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Image Credit: Supplied

The ‘Dabang’ series are getting progressively worse, but Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s appeal and charm in a snug cop uniform remains undiminished.

The age-defying actor, who plays the cheeky police officer Chulbul Pandey, dominates every frame in the third instalment of the ‘Dabangg’ franchise. He tries valiantly to heave life into a tired action-adventure template that relies on his skills and charisma alone.

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The usual tropes like Khan being the irreverent-but-honourable police officer Chulbul Pandey trying to save his women and the day, a morally bankrupt villain, a couple of hapless damsels and half-a-dozen songs are all intact. He’s a modern superhero without the cape or spandex, but is a sweet saviour armed with enough bombastic one-liners to make your ears bleed.

There’s nothing new or inspiring in ‘Dabangg 3’ and the degree to which you will enjoy this film depends largely on your devotion towards Khan.

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If you adore him blindly, then you may feel on top of the world after watching this bloated film. If not, you may find it hard to endure this traumatic, masala-fuelled action adventure.

‘Dabangg 3’ is a prequel of sorts and takes you back in time about how the larger-than-life cop Chulbul Pandey came to be.

His grand love affair with a woman Khushi, a forgettable debut by Saiee Manjrekar, forms the backbone of the third instalment. But that strand of a story hasn’t got much heft to keep us engaged. How long can you marvel at Khan’s effortless histrionics? The women in the ‘Dabangg’ series are eerily similar. They expect Chulbul Pandey to be their saviour and don’t have much agency of their own.

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The number of times you see women from ‘Dabangg’ being hung by toxic villains will make your head spin. At one point, even Salman Khan’s character observes about his enemies targeting his wives consistently. Come up with something new, he snarls at the villain. Our sentiment exactly as we sat through the 150 minutes-long drama. ‘Dabbing 3’ will remind you of an archaic ‘80s Bollywood potboiler.

Actor Arbaaz Khan, who plays Chulbul Pandey’s stepbrother, is serviceable in his part. South Indian actor Sudeep manages to hold his own as this lethal villain who has a mass grave in his backyard. His paths cross with Chulbul Pandey when he sets his eyes on Chulbul’s lover Khushi (Manjrekar). He doesn’t take to rejection well and his way of gaining closure is barbaric and violent. His character is pure evil and there are no layers to make his putrid behaviour palatable.

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Actress Sonakshi Sinha, as Chulbul Pandey’s loving wife, is a convincing presence. Compared to Saiee Manjrekar, Sinha leaves a better impression. Her catty courtship with him is suitably engaging. But what lets ‘Dabangg 3’ down is a familiar story and a narrative fractured by multiple songs.

Bite this bullet only if you are fanatical about Khan and he can do no wrong in your eyes. For those who don’t wear those starry blinkers, sit this one out.

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Film: ‘Dabangg 3’

Director: Prabhu Deva

Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sudeep and Saiee Manjrekar

Stars: 2 out of 5