Dhoom Review! Let Us Ask Ourselves the Immortal Question, John or Abhishek or Uday?

Do you like the dangerous dead sexy bad boy, the safe husband type, or the clown? Whichever it is, this movie has a man for you! And then of course we have the added complication as the series progressed, WHICH dead sexy dangerous bad boy do you prefer, John or Hrithik?

Dhoom! Can you read that title without hearing the title song in your head? Or are you a dead person? Because that is the only reason it WOULDN’T immediately start playing. Somehow the songs with the dumbest lyrics (“dhoom dhoom, come light my fire, dhoom dhoom, come take me higher”) are the hardest to kill. And in that same vein, this series, the dumbest group of movies Hindi film has ever put together, is also impossible to kill. Maybe because it is that particular kind of dumb that is actually really smart. A truly dumb Dhoom would look like Race 3, and no one wants that. Instead, Dhoom is more like the golddigger who is smart enough to play dumb in the perfect way to give you a good time. Dhoom is Marilyn Monroe. And if that doesn’t make you want to watch the films, I don’t know what will!
I forgot how terrible this music video is

The first Dhoom film was a revelation, in multiple ways. First, it was an important part of rebranding YRF. In the past, Yash Raj Films was known for swoony “Yash Chopra” romances. Even if he didn’t direct them (like Doosri Aadmi, for instance) all their movies had a distinctive Yash Chopra feel, luxurious costumes and sets and swoony love stories. But Adi had taken over now and he wanted something different, he was trying to build a studio that could do it all, that could dominate the entire market horizontally and vertically. DVDs, distribution, ancillary products (I still regret not buying the Mohabattein bedding set when it was available), and the actual films would all be under the grand YRF umbrella. But it starts with the films, they needed to dominate the film market first, and they couldn’t do that with only romances. Keep making romances, sure, but sprinkle in other genres too, shake things up, have a totally different kind of film every few months. Make YRF a sign of quality, not of genre.

Adi hit the ground running in 2002 and never looked back. For the first time EVER an Indian film studio produced in house 3 films in the same year. Previously smaller banners handled the actual production and larger studios/distributors would buy the rights and slap their label on it. But Adi was doing something different, he had his mega-studio grounds now (spent the past couple years building them) and he wanted to shepherd films from conception all the way into the theaters and the DVD stores all within the gates of YRF. 2002 saw 3 films, a comedy and two romances. Then a gap, then 2004 saw a rom-com, an action film (this one), and a traditional romance. After 2004, YRF didn’t look back, no more production gaps, a varied slate of films every year. And further expansion into the digital space, ad films, everywhere there is money to be made, you will find their hands. And a lot of that is because of Dhoom, success in this very different genre gave him the confidence (and the money) to branch out.

The Dhoom-genre, this kind of lighthearted action film with high production values, was also a bit groundbreaking. At least, in the early 2000s. Back in the 80s, there were loads of these fun action films, but they had fallen out of favor around the time Indian film started breaking through internationally. To see a fun silly buddy action movie kind of plot, with the gloss of the newer production values, was revalatory for the audience.

Qurbani and Dhoom are like twins separated at birth, only they released over 20 years apart

It wasn’t just that, it was the casting too. Abhishek Bachchan had been around for a few years but not really hit it big. This film was when everything clicked for him. The snarky cool dude persona, the perfect hair the slightly unshaved look, the unbuttoned collar shirts, it all worked all of a sudden. Uday Chopra, he was actually funny in this movie! Not trying to carry the weight of being a real “hero”, but just there to jump around and put in some energy and excitement. John Abraham of course, before he got all beefed up, back when he was slim and sexy and “different”. These weren’t the usual suspects for a big budget film, especially not an action movie, and it made the whole film feel new in a way that putting in Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgan wouldn’t.

Related image

And then there was the script. A truly clever thriller! Sure it had silly songs and silly jokes, it didn’t feel “smart”, but it was. There were twists you didn’t see coming, and the whole thing came together beautifully like a puzzle box. It brought together the lightest touch of character development (Uday and Abhishek’s friendship) with a mystery just complicated enough to get your attention, and heist plans that were legitimately imaginative.

And a soundtrack with super catchy songs, and sexy costumes all round for boys and girls, and A MOTORBOAT THAT JUMPS OVER A ROAD!!!!!! It was the first big fun stupid blockbuster of the new era, and it has a certain freshness and innocence that the later Dhoom movies, and their imitators, just don’t have.

