by Luv Mehta
Dhoom 2 is, if you have any doubts even after seeing the title, the second movie in the Dhoom series. It’s an interesting trio of movies, with each being quite different from the other. The first is more of a standard heist movie with bikers introduced for some sweet chase scenes, while the third completely ignores the heist part to focus more on the antagonizing forces in the movies and their backstory. It’s the second, however, that I’ve watched more than thirty times, and am mildly (or, in the words of my friends, unhealthily) obsessed with it.
I wanted to talk about why I like it so much - but I couldn’t really put much of my reasoning into words. Frankly, the only times I’ve written anything nowadays have been when I’ve composed mails in the office. Life’s moved on like a racecar on a highway, and I’ve been chained to its bonnet as dragged behind it all the way through.
But as I opened the Google docs tab on my laptop at night, ready to write something, anything, no matter how rushed it was - the transformer in our locality went off with a silent, unassuming boom, and I was left in a PG room, with the lights and fans off, and a laptop with steadily decreasing battery. So I went to sleep, woke up the next morning, and spent the whole day touring Bangalore, with a mobile at 3% battery capacity and no one to accompany me but my thoughts.
Here are those thoughts, compiled below.
Chapter 1: Yaas Queen
Within the first five minutes of Dhoom 2, Hrithik Roshan’s character, an enigmatic thief who loves wearing disguises and goes by the uninspired name “Mr. A”, disguises himself as the queen of England, gets on some royal train in the desert, steals some priceless trinket, then gets on top of the train, throws all the royal guards that follow him off the train, and then surfs down the train rails and off a sand dune.
As we, the viewers, try and recover from the sensory overload and ridiculousness of it all, a cool electric guitar wail plays over Hrithik surfing over sand dunes as each letter of the title routinely bursts on to screen, right up until the 2 shows up. The music goes into overload, with a whole orchestra of drums and claps and a choir of singers raising their voices and sustaining a single word.
Or, at least, something to that effect.
We generally use the word “awesome” these days to refer to something positive, something we find brilliant and remarkable. The word itself, though, can be used to refer to anything that inspires awe in us - not necessarily because it’s great or horrible, but possibly because it’s overwhelmed us, and put us in a status of disbelief that something like it could ever exist.
The five minute opening scene of Dhoom 2 certainly inspires awe in me. It’s audacious. It’s ridiculous. It’s implausible and illogical. It’s amazing.
I think there’s one thing in online film criticism that’s had a negative effect on movie-watching as a culture - we tend to dismiss movies that aren’t trying to be intelligent. This is the era of CinemaSins, where a small ding will ruin your scene in a YouTube video if your human character does something impossible. This is the age of the Facebook and Twitter critic, where people will go to theatres with a rigid to-do list of what a good movie should and shouldn’t have.
There’s one branch of criticism that I’ve been interested in, recently - that of Vulgar Auteurism. It’s pretty silly in a lot of aspects, mainly because it champions “underappreciated” directors (in terms of critical reviews) that usually don’t need the extra support anyway - but I like the idea of a director, or a movie, with very unique characteristic qualities that aren’t seen in may other places, getting a thorough and proper critical analysis.
Unfortunately, I’m not a critic. I’m a guy on the internet who posts articles about stuff he likes - and who isn’t even very regular about that part nowadays.
What I can do, though, is analyze the movie from my own perspective - understanding the train of thoughts I have when I watch the movie.
Chapter 2: The Epiphany
While on a bus to nowhere, I hit upon an epiphany.
I’ve forgotten what that was, though, and I couldn’t write it down on my mobile, which was dead at this point.
Chapter 3: Greek Gods
I really like heist movies.
There’s something about watching a plan unfold on the screen, watching people make precise moves with little room for error, seeing things go wrong and watching the protagonists adjust accordingly. If you think about it, heist movies are nearly always about interesting and good-looking thieves making a quick buck by staging Rube Goldberg scenarios where the money falls into their pocket after two hours of jiggery-pokery - but the machinations of those scenarios are always the most fun to watch.
