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Imagine a mashup of Cirque du Soleil, steampunk and Bollywood — throw in a few motorcycle chases, a love story, a secret double, a heist and the year’s funkiest music — and you’re just beginning to scratch the surface of Dhoom 3. The crazy thing is, it all works.
This third, and most accomplished, segment in the Dhoom (Blast) franchise is the first Indian film to be released in IMAX. Showing on a record 236 screens in North America, including some with Dolby Atmos sound, the film is bound to earn well-deserved record revenues here and in India.
Although director Vijay Krishna Acharya’s story nominally follows the exploits of a pair of Indian buddy cops (Jai, lanky Abhishek Bachchan, the brains; and Ali, goofy Uday Chopra, the comic relief), the main spotlight falls on superstar Aamir Khan (Lagaan, Talaash) in a flashy turn as Sahir, a modern acrobat and illusionist working in Chicago.
As a child, Sahir saw his circus impresario father (Jackie Shroff) ruined by a greedy banker, and ever since, Sahir has dedicated his life to avenging him by driving that bank into ruin. So he uses his illusionist skills to perpetrate one outrageous heist after another, leaving clues embellished with a circus-y flair and brazen Hindi-language graffiti — hence the need to call Jai and Ali from India to help solve the crimes.
From that point, the story offers more twists than one of its Cirque-inspired performers, and largely sustains a breakneck pace for nearly three hours.
Several aspects set Dhoom 3 apart from the rash of current Indian action films: top-notch special effects (especially in one character’s digitally enhanced double role); clever costuming, most notably in Khan’s velvet vests and other steampunk attire (by Anaita Shroff Adjania, fashion director for Indian Vogue); and dazzlingly mounted dance numbers that fill up the screen with life and color.
Australian tap maestro Sheldon Perry of Tap Dogs trained Khan in that troupe’s edgy, urban style in one song; while choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant has crafted muscular, yet graceful moves for the always-impressive Katrina Kaif.
Composer Pritam Chakraborty has contributed some of the most modern and worldly songs of his career on the film’s memorable soundtrack, especially the romantic “Tu Hi Junoon.”
To be sure, Dhoom 3 also includes a few rotten elements common to Hindi films, such as improbable shifts in location (from downtown Chicago to the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland five minutes later); uniformly awful acting from the non-Indians in the cast; and the shameless borrowing of ideas (from Now You See Me, The Town and one or two Bourne films).
Given the reach of the material, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the cast and filmmakers handle Dhoom 3 (ludicrous moments and all) tongue in cheek. But they’ve admirably gone a step further and embraced the extremes. When Dhoom 3 is going at full tilt, as in an autorickshaw chase over corrugated tin village rooftops, it’s an exhilarating ride.
Opened: Dec. 20, 2013 (Yash Raj Films)
Cast: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, Katrina Kaif
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Screenwriter: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Executive producer: Aashish Singh
Choreographers: Dein Perry, Sheldon Perry, Vaibhavi Merchant
Production designer: Sumit Basu
Director of photography: Sudeep Chatterjee
Editor: Ritesh Soni
Music: Pritam Chakraborty
Not rated, 172 minutes