Also, call me crazy but I think this is the best version of the Dhoom song

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Oh this plot! So silly! Abhishek is a calm low key police detective with a sexy wife, Rimi Sen. He is assigned a robbery in which the thieves escape on motorcycles. To help him catch the thieves, he asks for help from a small time crook who runs a motorcycle shop, Uday Chopra. Uday is foolish and talkative and always falling in love at first sight. He and Abhishek go on a series of stake outs but keep missing the thieves.

The motorcycle gang is run by shirtless John Abraham. He plans and times out every heist perfectly, and is runs his gang perfectly too, very controlled. He and Abhishek have a near miss when Abhishek takes Rimi to dinner at the pizza restaurant where he works, but John keeps cool and avoids him.

Uday is twice distracted at pivotal moments by Esha Deol. First when her car breaks down and he helps her fix it while on a stake out, and second when she is the performer at a big event and he dances with her and misses the heist. Abhishek is so angry with Uday that they have a big public fight and stop working together.

It’s worth it for Uday to be distracted, this song is super cute

BUT!!! Here is the twist! I mean, it was already a plenty amusing plot, the heists are exciting and tightly wound, we have that moment when Abhishek almost meets John, and the eventual reveal that Esha is part of the gang, and so on and so forth. But it is the ending that really pulls it together. First the surprisingly upsetting falling apart of the Uday-Abhishek friendship, and then! Abhishek is FIRED! Fights with Rimi and spins out into getting drunk at a hotel bar! At the same time, Uday having lost his hope of a better future with Abhishek’s promises of making him a “real” police officer some day, goes back to crime and ends up joining the same gang they were trying to bring down! It’s upsetting and surprising and dramatic!

Could cut the tension with a knife! Also, did Adi own a chain of Salsa clubs or something? Why was every YRF movie in the early 2000s trying to sell us on this dance craze?

And then there is a twist! Just when all seems lost, when the final heist is going to come off, with the help of Uday who now hates Abhishek, TWIST!!! Uday and Abhishek were working together THE WHOLE TIME! They staged the fight so Uday could join the gang and not be suspected as still working for the police! And while we are still recovering from the emotional roller coaster of that reveal, we are slammed right into the awesome epic final chase scene! This whole movie builds and builds chase after chase until we reach the last one, which has cars and motorcycles and BOATS all mixed in together. And then we end with a fun end credits song!

It’s just such a well put together movie! We even end with a little bit of an emotional chest punch when John Abraham chooses to drive off a cliff rather than go to jail. Beyond the overall structure, there are the little scene by scene combos. We open with a pulse racing motorcycle chase, and then slow it down for a fun sexy song with Abhishek and Rimi, the Uday-Abhishek humor mixes in with the chase scenes to keep things light, and then just when the humor and chases start to get boring, we toss in a semi-serious scene from John. Heck, just the idea of the criminal being kind of the “dramatic relief” sprinkled into the action comedy of the police, that is original and perfect!

Speaking of perfect construction, notice that we see the wedding photo just before they have sexy times? So we don’t have to worry about this being pre-marital sex.

Watching the later Dhooms makes me appreciate how this one is put together even more. Dhoom 2, fun though it is, really loses track of the Abhishek-Uday characters and plot by about half way through. That isn’t an issue for Dhoom 3, because it never even pretends to give Abhishek and Uday their own storylines, but the action scenes are a struggle. They have much higher production values than in Dhoom 1, but the peak is really the first chase, and everything after that just doesn’t have the same energy. The structure and build of the film is not as good. Plus putting the twist at the interval makes it much less energized for the second half. The later movies have a lot more complications and layers to the stories, bigger names and more experienced casts, but they don’t have the stripped down solid structure of this one. And, for me at least, they just don’t feel as fun.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Dhoom Review! Let Us Ask Ourselves the Immortal Question, John or Abhishek or Uday?

  1. Motorcycles! How could you miss the importance of motorcycles to this film, and this series in general (though they got more technologically advanced with their modes of transport in later films)? In fact, the films are usually described as “Bikes & Babes” escapist fare.

