Just as The Fast and the Furious “borrowed liberally” from Point Break, so did Dhoom “pay homage” to The Fast and the Furious.
At this point, and I say this as a fan of the series, there is little need to remind anyone that a new Fast & Furious movie is being released. Nor is there any particular need to defend the movies against unjust commercial or critical calumnies; at this point, they are what they are and you either like them or you don’t. So, rather than fond but stale jokes about “family” or lamenting that Daddy Yankee isn’t in the new movie or any of the usual stuff, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce those of you not yet familiar, in time-honored “if you like x, you may like y” tradition, to Bollywood’s Dhoom franchise.
Just as The Fast and the Furious “borrowed liberally” from Point Break, so did Dhoom “pay homage” to The Fast and the Furious. (They’re not scare quotes, they’re courtesy quotes.) The first movie is a reasonably successful if unspectacular action picture about the efforts of dedicated cop Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) to bring a gang of biker bank robbers, led by the charismatic Kabir (John Abraham), to justice. In so doing, Dixit forms a partnership that continues into the next two films with a goofball criminal named Ali (Uday Chopra) who serves as the series’ comic relief. The more important brick in the series’ foundation laid by Dhoom is the – self-aware, played increasingly for laughs – tendency for the films’ main antagonists to be more interesting, given more screen time, and/or played by bigger stars than either Bachchan or Chopra. John Abraham is quite like a pre-mythic-superhero-demigod Dom Toretto as Kabir, a compellingly muscular romantic outlaw.
The Dhoom series truly kicks in with the second film, a near-free-associative whirlwind of sublimely implausible activity, powered by the almost overwhelming chemistry between Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai as, respectively, the film’s main antagonist and the undercover agent sent (with, to put it mildly, no success) to bring him down. Jai Dixit’s persistent and aesthetically conservative pursuit of justice sees him eclipsed even further by his new target, a flamboyant master thief who goes by the name Mr. A (Roshan). How flamboyant, and how masterful, is Mr. A? He successfully disguises himself as Queen Elizabeth II for his first heist of the film. That is, let us be clear, his opening move. The ensuing couple hours of Jai Dixit trying all kinds of bullshit and failing miserably are a wonderfully fun time at the movies, one whose particulars I hardly dare spoil for anyone yet to behold Dhoom 2. It’s the Dhoom series’ Fast Five, in the sense that it’s its apex, an express train to the heights of pop cinematic ecstasy. In one area, though, Dhoom 2 leaves the F&F series – and most of the rest of any cinema of any kind – far behind, that being in the realm of sheer visceral sexual tension. Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, whether you’ve seen them before or not, are stars, of an intensity requiring something more than just an iteration of the word. Their characters’ love affair takes over the entire movie, to the extent one frequently forgets Jai Dixit is even in it. (This was the premise of a joke in Farah Khan’s masterwork Om Shanti Om, where the fictional Dhoom 5 omits the character entirely and no one, even Bachchan, notices until after the fact.)
Dhoom 2, as its rhetorical counterpart here, Fast Five, set a prohibitively high bar for its predecessors. Both series followed a seemingly identical impulse, which is to guilelessly, quixotically, paradoxically, what-the-fuck-ily smile and murmur “MORE.” How do you follow up having Hrithik Roshan steal your movie out from underneath your nominal protagonist, to the point where people are making jokes about it? By casting Aamir Khan, that’s how. Aamir, the perfectionist of the Three Khans, those titans so powerful and popular that at times they even throw off the entire Bollywood industry. By leaning into the jokes. And, while never quite reaching heights as hallucinatory as Dhoom 2, it’s still the kind of fun maximalist timepass that beguiles Fast/Furious fans. Like 2, it’s sheer fun watching bright shining movie stars work; while Khan and fellow megastar series newcomer Katrina Kaif don’t quite reach Roshan/Rai heights, they don’t need to, as Dhoom 3 is clever enough to not try to play the same game as its predecessor, and has some nifty tricks up its sleeve.
The parallels are inexact, but on the fundamental level, the delights within the Dhoom series, particularly 2 and 3, are catnip for Fast/Furious fans. Put another way, the suspensions of disbelief, the visceral delights, and the transcendental dumbness, taken to heights so rarefied it ceases to be dumb and attains divine genius, are shared wholly by both series. (The word “dhoom,” which roughly translates to “noise” or “uproar,” is also onomatopoeic for the sound you make when mimicking an explosion verbally. It is thus the perfect title.) Like Fast/Furious movies, the Dhoom films aren’t necessarily to every taste, but if the former appeal to you, the latter almost certainly will too.