When Dhoom hit Indian cinemas, back in 2004, it was the first action film from Yash Raj productions in 16 years. Abhishek Bachchan played Jai Dixit, a tough, unconventional cop who recruits gang criminal Ali Akbar Fateh Khan (Uday Chopra) to help him catch Kabir (John Abraham) a bank thief. The film was a huge box-office hit, helped along by some memorable motorcycle chases and a killer theme tune.
A sequel soon followed, Dhoom 2, with Bachchan and Chopra reprising their roles (Ali now a fully fledged police officer) chasing not one, but two thieves, Hrithik Roshan as Aryan and Aishwarya Rai as Sunehri. Everything about Dhoom 2 was bigger and better, from the cast to the score, locations (including South Africa and Brasil), special effects and especially, the box office takings.
So, with the formula in place and the commercial track record firmly established, a third film was inevitable. Bachchan and Chopra are back again, of course, though this time they are in Chicago on the tail of a uncatchable and mysterious bank robber.
Suspicions soon fall on the incredibly talented musician and circus performer Sahir (Aamir Khan). We learn that Sahir lost his father, Iqbal Khan (Jackie Shroff), also a magician, at an early age. Iqbal took his life, after hearing that the bank was going to foreclose on his loan, thereby putting his theatre out of business.
Aamir Khan is well known to global film audiences, from his performances in Lagaan and more recently, 3 Idiots, which was the highest grossing Indian film of all time up until the release of Dhoom3. A lot of the film rests on Khan’s broad shoulders; you could say he has to do double duty this time around. His performance is, in equal measures, inspired and infuriating.
Unlike previous Dhoom films, which had plenty of screen time for the multiple female cast members, we see little of the sole female lead, dancer and performer Aaliya (Katrina Kaif). In fact, the signature Dhoom motorcycle stunts get more airtime, which is great for the franchise branding, but not much else, given the film runs for a staggering 171 minutes and the motorcycle chases, imaginative and preposterous as they might be, add little (the same can be said of Uday Chopra’s tired lady’s man routine).
There’s plenty about Dhoom 3 that frustrates. But, it’s not hard to see why this became the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time. Dhoom 3 is cinema unashamed of its desire to entertain and visually captivate, something “Western” critics sometimes miss about Bollywood. This is not the cinema of genre-constrained either/or, this is the cinema of both/and, both action and drama and romance and musical.
Looking through the progression of Dhoom, to Dhoom2 and now Dhoom3 is a small lesson in how much Bollywood big-budget action films have evolved. And, it makes a welcome change from the CGI-monster-driven, comic-book obsessed fare that has dominated a lot Hollywood’s action blockbuster offerings in recent years.