When classroom texts on marketing Hindi movies are re-written, they will all without a doubt offer chapters on the global phenomena of Dhoom 3, now the biggest box office hit in India’s history. Underneath the record setting box-office hype, however, there is an action movie that keeps intact all the tell-tale signs of successful, albeit formulaic, Hindi filmmaking that happened to get all the stars, the stunts and cash-registers aligned just right.
Set in Chicago, for Vegas-style stage show operator Sahir (Khan), the only thing that matters is settling a score against a bank that once turned down a crucial business loan for Sahir’s father (Shroff). When a rash of bank robberies break out in Chicago, local authorities reach out to Mumbai cop Jai Dixit (Bachchan) and his dim-witted assistant Ali (Chopra) for help in catching the motorcycle-riding perp. For Sahir, who moonlights as the masked motorcyclist, things get even more complicated when he hires the attractive Aaliya (Kaif) as his stage companion.
What Dhoom 3 does well is the franchise’s calling card—the numerous stunt scenes that capture edge-of-the-seat thrills. The many motorcycle chases on the many bridges that span the Chicago River, jet ski chases in the river, helicopter chases, a va-voom roller-coaster ride and camera work as it follows circus stunts are fun to watch while they last. When they end, there are the gaps we must address.
Where Dhoom 3 is lacking, is the chemistry between the leads Khan and Kaif. It is unfortunate that anyone who steps in as leads in this franchise—and it would be foolish to think there will not be more Dhoom installments—will be held up to the sizzling Hrithik Roshan-Aishwarya Rai pairing from Dhoom 2 (2006). Also, if there is a crime in Chicago, why does the fuzz from Mumbai have to be called in? There must be a detective or two free to investigate bank heists in the Windy City. Finally, for all the maddening rushes to get the heavily-armed police commandos on the chase scenes there are surprisingly very, very few bullets actually fired—for an action movie that is sacrilege.
Yashraj is amazing at marketing their movies. Dhoom 3 was released in over 4,400 theaters worldwide—just one of the many records the movie set. However, even with all of Yashraj’s marketing muscle, Dhoom 3 was picked up in only two—yes, two —IMAX screens in the United States: one each in the secondary markets of Seattle and Tallahassee. As far back as 2001, when Yashraj floated Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, it was screened on IMAX screens in several cities, including Chicago’s Navy Pier IMAX screen, where only one show sold out even with a premium ticket price of $25.
Music director Pritam has a knack for grooves that have hooks that draw in the listener with guilty pleasure—we really should not be enjoying the umpteen avatar of the Bhangra-tinted Dhoom title track this much, should we? No, we should not, and yet here we are! Pritam reworks the “Dhoom Machale” refrain in one way or another into every song on the soundtrack. The standout tune is “Malang,” engulfing Siddharth Mahadevan and Shilpa Rao’s torchy pipes that rise above the circus stage where the song is staged. In addition to being one of the best songs of the year, it is also one of the finest stand-alone dance videos. The song alone is worth the price of admission.
Lebanese singing sensation Naya’s version of “Dhoom Machale”—available only on Youtube—is a fun one-world testimonial to the global demographic reach of Hindi movies. This, no doubt, also added to the Dhoom 3 marketing mystique that had the movie break all previous box office records set for Hindi movie releases in India, the Middle East, Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand and South East Asia. In line with Hollywood’s highly successful Fast & Furious franchise, Dhoom 3 could just as easily have been christened Furious & Fast: Chicago Drift.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.