The first Dhoom movie was mainly about biking muscle dudes stealing some money with a simple, yet intelligent plan. The third movie completely ignored heists altogether, only showing the chase in the aftermath of a job well done. In a way, it makes sense - the story of Dhoom 3 has no interest in anything that isn’t related to the thieves and their emotional journey, and anything extra would probably detract from the overall experience.
Maybe. I dunno, I’m too much of a sucker for heist movies, and there are very few movies I find more enjoyable in that regard than Dhoom 2.
My favourite scene in the movie is a scene better than anything in the Oceans series of movies (okay, that’s not true (okay, it’s kind of true for me)). It’s a complex scene, quiet yet tense, implausible yet riveting. There’s a diamond in the middle of the room, surrounded by guards throughout the room. There’s no way for Hrithik Roshan’s character to go anywhere near the diamond - so he disguises himself as a greek god statue, painted head to toe with white, a scholarly book in his hand masking the controls for a small black drone that crawls its way to the diamond in the centre, riding along the black tiles in a pattern across the floor.
It’s beautiful. It’s ridiculous. It’s amazing. It’s art.
And that’s to say nothing of the chase scene that follows, where Hrithik Roshan disguises himself as a garbage disposal worker, then melts the drain below him with some mercury-looking acid, bursts out of the sewer with leather, shades and rollerskates around, and uses a magnet to zip around Mumbai traffic and go up to speeds faster than a bike. And all that while, the music blares and two words keep being excitedly sung in the background track - “Dhoom Machaaley”.
The name “Dhoom” refers to noise, sure, but it can be used in a celebratory sense. And everything in the movie is a celebration - a celebration of itself. The movie knows how crazy it’s being, and it’s content to revel in its craziness.
Chapter 4: An Unlikely Encounter
I got off the bus, with the epiphany I had a while back (the one I’ve completely forgotten) still playing through my mind, and walked through Indiranagar. I eventually came to a steakhouse, and decided to go in and have some lunch.
It was then that I saw Hrithik Roshan sitting in the restaurant.
I knew, right then and there, that this was destiny, and that I had to interview him.
Hey Hrithik, how are you today?
Who are you? I don’t even know you, and my name’s not-
(a waiter interrupted us at this point, and I told him to bill me whatever Hrithik was having)
I’m sorry, you were saying?
(standing up) It’s magic, it’s magic, I got the hyper tuning! Haha, remember this song in the movie I was totally in?
I do! Although I didn’t think the lyrics were quite that way.
Well, do you know what they actually are? Does anyone, really?
That’s a good point.
Anyway, what did you want to ask me, Hrithik Roshan, who has come to Bangalore for some steaks?
Well, I just wanted to ask you about an old movie of yours-
Oh, okay, I loved shooting on Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara-
-what did you think of Dhoom 2?
(lowering sunglasses) Really? Dhoom 2? Who remembers that movie?
I do. It’s actually one of my favourite Bollywood movies.
You don’t watch a lot of Bollywood movies, do you?
...not a lot of new ones, no.
That’s the first thing then. Go watch a good movie.
But I think it’s unfair to be dismissive of a movie just because it’s not, strictly speaking, comparable to prestige dramas or “gritty” gangster movies.
Sure it is. But this is Dhoom 2 we’re talking about.
Yes, with some amazing action and heist sequences that blow past logic into pure awesomeness!
And an inane plotline with Abhishek Bachchan dancing with Bipasha Basu while Uday Chopra convinces Rimi Sen that he might cheat on her. Which, if you remember, goes nowhere.
...yeah, I usually skip that scene.
Or how about when Uday Chopra gets sad that he’s never going to be a family man like in his fantasies, and then it turns out Bipasha Basu’s got a twin sister who’s written as an airheaded beach bimbo who has no characteristics apart from speaking in a horrible accent and falling for his character?
