Monday, January 6, 2014

Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and other things that bugged me about Dhoom 3

Okay, so I think this post may win for “biggest delay in posting about a new movie.” About four days after watching Dhoom 3, I was like meh, I don’t know that I’ll blog. And I was told nah, you still should. And so I started one, and never fleshed it out much. Well, after nearly three weeks, I don’t know whether you’d call this a real review of Dhoom 3 so much as a me describing a few things that have continued to bother me when I think about the movie.

Synopsis: Like all Dhoom movies, there is Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali Akbar (Uday Chopra) chasing down a bad guy on a motorcycle. This time, the bad guy is Aamir Khan playing a circus performer by night and bank robber by day because that bank wanted to repossess the circus building owned by his suicidal father (there-too-briefly-to-be-cringeworthy Jackie Shroff). Adding the necessary estrogen (or at least the necessary female figure to drool over) is Aaliya the acrobat (Katrina Kaif).

Much like Chennai Express earlier this year, Dhoom 3 falls into the category of film (or director) famous for one type of movie meets star actor famous for another type — a recipe, they believe, for a blockbuster. But that is instead a recipe for unfulfilled high expectations.

Dhoom is a great franchise. Aamir Khan is a great actor. But the two do not mesh well.

When you stop to consider it, the Dhoom franchise is far more villain-centric than anything else. Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra are the recurring heroes, but they’re hardly the stars. No, the featured faces on posters — the ones that draw you to the theaters — are John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai (okay, pseudo villain), Aamir Khan.

These are somehow the ones we root for.

That tradition Aamir gladly keeps alive. But the problem is that it’s not in Dhoom style by being an awesome villain. It’s with a lot of emotional melodrama meant to make you pity his character. For example, instead of presenting us with a villain who enjoys thieving for the challenge of it (like Hrithik’s character in Dhoom 2), this time we’re given a villain who robs banks because he has a personal vendetta against them that is explained to us in the opening sequence.

*Spoilers below*
Though a double role as twins isn’t a step away from previous Dhooms (like Bipasha Basu in Dhoom 2), the ones Aamir plays only compound the mess. The reveal at intermission is a truly marvelous twist to the plot, but that’s pretty much where the goodness ends.

Sahir angry! (All the time...)
Sahir is sort of boring on his own, running around looking constipated most of the time, but the portrayal of the second half of the villainous duo is probably the most uneasy part of the whole thing. Samar is a secret that somehow manages to stay kept throughout the brothers’ childhood after their father commits suicide — how two preteen brothers, one mentally handicapped (presumably autistic), survive like that in a foreign country (and particularly Chicago, no less) is anyone’s guess — and from all of the circus workers who build and/or see his unnecessarily complicated escape route. (Samar seems perfectly capable of walking down some stairs in a secret passage rather than being slow-mo transported in a metal box like a dangerous animal.)

Maybe even inferior to the child actor’s performance, Aamir’s mostly smile-and-stutter portrayal is neither overly impressive nor really necessary for the plot (compare it to SRK in MNIK, for example, and it comes up way short). And especially given that this is the same man who made Taare Zameen Par to champion the kids with learning disabilities, that gives you great pause.

Smiling, so you know who this is...

It also raises some questions about why Samar who is unable to tie his own shoes is able to deftly evade police on motorcycle, jet ski, etc. And why, if he is, he takes the bus everywhere else on Sundays.

I realize it’s too much to ask from a masala movie to make perfect sense, but it isn’t too much to ask for one to not make you uneasy and cause frowning or head scratching every two seconds.

And since the first film, Dhoom has given us villains who boldly sacrifice themselves rather than being arrested. Dhoom 3 is no different. But Dhoom 2 ended with hope, a tale of plotting and daring escape. There is no such hope at the end of Dhoom 3, and I can’t help but think it would have been nice. Instead we get a half-assed display of brotherly love that seemed absent the whole movie and really benefits no one in the end (except perhaps Aaliya, Katrina Kaif’s character; see below).
*End spoilers*

Moving on from that, there was another major part of Dhoom 3 that has been nagging me.

Women have been somewhat marginalized in the Dhoom series — Jai’s irritating wife, Sweety (Rimi Sen); Sunera (Aish) who ends up little more than a pawn between male cops and male thief; potentially kick-ass cop twin Sonali is injured, made a failure, traded in for bikini-flaunting dumb beach bunny twin Monali (both Bips) — but perhaps nowhere moreso than in Dhoom 3. Sweety has entirely vanished, without even a passing reference. The female cop this time: a dumb blonde even more inept than Sonali, who has like two lines (one being that she “understands some Hindi,” though she clearly doesn’t) and without any hint of plot logic whatsoever hangs around Jai and Ali’s flat in skimpy clothing, “helping” with the investigation long after that pair has been fired.

And then there’s Katrina Kaif.

This outfit. ARE YOU SERIOUS

I think it goes without saying that this one also runs around half-clothed most of the time — the fairly logical part of it is when she’s a circus performer (although her first outfit is literally made to look like she’s wearing zilch but rhinestones over her nipples and crotch); the nonlogical part is when she’s pedaling a bicycle around the windy city with half a shirt and the world’s shortest shorts. But to make matters worse, she has fewer lines than unapologetically objectifying dance numbers, the most egregious of which is her introduction song, in which she literally comes in taking her clothes off, swinging around poles and flinging her legs open. (Only slightly less egregious is her writhing around in a pink bra and an open, wet T-shirt for part of Dhoom Machale.) This is the girl who caused a hubbub when she signed a no-bikini clause? I’d rather have seen the bikini.

And at least Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu served roles in the plot. Katrina’s only role in the plot is to expedite the antiheroes’ downfall. (For this, btw, she most likely inherits a circus. Bravo, girl.)

*spoilers* And on that front, we never even get to see her realize that Sahir and Samar, whom she is supposed to love, are different people! Seriously. I felt robbed by that. That is an important factor in the plot, let alone the romance! *end spoilers*

At least the acrobatics are nice.

Ahem. Anyway, if you can ignore those things — which, as I have mentioned, have continued to nag at me — Dhoom 3 is a decent time-pass. There are some fun chases, a decent plot and of course a circus (or at least acrobats…). I’ll admit the acrobatics are pretty darn impressive.

But overall? I think it may actually be the weakest link in the Dhoom trilogy.