Made Overseas: Dhoom 2 (2006)

Based on some of the promo images, I was expecting Dhoom 2 to be Fast & Furious with motorcycles.  It’s not, really.  While the movie does have motorcycle stunts, there are not that many chase scenes.  The most thrilling one has a motorcycle in pursuit, but he’s overshadowed by a guy on rollerblades weaving his way through traffic and leaping over cars.  “EXTREEEEMME!” is strongly implied. The motorcycle stunts look like CHiPs in comparison.

There is a big motorcycle climax that looks like it liberally borrowed elements from Mission Impossible 2‘s action sequences. But, hey… it’s hard to be mad at director Sanjay Ghadvi.  It was the 2000’s.  Everyone was ripping off John Woo.  Including John Woo.


I was told that it wasn’t necessary to watch movies of the Dhoom series in order, since only the two main cop characters —- Jai and Ali (played by Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra respectively) —- return movie after movie.  That’s good, because 1) the only version of the first movie available on Amazon Prime is a non-subtitled version, and 2) the second one has Aishwarya Rai in it.  I’ll have you know that I did try watching the first movie in Hindi only, but the opening sex song/dance with Jai and his wife failed to entice me to watch the rest.

Compare that to how Dhoom 2 opens. Queen Elisabeth II is playing with her grandkids as they ride a train traveling through the Namibian desert.  Next to them is a pedestal with a fake looking crown. It’s safe, her security detail ensures. You don’t need to even pull the blinds down. Who’s going to rob them in the middle of the desert?

Spoiler alert: the Queen is robbed in the middle of the desert. The perpetrator is a man who has put on a questionably convincing Queen Elisabeth II costume.  My guess is this is why the “real” Queen Elizabeth looks so terrible: she was being played by Hrithik Roshan under layers of latex, who is also playing the role of handsome master thief Mr. A.   (The Queen will not be his last terrible disguise in this movie, though it is the most elaborate.) He evades the Queen’s security detail by fighting atop the train —- a classic action scenario —— and then pulling out a boogie board and surfing on the the sand dunes.  EXTREEEEEMMMEEE!!! The sequence is then followed by a big Bollywood dance number, as they do.

Looks EXACTLY like Helen Mirren.

See?  This is how you get El Santo interested in a movie.

The hits don’t stop there. We are introduced to Jai and Ali as they bust up a drug ring in comical fashion. Jai is basically Batman, a grim, brooding lawman who dispatched multiple henchmen at the same time. Ali is the odious comic relief. Though, when the action moves to the beach, he’s the one that ends up more shirtless. I did marvel at how muscular his biceps were. It’s like Uday Chopra had a clause in his contract that said, “Must include a scene that reminds viewers that the comic relief is packing a pair of 24-inch pythons.”

As a side note: I didn’t realize how apt my Batman analogy was. After writing that, I noticed that Wikipedia points to a since-deleted article on IndiaGlitz where Aishwarya Rai’s role is described as “Catwoman”.  That’s right… she’s a sexy lady thief who’s assisting Mr. A with his burglaries.  Who wouldn’t?  Mr. A has the face of 2011 Sexiest Man in Asia and action figure abs.  Why wouldn’t Roger Ebert’s pick for Most Beautiful Woman in the World fall for him?

Roshan, by the way, was the top billed actor for this movie.  Not the two cop characters returning from the previous movie. So, there’s no question who the main attraction is.  It was as prophesied: “Behold, there will be a day when a man shall star who will be prettier than thou.”

Jai promises to bring Mr. A to justice… by killing him.  (Which is kind of a step too far, I think.  Mr. A has been robbing priceless artifacts, but so far he hasn’t killed anyone.) But despite enlisting the help of a sexy police partner, Mr. A manages to slip through their grasp.  By the way… Jai manages to figure out Mr. A criminal scheme in a train of logic so baffling it would make Adam West Batman  blush.

Spoilers: Mr. A is doing crimes on dates that add the month and day of his previous crimes. (If his first crime is on 5/7, for example, his next crime will happen on the 12th.)  Oh, and also they figure out where he’s going to rob things because he’s drawing a letter “A” on the map.  Which means that he’s robbing Mumbai (convenient!) so he can draw the horizontal portion of the “A”.

Hmmmm… and Mumbai is near the sea.  Sea.  C! C for Catwoman!  Aishwarya Rai!

Speaking of Ms. Rai, you know that there’s going to be some fantastic dance moves.  Ms. Rai does well, but man… I was mesmerized by Roshan’s footwork.  The dude can dance.  Roshan looks like he’s effortlessly floating on air buoyed by the magic of the rhythm.  The routines are reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, complete with backup dancers in halter tops.

The soundtrack is pretty great, with most songs incorporating the word “Dhoom” early and often.  (Google tells me that it’s the Hindi word for “noise”.) One song, for example, implores the listener to “dhoom again.”   It’s impossible not to accept that invitation.  The music is a catchy blend of Bollywood, reggaetron, and samba, and I’ve been playing it in my car all week.  Incidentally, my wife was upstairs while I was watching the movie, and the soundtrack was so relentless that she commented that it sounded like I was watching a concert.

While it doesn’t have quite the same caliber of physical stunts, I found Dhoom 2 to be carved from the same comedy-action template as a Jackie Chan movie.  The comedy is corny but pleasant, and it doesn’t undermine or derail the moments when something genuinely cool is happening on the screen.

The four main leads have very good chemistry, and it’s fun seeing the interactions take place between different combinations.  When Jai and Mr. A are on the same screen, for example, they’re usually undercover.  There’s a genuine aura of mystery.  How much does each person know about the other? Do they even suspect the man sitting across from them is their adversary?

Meanwhile, Jai and Ali get a fun role reversal. When the action moves to the party atmosphere of Brazil, Ali is suddenly the cool guy who’s a hit with the chicks while Jai comes off as a grumpy mope.  There’s a brilliant scene where Ali blows up at Jai for not involving him in aspects of the investigation, but the local woman has no idea what’s going on because from her point of view Ali is always this animated.

I guess now is a good time to bring up the fifth principal actor: Bipasha Basu, who plays twin sisters (one in India, the other in Brazil).   India Bipasha is a tough cop.  Brazil Bipasha is an outgoing girl who can’t understand a word of Hindi.  She plays the parts so well that I was surprised the sisters were played by the same person.

Despite being two and a half hours long, Dhoom 2 moves fast.  Every moment was filled with joy, and I went away wanting to bust a move.  Maybe it’s Bollywood that’s the opiate of the masses.  Check it out on Amazon Prime.

A weird thought I had while watching the movie: does Yasmin Raj Films have any ties to Disney?  There’s a key scene set in a movie theater… and Cars is playing on the screen. (It must be a super condensed version, since we see the characters watching the cow-tipping scene and Lightning’s flirty drive with Sally Carrera.) Later, the thieves go in disguise as the dwarves from Snow White. It’s not the only weird sponsorship.  There’s a prominently placed Coca-Cola can that will give fits to anyone who’s ever criticized World War Z.

NEXT: you get your money’s worth with Donnie Yen in the wu xia film, Dragon.