Saturday, June 30, 2007

How do you say "Where can Sunehri, like, buy some more gum?" in Portuguese? Dhoom 2

Alternate title: by far the least of the movies starting with "D" released in fall 2006.

My favorite part of this movie is from about 7:40 to 8:10 in, during the title song, when Hrithik is dancing under the rafters and in front of the round window.


In my opinion, the best bits of this song, when he's by himself doing his rubber-limbed tap-dance-y moves, are almost as good as Lakshya's "Main Aise Kyon Hoon" and I watched them over and over. After that, I think my favorite moment was Uday's Baywatch-esque reverie.

And how sad is that? This could have been so much fun, and it just wasn't. (As with the first Dhoom, I'm willing to give it some points for "good to watch with a bunch of other people in the theater," which I didn't get to do.) What went wrong? For starters, four of the six main characters are stupid and annoying beyond a level I could forgive. We've got the opportunity for a cool girl baddie, but no, Sunehri chomps gun, uses "like" too much (though so do I), and swings from dishrag to empty, egotistical hellcat. Equally disappointing is Shonali, a female officer who doesn't demonstrate any abilities in her police work and is then written out of the movie, both for no apparent reason. Vapid Monali seems to exist just to be a partner for hapless Ali, who bungles his police jobs (did anyone else notice that he didn't handcuff Sunehri on the cliff at the end?), although at least both are good-natured. I understand that Ali is supposed to be comic relief, but Jai already has all the foil he needs in Aryan, whose little twinkles and bounces play nicely off of Jai's scowls.

And speaking of that, it's hard to maintain much interest in the beleaguered, boring Jai. He's dutiful, but I don't think we get a sense of what drives him or why he has no joi de vivre. I realize that the real hero of the movie is Aryan, and I've got no problem with the thief being the star of a caper movie. I'm even down with the idea of a whole string of Dhooms, with the common thread being Jai but the real stars being the villains - sounds like fun. But there needs to be something intriguing or empathetic about such a major character. And it's a real waste of an actor like Abhishek, who I think drips with talent, but has to make do with fussing at Uday, more scowling, and having a ridiculous entrance.

He's not really asked to do anything here and is left just to brood in an isolated, uncommunicative way. Snore.

Why are these characters written like this? Is it so hard to give people a little more variety? It's not like consistency has to be a big priority. I enjoyed the plot well enough, but whenever Ali or Sunehri spoke, I just wanted to hit mute. There were two other major things that bothered me. The first was the scene between Aryan and Sunehri with the Russian roulette, because there is little I find more disturbing than the combination of romantic/physical attraction with violence. I appreciate that it took something dramatic to get Sunehri to decide whose side she was on, but did it have to be Aryan threatening to kill both himself and her? Creepy.

The other is the nagging worry I'm left with about how the writer dealt with female characters. Let's do an inventory. We have Jai's wife Sweety, who disappears from the film fairly early on, after which he gallivants with an old friend who has admitted to carrying a torch for him. I'm trying to think of another example of a movie in which a loyal police officer's wife is shown pregnant and then we never even find out if the baby was actually born. Unless the subtitles missed something, we don't even hear Jai mention his child. I thought her disappearance was really weird, especially given the potential to show the standard happy-family scenes. We got none of the cutesy shikdum from the first movie. Doesn't this seem to indirectly reinforce Sweety's worries about husband losing interest in her? Then we've got the do-nothing Shonali, who has tracked Aryan for two years but can't figure out the key to his movements that takes Jai all of a few seconds. She's also portrayed as less patient than Jai, wanting to kill the thief rather than catch him. She doesn't get to be at the right place to catch Aryan either time, and the person she does manage to corner isn't who she thinks and gets away anyway. Then she's laid up in bed for an injury we didn't see her get (I don't think so, anyway - when I saw her in the hospital, I had to go back to figure out how she got there), and that's it. She gets no chance to redeem herself. I don't really know why she's in the movie, frankly. To give Jai a temptation to resist? Or just to be hopeless, not successful at her job or at love? Monali the dim beach bimbo is no treat either, contributing very little to the story.

I'm not at all sure what to make of Sunehri. Maybe the writer was aiming for complex and deceptive, but to me she came off as inconsistent. She does submit her career to her heart, but, then again, so does Aryan. I'll call her a wash, woman-wise, but the other three female characters really bug the part of me that tries to keep an eye on how women are portrayed in Bollywood.*

I was surprised by the ending - it had more emotional oomph than I was expecting. On the cliff, I liked that Jai refused to engage with Aryan's psycho-babble, and I liked that later in the cafe Jai points out that the idea of loving someone enough to kill them is not the way to go. On the other hand, Sunehri doesn't talk during most of the final exchange, so I was left wondering if she was really okay with the idea of no more thieving. But love got to win out - the couple got to stay together and the gruff sourpuss got to show he has a heart - and as usual the cheeseball part of me is delighted.

A quick run-down on the other elements.... I don't tend to pay much attention to stunts, and I don't know anything about how they're done or what the current standards and trends are, but I was entertained by the helicopters, ropes, roller blades, and bikes here. Aryan's disguises are fun, but otherwise the costumes were unremarkable...oh, except for the parade of bandanas! What was with that? Hrithik's massive dance talents were underused, and I had fun aping Aishwarya's "Crazy Kiya Re" lawnmower-type moves. The music was passable - the title song was the strongest, with its cool car horns and stick-in-your-head whistling - but the background score's constant musical references to both Dhoom soundtracks got tiresome. Really, though, none of this added up to anything solid for me. There were moments of fun, and Hrithik makes Aryan fun to watch, but no one else really has much to do, and that was a big disappointment.

