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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Dhoom 3

Or: The Prestige

To Quote:“Every great magic trick (read: film) consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician (read: filmmaker) shows you something ordinary (Dhoom: your standard Buddy cop film with an excess of Motorcycle stunts). The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary (Dhoom 2: a heist film with a credible romance, lots of twist!s and some breathtaking stunts). But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear (or giving it a lot of heart amidst the explosions) isn't enough. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige" (Dhoom 3)."

Chicago 1990: a young boy watches his father Mr. Khan (Jackie Schroff), a great magician and owner of the Great Indian Circus try to convince evil banker Mr. Anderson (Andrew Bicknell) to extend his loans. Anderson refuses and Mr. Khan blows his brains out in despair. Twenty Five years later (near enough in the future to have portable “body scanners”, handy things) the boy has turned into Sahir the Magician (Aamir Khan) who has two goals in life: bring the circus back to life, aided by the loving but madcap Alyiah (Katrina Kaif) and bring Mr. Anderson’s bank down. His brutal and impossible heists attract the attention of the best detective in India, Jai Dixit (Abishek Bachchan) who travels to Chicago with his plucky sidekick Ali Akbar (Uday Chopra) to join forces with detective Victoria (Tabret Bethell) to bring the thief to justice. But Sahir has more than a dozen aces up his sleeve, a dark and dangerous secret, an unstoppable thirst for vengeance, and a willful ignorance of the fact that when banks fail, it is never bankers who suffer.

For many years I, as a connoisseur of Middle Brow Bollywood films of the nineties and oughts would steer people towards Dhoom 2 as the most spirited and deep action adventure film made. Dhoom 3 sweeps its predecessors records aside. Sure it’s very much a heist/man hunt film: lots of nifty gadgets and jumping off of high places and Motorcycle jousts. But if you don’t like action/adventure it has a lot of heart, meditations on what makes a person worthy, identity and forgiveness as well stellar song and dance. If you don’t like song and dance the film has some excellent leap-out-of-your-seat surprises and Twist!s) and moments of heartbreak. And if you don’t like those I have nothing to say to you.

Director Vijay Krishna Acharya has not only scripted this marvelous story of love and obsession, “pride and extreme prejudice”, but has also really made Chicago work for him. He not only places his chases and confrontations at the famous land marks but also makes use of the side streets and the poor neighborhoods, really making the Second City come to life for the camera (thought the “mountains of Illinois” seen hulking in the background in some shots do ruin the relationship). He also cuts down on some of the less welcome Bollywood conventions: though cannot resist the police car pileup where vehicles launch themselves into the air and explode for no reason (not to worry, there is very obviously no one inside), saturates the screen in color and light, constructs a tap dance for his opening number (for which I will forever admire him) and, through music director Julius Packiam creates a multitude of titilating versions of the the theme of “dhoom”.

It is a sad thing that whenever Americans show up in Bollywood films they always are played by the most artless actors. Bicknell looks the part of an evil money man but comes across as a scowling man of wood. He is not aided by his lines, so flat you could serve tea on them: “Circus is a woman in a short skirt sticking her head in a hippo’s mouth, Mr. Khan. Circus is Stupid.” Bethell is just as much of a disappointment, her main duties being to sit, scowl in an becoming way, and look ethnic. The regulars nknow the game though and deliver accordingly. A welcome surprise was Kaif’s well rounded and accomplished performance. She excels in both the dance and circus artistry but also makes Aliyah into a real woman: flirtatious, spunky, and nobel in her own way, rather than the ditzy creature other actors might have made of her.

Bachchan, returning to Dixit for a third time refines his death glare, his deadpan threatens and his menacing power walk. However as a police officer his hunt has finally delivered him from the likes of Dirty Hairy to the likes of Javert. If you know the other too films its really quite shocking to see Dixit go to the depths of violence and deception he does in order to get his man.

It is Kahn though who truly steals the evening. Known for either very serious, vengeful men or silly and soft spoken art teachers Khan finally has a role where he can find the happy medium of both of his strengths. He positively frolics about the stage in exercises of sweetness and villainy, passionate and intellectual. I cannot say more on his motives, his secrets or his triumphs without ruining the films many twists but I will say its the best I’ve ever seen him and I hope he is well lauded for it.

Shocking, thrilling, sweet and sad: all the things I like in a good evening of theater all rolled up in one motorcycle delivered package. If you enjoy mysteries you’ll like the film, if you like spectacle and wonder, you’ll like this film, if you like unconventional family drama, you’ll like this film. And if you like motorcycles and movie gadgetry, ladies and gent tap dancing in miniskirts and midriffs, well there’s even a place at the table for you. Dhoom 3 is the triple crown of an unlikely saga that took an ordinary genera, gave it heart and made spin and now has brought it through the other side of actiondom a moving and powerful film. Truly, it is a “Prestige”.

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