Dhoom 2

Okay, here’s my problem with Sanjay Gadhvi, the man behind the two Dhoom movies. He’s got a nice visual style, a reasonably talented cast and a knack for making women look gorgeous, but he’s forgotten a very basic ingredient. He’s making movies about a cop on the trail of some great thieves. But not once does he invest enough in the scenes showing the actual crime. You’ve got the setup, you’ve got the scenes where the cop (Abhishek Bachchan) talks admiringly of the criminal and his methods… But the robberies themselves are handled so perfunctorily that all this seems for naught. And the chase/fight sequences afterwards have no zing. The movie makes it a point to advertise its high speed chases, but spends so much time in slo-mo that one never really gets a sense of the wind blowing through the actors’ hair. Both the robbery and the chase afterwards feel as sterile as the demo section of a video game.

At least Dhoom was fresh and had a few things going for it. For starters, Esha Deol looked phenomenal. Her intro, where the camera slowly pans up her legs and you realize that it’s taken a couple of seconds longer than you thought it would before it reaches the hemline of her skirt, was an event in itself. Abhishek Bachchan finally found a role that could showcase his particular brand of brooding screen presence. And I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Uday Chopra – he reminds me of what Saif Ali Khan used to be back in the days of Yeh Dillagi, although I’m leery of predicting that he’d go as far as Saif has in the years since.

This one, on the other hand, is a disaster. They got Abhishek and Uday back to doo their shtick, but neither actor really takes off. Uday sounds like he’s trying too hard, and Abhishek replaces acting with general glowering. They’ve added Bipasha to the mix, just to up the glamour quotient (I thought Rimi Sen did just fine in the first one, but I guess it wasn’t enough), and given her a few bikinis to wear on Copacabana beach in Rio. Her contribution to the movie is essentially that: wearing a bikini in Rio.

On the other hand, the man got imaginative when it came to the villains. The Dhoom movies have to have a supervillain, so they got Hrithik Roshan this time around. And for good measure, they added Aishwarya Rai as his sidekick. The first part works brilliantly – Hrithik is in top form here, and is far and away the most watchable thing about the movie. Ash starts off well – she looks gorgeous when you see her for te first time. And then she opens her mouth.

Someday, many years from now, Ash will probably occupy the same pedestal as Hema Malini – a gorgeous woman whose fatal flaw was that she wasn’t mute. Ash’s dialogue delivery and acting in this movie is so atrocious, it could singlehandedly sink the movie, even if the others didn’t do such a splendid job of sinking it anyway.

One of the best scenes in Dhoom, I felt, was the conversation between Abhishek and John in the end – both actors were at their best in that scene. I guess Sanjay thought the same thing, and figured that the key was to give us a great villain, and work on the scenes with the cop and the criminal. The strategy works: Abhishek’s only good scenes in the entire movie are those with Hrithik. Those are the only moments when he seems to be anything other than a cardboard cut-out. But these are small consolations in a big movie: the rest of what happens on screen is so phenomenally insipid, it makes the whole product hopeless.

Apparently, there’s a Dhoom 3 in the works, with SRK as the villain this time. Not surprising, really: even when I heard about the second movie, my prediction was that, if this one’s successful, there’ll be one more, and my only question was, which of SRK or Big B would be the villain this time.

I can only hope that Sanjay Gadhvi gets it right the third time around. But I’m not holding my breath.

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