise up, the masses do.
At the end of a tiring week, or a wrenching day, what does the common man want, besides some decent food? An entertainer, by all means and since we have come a long way from the snake charming and monkeys reaching out for the dough days, it is time for the cinema! The masses are always looking for an entertainer and an entertainer spells something that takes away the stresses and aches for a few hours and sends the audience shouting out real high pitch and laughing off their ends, or else better still “switching roles”.
Yes that is what it is all basically all about, “switching roles”. You are not in it yet you are there all the time. The average audience wants to feel like the “hero”, run like the “hero”, yell like the “hero”, fight like the “hero”, fall in and out of love like the “hero”, smash the bad guys to smithereens just as the “hero” does on-screen and walk out happy at the end. I am not talking working class here but rather each one of us “who loves street food and doesn’t fear being infected by germs and stuff”, aims to make people happy but no matter what you do you never land on the better side; you always end up disappointing.
Make the employer happy and the family is “sick”, make the family happy the employer is “sick” and this is where a flick comes in real handy. It is called “transference”. You step into your “heroes” shoes without even having to step into them. Cinema brings you the ultimate “virtual reality” without the gadgets.
So when Salman hits the screen, hurtling the bad guys out, it is you and me in the frame. Given the bad reputation the police in the country has earned among the citizens, especially the underprivileged ones (although I am of the belief that privileges don’t work their nasty magic once you are in police custody and I have a good deal of friends who were roughed up despite their “brass and tacks” connections) owing to all the “good work” they have done.
The poor man fears the cane- bearing, khaki clad man rather than feeling secure in his presence and when Salman does the hitherto unknown while wielding the uniform and the tags, he becomes someone each one of us, the common people want the man in the khaki to be, compassionate and working the load off with the bad extortionist sent spiralling out of the social scene with a whopping punch or a stiff kick. The audience sees Salman as their saviour and saviours the taste of “Dabaang” and no matter what the critics say, the common people are fed up of the obscure term “security” and want their end even if it is pretentious and acted out on screen.
Salman as the saviour of the masses, the good-hearted, bad tempered cop, and his likes are what tempts the Indian audience to spend a hard-earned 100 bucks or so out on entertainment, if we may call it that, as it happens to be a lot more than that. It happens to be a magic potion that flows its way out of the cinema screen right into the hearts of the audience and their hearts in turn make them laugh out loud, yell out, say the foul words, and whistle at top pitch. It is the ultimate short-lived, encapsulated exemption from the living hell that life has become for the masses in the country.