December 20, 2013
Vijay Krishna Acharya
Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, Guest appearance (no kidding!): Katrina Kaif, Additional guest appearance: Jackie Shroff
Hormonally charged chases, a good-looking and/or well-styled cast, eye-catching locations and suspense woven into a reasonably believable storyline – that’s all I wanted from Dhoom 3. What does it offer? All the above packed into the pre-interval portion, a neat twist right before the break, and then, pffffffft, it’s like the air has been let out of a balloon.
Let me not get ahead of myself though… In an audacious daytime heist at the Western Union Bank of Chicago, the robber outwits the police by escaping from one exit when they thought he was at another. The daring fellow is Sahir Khan (Aamir Khan) and though he’s inexplicably called Sahir The Clown Thief, he is in fact a magician and proprietor of The Great Indian Circus in the city. Since he leaves a clown’s mask alongside a handwritten message on the bank wall in Hindi, Indian supercop Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) is called in to help. Because there are no Indian cops in America? Jai lands in Chicago looking all suave and sexy in dark glasses, with his buffoon-like sidekick Ali Akbar in tow. A “love interest” is essential to the Bollywood formula, so to join his act Sahir auditions all the city’s “hot Asian ladkiyaan” (his hapless assistant’s words) before he finds dancer-acrobat-singer Aaliya (Katrina Kaif) who is like “liquid electricity” (his choice of words, not mine). The film’s first bank robbery and chase are well choreographed and exciting. The second too is good enough. But once Sahir’s great secret is revealed, Dhoom 3 is pretty much finished.
The big twist in the tale could also have given the film the sort of depth that one does not associate with the Dhoom franchise, but director Vijay Krishna Acharya (the gentleman who made Tashan) is so busy stressing style over substance that he forgets to cash in on this, the element with most potential in his story. Aamir is one of the industry’s most dependable actors, but here the effort to perform shows in too many places. In scenes that were clearly designed to be deeply emotional, I found myself too aware of how hard he was trying. The camera and costume heads too have a lot to answer for. There are shots where poor Aamir’s ears are distractingly prominent, sticking out goblin-like from the sides of his head. And what was the wardrobe team thinking putting a sweet-faced middle-aged man of slight stature into that black top, red pants (or were they tights?) and black boots for a song? Besides, after the break his mobike stunts get predictable; that initially intriguing motorcycle – Bond-like in its multi-purposeness – looses its sheen; there’s a needless use of slow motion; and there are only two more plot points that are sit-up-and-take-notice-worthy: two more twists I can’t reveal.
The irritating thing about Sahir is that he divulges his identity to the police when they have no reason whatsoever to connect him to the first theft, although it should have been obvious to him that figuring out his magical abilities thereafter wouldn’t really be that tough for a determined cop. As it happens, cracking his mystery proves to be almost child’s play for Jai. And no one else in the world had found out so far?! Baah!
Visually, the film remains attractive throughout. Chicago makes for a pretty location and DoP Sudeep Chatterjee does justice to its skyline and its many charming streets and bridges. The first presentation of Sahir’s circus act is spectacular, well shot, with stunning production design, supplemented by Dhoom 3’s most beautiful prop: Aaliya. Which brings me to an exasperating aspect of the Dhoom series: the dispensability of its women. The ladies from the first two films have been brushed aside like dandruff dusted off a shoulder with disdain; and Katrina here gets even less visibility than those white flakes might get on a black shirt. Her Aaliya is nothing more than a gorgeous decorative item in human form. As for her much-publicised dances in this film, well over the years Katrina has worked hard to master techniques, but she still lacks fluidity and grace. “Aur ek tum ho jo mujhe dekhta hai jaise main har sawaal ka jawaab hoon (You look at me as though I’m the answer to your every question),” she says to her boyfriend in what is one of the few memorable lines from the film. He seems to have no questions though, and so we get to know next to nothing about her.
Aaliya has company in the form of a female cop from the Chicago force whose job as the gori showpiece of the film is taken so seriously that she’s given more tight outfits than she has dialogues. She always does Jai’s bidding. At one point Jai issues this curt order to her on the phone, “Victoria, I need a chopper and a SWAT team at sunrise,” not a word more, possibly to give us some post-colonial satisfaction that a brown dude could order a white chick around, but more likely because it’s just so cool to get a man to treat a good-looking blonde policewoman as though she’s his hired assistant. Huzoor, you may as well have prefaced that command with “hey babe”. As it stands, the underlying sexism is laughable.
Dhoom 1 & 2 delivered on the promise of unrelenting entertainment. In Dhoom 3, it’s clear that the franchise is wearing thin. Ali is no longer amusing; he’s irritating. The emphasis on style has become cloying. The trademark impertinence of the lead crook is not in the least bit clever here since it proves to be his undoing. Music director Pritam doesn’t throw up anything particularly noteworthy. And if you intend to give each person a grand entry scene, you must rise above old-style Bollywood clichés: here, Jai drives an autorickshaw through a high brick wall and Ali drives a motorcycle through a hoarding shortly after he is introduced to us. How imaginative! Once the film stops being interesting, it’s also hard to let go of what might otherwise have seemed like minor irritants, such as the fact that Jai and Ali don’t once wear helmets when they’re driving motorbikes in Chicago.
Having said that, it’s got to be conceded that the first half of this film is fun. Post-interval though it crumbles under the weight of its lightweight screenplay. Dhoom 3 is an underwhelming experience!
Rating (out of five): **
Footnote: The object of Sahir’s hate, the head honcho at the bank he robs, is called Warren Anderson, which was the name of Union Carbide’s chairman at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy. Was it unintentional or meant as a cheeky aside? Either way, I got a chuckle out of it.
CBFC Rating (India):
Poster courtesy: Yash Raj Films