Let me preface this review with a couple things. First of all, I enjoyed Dhoom 3 enough that I plan on going again tomorrow and will probably have more to write about at that point. The second thing is that I’m going to keep this review 100% spoiler free but I can guarantee you that not everybody is going to be so kind and I recommend staying away from reviews if you want to enjoy the film the way it was intended (aka without Taran Adarsh’s thesaurus-filled plot synopsis at the back of your mind.)
So with that in mind, do read on if so inclined but if all you want to know is whether or not to go see it, ask yourself this: How much do I like Aamir Khan? And then ask yourself this: Do I need every plot point in a film explained at great length or am I able to just go with it? If you like Aamir Khan well enough and don’t mind that A.C.P. Jai Dixit’s beat has been extended to Chicago for no particular reason, then you should definitely go.
It’s great fun.
As soon as I found out there would be a circus element in Dhoom 3, I knew Vijay Krishna Acharya would do right by me. Before there was mass media capable of giving us spectacle in every corner of the globe, there was the circus with its razzle dazzle show business magic and feats of human daring. Magician Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) often says that any type of performing art is really just an excuse for audiences to watch. There is something deeply interesting about other human beings doing things and if they’re doing amazing things like magic tricks and hanging from giant hoops on the ceiling, that’s all the better.
Vijay Krishna Acharya understands this fundamental appeal of circus. He also understands that the popular arts don’t need to be stupid or pointless. The popular arts can be beautiful and tell deep truths… if we let them. And this is how the film opens, in flashback, with three bankers watching the Great Indian Circus in order to decide to give them a loan or not. If the loan goes through, the circus goes on. If they don’t, the circus closes.
The owner of the Great Indian Circus, Iqbal (Jackie Shroff), feels the pressure intensely and puts on a wondrous show with his young son Sahir (this kid was fantastic but I couldn’t find his name). The final trick has Sahir disappearing into a trick box on stage and appearing on the other side of the theater impossibly fast. The young Sahir does so with all the charm and cheeky wit his little body can conjure, a not unconsiderable amount for such a little thing. Two of the three bankers lean forward in their seats, eyes shining, but the third is the one who matters--Mr. Anderson (Andrew Bicknell). Mr. Anderson gives Iqbal a withering glare and says point blank that he’s not getting the money. “This is not circus. Circus is stupid. Circus is a woman in a short skirt sticking her head in a hippo’s mouth.” Well, then. Game on, Vijay.
Without giving away too much, I can say that the basic plot of Dhoom 3 follows the other two as far as the cops and robbers go. Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra) head out to Chicago to go after a bank thief. There are disguises, bike chases, punch lines, and some crazy twists and turns. Aamir plays the grown-up Sahir and, as advertised, is the Clockwork Orange-style bowler hatted robber Jai chases after. Katrina Kaif plays Aliya, a dancer at the Great Indian Circus. And the other character worth mentioning is the American cop Victoria Williams (blond Australian bombshell Tabrett Bethell), who assists Jai and Ali in their hunt.
To a far bigger extent than even in Dhoom 2, Jai and Ali have become the comedy track in this masala picture, and I’m not sure how comfortable Abhishek is with that. The hero and villain and everything rolled into one of Dhoom 3 was Aamir Khan and Aamir gives everything to us in the audience. Abhishek gets in a few good scenes--his entrance is classic--but Vijay is pretty swiftly turning the Dhoom 5 parody trailer into reality. (“This time he’s not going to lose because he’s not in the film!”)
Jai and Sahir don’t have the same chemistry as Jai and “A” in Dhoom 2 but that’s okay. Cops and robbers isn’t actually the point of Dhoom 3. Enter Katrina Kaif who is given a ridiculous character as Aliya and just runs with it. Katrina doesn’t have many scenes but the ones she does have are some of the best in the film. Her face has lost the botox sheen and she just looks radiant. And, even better, our Boom girl has grown a lot as an actress and heroine. With just a flash of sunny smile and a wacky hat or two, Katrina gives Aliya a lot of life. She’s very well cast here and has great (and completely unexpected) chemistry with Aamir, who manages to wear some very tall lifts around her without looking too awkward.
I can’t say much about Aamir’s performance without giving away the plot but I will say that I thought he was superb. He’s not… sexy, like Hrithik Roshan or John Abraham, although there was at least one shot of the infamous abs that was quite appealing, but he certainly is charismatic and I enjoyed watching him. Much like Hrithik, actually, Aamir’s acting has never been about subtlety but about conveying something to the audience, emotion in this case, and he does it so well.
Although I did really, really enjoy the film and it had everything I was looking for in a Dhoom sequel, it’s not perfect. I wish somebody other than Pritam had done the soundtrack because the only song that stuck with me after the film, musically, was the jazzy “Tu Hi Junoon.” Mohit Chauhan’s voice just suited Aamir really well here. (I’m listening to it now.) And the motorcycle scenes were missing the Sanjay Gadhvi need for speed. There was nothing as inspired as Hrithik rollerblading down the streets of Mumbai. Vijay chose to focus more on the human drama than the action, which is fine by me but I thought I would point it out. Lastly, the Ali-Victoria flirtation could have been handled better. I’m not sure how much of this was down to Tabrett Bethell just being terrible at acting but every time it popped back up, I found it annoying.
So, there is the quick and dirty review of Dhoom 3! It’s not my favorite film of the year--that would be Bala’s Paradesi--but it is my favorite big budget masala film of the year. Thank you, Yash Raj, for giving Vijay Krishna Acharya another shot after Tashan (A FILM I LOVED THANK YOU VERY MUCH). And thank you Aamir for signing on to another big budget masala film and showing that popcorn films don’t just have to be about girls in short skirts putting their heads in hippos mouth. Popcorn films can have the girl in a short skirt giving our heartless neoliberal capitalist global economy a big “fuck you” before she puts her head in the hippo’s mouth. Dhoom on, friends! Dhoom on!