...I usually skip those scenes too…
Or how about the fact that Abhishek Bachchan went from an interesting character in Dhoom to a black hole of personality in Dhoom 2?
That’s not fair! That part happened in Dhoom 3.
Okay, so which scene of his, where he’s the sole focus, do you watch instead of skipping?
There you go. Waiter, I’ll have a T-Bone steak-
I don’t feel so good. I’ll leave.
Wait no I just ordered an expensive steak WAIT-
Chapter 5: My Life Was Ali(e)
There’s a scene in the middle of the movie where all the characters are travelling to Brazil. It’s in the airport, and all the characters approach the camera in slow motion, with cool music announcing their arrival.
And then there’s a two second comedy bit with funny dholaks playing as a woman in the airport lifts her burqa and it turns out to have been Uday Chopra all along.
I’ve always been baffled by this scene - why is Uday Chopra wearing a burqa? Was he hiding from Mr. A? It’s probably because he’s hiding from Hrithik Roshan’s character because he’s seen his face - but isn’t he a cop now? And if he needs to hide, why does it only have to be during that single scene in Brazil?
Uday Chopra’s character in these movies has had a journey that, for comedy characters in action series, is far too common. He started out as an interesting character in the first Dhoom movie, funny but talented at riding bikes and bluffing his way into the antagonist’s side. In the second movie, he immediately had his role devolve into a typical-Ali-joke-creator who sometimes also rides bikes. In his very first scene, he bungles an undercover sting and barely gets out of it with Abhishek Bachchan’s help, and that’s all he does throughout the movie as well (to say nothing of his absence of screentime in Dhoom 3).
He’s also got some extremely cringey scenes in this movie, too, related to Bipasha Basu’s character(s). The Dhoom series hasn’t really been kind to the women in their movies, with Esha Deol’s character in the first movie, a gang member who eventually becomes a damsel in distress in need of saving by Ali, being the strongest female character in the whole series. In this movie, they went towards giving Bipasha Basu’s character some characteristics, but after she gets injured and abandoned in Mumbai, her twin sister’s character is introduced, with her sole purpose being to serve as Ali’s eventual prize and love interest.
Which, to put it very politely, is bullshit.
Can you like a movie if you only skip through its unwatchable parts to the parts you actually like? I don’t know.
I took a bus back to my PG, dejected. Hrithik Roshan’s words had cut me deep, and I wasn’t sure if I had the same opinion of the movie I had earlier. On the way, I put in some headphones and tried listening to some music, before remembering that all I had in my pocket was an expensive black brick that was useless without any charge.
It was then that I had another, better epiphany.
Chapter 2: The Epiphany (cotd.)
Movies can, on many occasions, be the sum of their parts. Movies can, in many other cases, have a lot of great parts that don’t quite sum up to something that’s quite as satisfying overall. And movies can have many parts that are great, and many parts that aren’t.
Life isn’t perfect. Neither are movies. So why fret about something that’s not completely great?
No one needs to force you to like a movie with many great parts and one or two completely awful scenes. By that same logic, no one can stop you from enjoying a movie that isn’t great all the way through, a movie you like because there are so many fun parts in it that it ends up being a positive experience for you, regardless.
We made fast-forward controls for a reason, didn’t we?
Dhoom 2 is great. There are plenty of scenes in it that aren’t great, sure. But the parts that are great are so much fun that I end up watching them on repeat. The disguises Hrithik Roshan uses are so cool! The scene with Aishwarya Rai sandwiched between two terrible people in the movies is so tense! That one scene where Uday Chopra and Abhishek Bachchan ride a bike through a tunnel while standing to the side with their feet on the ground - it’s stupid, but that’s alright, because it’s awesome!
And I can’t really derive any complex analysis from the movie, sure (although, knowing my mind, I could probably come up with something). But there’s a lot of value in movies that don’t require you to exercise all your brain cells, that you can just pop on and enjoy once in a while, like comfort food.
Dhoom 2 is great, and you should definitely rewatch it sometime to see if it holds up.