Aside: when I told t-hype I was watching this, she asked me what I thought of the museum scenes. So I'll tell you. And if you would rather avoid several sentences of me being snarky, you should stop reading now. Museums are a good setting for heist plots, and over the years I've loosened up a little bit on how I expect filmmakers to portray them. I've got some problems with the fictional Mumbai Art Museum, though, mainly because I've been spending a lot of time in the last year thinking about museums in India and how they seem to function, etc. I love that we have a gallery with at least seven armed security guards but no visitors. That's hilarious.

Aryan's little gizmo would have been even more impressive if he'd had to navigate it through a pack of schoolchildren. I also thought it was funny that his controller made noise - not so good for stealth. I have to say, if the set designers had made this place look like any of the dozen or so Indian museums I visited, stealing something would not have been such a feat - I actually saw guards asleep in some of them, visitors were touching artifacts left and right, and many displays looked as though no one had paid any attention to the artifacts for decades - nor have required gadgetry and disguises. (Oh, there's my answer.) Just send a pack of kids up to distract the guard, then take the thing off its base and pocket it, and fill in the space it left with a handful of dust. Of course, I've never seen a museum with the guard and visitor situation depicted above - it's a movie, after all. And even museums with way more resources than those in India get robbed, both in movies and in real life.

While I loved Aryan's disguise (I knew Hrithik was the embodiment of a Greek god!**)

I wondered why he didn't make himself the same scale as the other figures in the frieze - he's too short - especially because later in the movie, in the museum in Rio, he and Sunehri are such masters of height-adjustment that they can disguise themselves as children. How are we supposed to think that they did that? If they were walking on their knees, why didn't Jai feel her stomp on him as she went by - she was about an inch from his legs and surely would have stepped on his feet? Oh well. I just kept telling myself "it's only a movie...and a pretty dumb one at that."

* On the subject of gender portrayals, the two male stars are supposed to be good cooks! That was fun. I don't do seafood, but Hrithik can make me that little shot of espresso any time.

** My ancient art history is poor. Does anyone know if that's a copy of a real piece?

10 comments:

ggop said...

Arrgh. One thing which drove me nuts was her constant referring to herself in the third person.
gg

ggop said...

I meant the Sunehri character.
gg

Aspi said...

With time we will look kindly at Aishwarya's wonderfully foolish performance. Without her, the movie loses half its chuckle-appeal.

But what?! No mention of my girl Bipasha, who went from terrific to terrifically annoying in the space of an interval?

t-HYPE said...

Yup. Dhoom 2 was quite a mess. It was fun watching it in the theater though and yes, I'll probably buy it but only for Hrithik.
;)

GuNs said...

Amazing how much you gather from watching the movie with subtitles. I thought D2 was a dud too and would have easily been amongst the worst movies of the year if it wasnt for Hrithik.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs

Natalia said...

LOL, just found your blog and I'll surely be back! Mujhe bohot pasand hai :D

Dhoom II was awful and yet I'm hopeless enough to burst in tears when they start playing that Russian roulette.

Soniya said...

Excellent commentary, Beth. I would like to comment on the horrendous-lack-of-chemistry-what-were-they -thinking kiss between aish and hrithik's characters. "I hate you, I hate you," SMOOCH. Nice acting there, Aish.

Beth said...

ggop - that character was so badly written. I feel bad for Aishwarya that she had to do that.

Aspi - um...well, Bips (I really like to say that) didn't really have much to do either. Both of her characters were vapid, it seemed to me. I was so excited about a female cop and then they make her into a dumb-dumb. Shame.

t-hype - totally - and if I loved Hrithik like you do I imagine I'd buy it too. He looks fine. I love him with longer wavy hair like that.

GuNs - you said it! I wonder what having SRK or Aamir or whoever will do for the next one?

Natalie - thanks and welcome! I completely understand about your reaction. I'm often a sucker for even the most ridiculous emotional scenes :)

Soniya - thank you! It really was not much of a smooch, in my opinion. As usual, I have no idea what all the fuss was about.

Ellie said...

We just watched this last night, out of a feeling of obligation. Re: your Dhoom review, I too was surprised at how much I did not hate Uday; it held through this awful piece of crap. I usually try to put my gender-analysis on hold while I watch action movies, because otherwise I will puff up and burst with the pressure of the things I do not say (effort not to annoy my companions), but this one was just such a wash. I agree completely with the Shonali/Monali b.s.-- but what got me the absolute most was Sunehri's "I'll be your mute shadow" bit. She has to shut up and let the man teach her. Also, she is so incompetent on a motorbike that even pathetic Uday can catch her at the end. Sigh. Far from being shameful that they don't credit the authors of these movies (to be fair, we kind of enjoyed Dhoom 1), I think they're doing them a favor by not exposing them to the world's censure. Whew. I feel better now. High points: Hrithik (who I did not admire in, say, Jodhaa Akbar) was the breath of life in this movie. He was great. I secretly enjoyed Uday's fantasy family with Monali, but kept hoping that they'd, like, add another kid every time they cut back to it or something. (Did you note that they were all boys?) The Rio scenes were hilarious in their looky-looky-ness, considering from the POV of an Indian audience. Or what I assume that POV might be.

Beth said...

Ellie - Maybe someday I'll watch the first Dhoom again and be able to figure out what went wrong with this one, but I'm certainly not marking it on my calendar.

Your point about the writers sent me scurrying, and I am delighted to find out we can blame Aditya Chopra (in part) for this! Also Vijay Krishna Acharya, whose Tashan, Guru, and Pyaar Ke Side Effects are all much, much better than this.