    I tried to watch the first Dhoom once, but could only make it about half-way, or even only a third of the way through. My first exposure was to Dhoom 2, which at the time, I called “the stupidest film I ever saw.” Of course, Bollywood bested itself several times since then. Anyway, reading many comments online about how the first Dhoom was a much better film, I tried it. It probably was a better film as a thriller (in that it had a semi-coherent story), but, having my expectations primed by Dhoom 2, I found it far too serious and dull. Then, of course, Aamir completely killed the Dhoom franchise with his penchant for interference, pardon me, “perfectionism”, in Dhoom 3. I still think Dhoom 2 was the best. Fantastic ogling opportunity for male and female gazes, a film that is un-apologetically silly and commits to that silliness in a big way, what’s not to like? But I’m anticipating your next review, sorry.

    Like

    • I think I had a real advantage seeing them in order. Dhoom 1 is very stripped down and non-showy compared to the others, but watched as it’s own thing, it’s a really strong movie. And I’ve got some added affection for it just because of nostalgia for that time and place. Dhoom 2 just feels overstuffed to me, I like the simplicity of 1. And Dhoom 3 is fine, but hardly feels like a Dhoom movie any more.

      On Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 11:35 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  2. I thought the Dhoom series was a ripoff of the Fast & Furious franchise? I haven’t seen this one but I really love Dhoom 2 & 3. They are both big, dumb and loud with lots of eye candy. Also, I know this is an unpopular opinion but I liked Aamir’s dual role in #3, along with the Chicago setting. I tried #1 once but I wasn’t able to get through it. Just didn’t grab me the way the other two did.

    Like

    • Having watched all but the most recent Fast & Furious film (no Paul Walker! Too sad!), I can tell you that the two serieses have almost nothing in common. The mixture of car chase and plot, sure, but that’s hardly original. I would LOVE a true Fast & Furious Indian series, with the whole slowly growing family of the gang, the returned from death love interest, and the close brother-in-law bond and all that juicy Indian stuff. Oh man, if you could throw reincarnation in the F&F mix, that would take those movies to a whole new LEVEL!!!!

      Dhoom 1 probably was partly influenced by Fast & Furious, along with all the other car chase plus plot movies, but by 2 it had really grown into it’s own thing (I think) with the idea of the two wacky cop partners and the drama coming from the criminal they are chasing down. And of course the humor of them being the worst cops ever, since they never catch anyone 🙂 Even the same inevitable ending in each film, with the criminal jumping from a great height rather than being caught.

      Similar to Fast & Furious, the first Dhoom is definitely the most “serious” of them all. But give it a little time, it does get going. And unlike the first Fast & Furious, everyone’s hair is on point (Paul Walker and the frosted tips? Really?).

      Okay, now I have to go home tonight and watch the new Fast & Furious. It’s just such a great series!

      On Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 12:49 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

        • I saw, thank you! Maybe a little bump, fifteen twitter click throughs on Wednesday, 10 yesterday, 6 today (twitter is just not good for me in general). I got way WAY more click throughs when I bunch of SRK fans started a twitter conversation about how I was a bad fan/person for criticising him on my “9 films you can skip” post. Which is just kind of depressing about the world, you know? People are more likely to give traffic to those they hate and disagree with than to those they agree with. Oh well, if I ever need a bump I can say mean things about SRK again.

          On Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 2:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • Here’s the other fun thing, after the last time I criticized SRK several of them announced they would be ignoring me, no longer following my blog or twitter. Which I didn’t bother confirming, because what do I care? But then, they clearly are still following, because they responded to this new post. So I guess they have to keep tabs on me to make sure they respond to anything else I might say.

            Oh well, I’m an SRK fan too, I can understand caring deeply about these things and feeling personally hurt.

            On Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 2:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

    • I know, right? And on the other hand, this movie is really best argument AGAINST nepotism you could have. 15 years down the line, the person with the brightest career is John Abraham, Uday and Esha have sunk without a trace and Abhi’s career kind of went sideways. If nepotism really did rule the world, John would be the one dead in the water and everyone else would be flying high.

      On Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 2:17 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  3. I think it is the sense of cool, Hrithik’s dancing, and the hotness of Hrithik/Ash that makes Dhoom2 stand out. Dhoom1 is kind of boring. Dhoom3 overdone and not hot at all. IMO, of course.

    By the way, I got here from Alisa’s tweet, so some good does come of it. (If you consider this comment a good.)

    Like

    • This comment is very good! I’m so glad you found me/were reminded of me!

      On Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 2:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.