Dhoom kicked off a YRF franchise that made its villains look cool, from John Abraham to Hrithik Roshan
The Dhoom franchise, that started 15 years ago on 27 August, showed us how the bad guy can look stylish, through John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan's characters.
Fifteen years ago, Sanjay Gadhvi's action thriller Dhoom released on 27 September, 2004. It was an anomaly in the filmography of Yash Raj Films, a banner then mostly associated with romantic dramas and romantic comedies. But Dhoom, starring Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, John Abraham, Esha Deol, and Rimi Sen, was clearly an inspiration of Hollywood's Fast & Furious franchise, known for its fast cars and bulked-up men.
As the Fast & Furious franchise is about to churn its ninth instalment next year, it's important to note that Dhoom became India's first popular franchise that released its third instalment nine years later in 2013. What the Dhoom franchise did for the Indian audience though, at least till the second part, was to make the villain look cool. In the first two parts, John Abraham as Kabir and Hrithik Roshan as Aryan were villains whose backgrounds were left unexplored. They were bad guys not for money or revenge but their motivation was merely style. They were unapologetic about being the villain, and robbed in style. Yet, they had a self-formulated rule book they faithfully adhered to.
In the first part, Dhoom, Kabir is the leader of a biker gang who used an upgraded version of Suzuki Hayabhusa to flee after robbing a bank or trust, while they double up as waiters at a pizza shop. When we first hear Kabir talk, he takes a gang member's flashy car for a ride and then drops it off a cliff, because as thieves, they are supposed to keep a low profile, and not come under the police's scanner. Strike one.
Later in the film, Kabir calls Inspector Jai Dixit (Abhishek) and challenges him by telling him the exact date, time, and place of his next robbery. Assuming he is an easy catch, Jai accepts the challenge, only to lose it when Kabir turns up disguised as a blind man who keeps a chit with the details of the next robbery in his pocket. Strike two.
In the climax, when Kabir is stuck between Jai and Ali (Uday), who are advancing towards him on their respective bikes. He decides to race his bike towards a cliff, in turn taking away his own life. His last shot is frozen in my mind: a smiling John Abraham falling face-up from a cliff, leaving behind a literal tail of money, and both Jai and Ali flummoxed. He ultimately fulfilled his uncompromising stand of never getting caught. Strike three and out.
Hrithik took the bad guy act one step up in Dhoom 2, which released two years later in 2006. His Aryan was accompanied by Sundari (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), who started off working with the police. But Mr A, as he was referred to as by the police and the media, managed to turn Sundari into his own accomplice towards the end. And in this part, he even shook a leg with Jai and Ali on 'Dil Laga Na' towards the end of the film after having a friendly conversation with Abhishek's character. In the end, however, even after he took his and Sundari's lives to avoid being caught, in similar fashion, the cryptic climax of Dhoom 2 only revealed they both were still alive, though moved ahead from thievery, and become hotel entrepreneurs. Jai did come across them years later, but decided against arresting them since he had already solved their case a long time ago.
Dhoom 3 comparitively turned out to be a rather dull addition to the hot and happening franchise. No wonder the new director Vijay Krishna Acharya (who took over from Sanjay Gadhvi, director of the first two parts) and the actors worked tirelessly hard. The fact that Aamir Khan chose to be the villain did have its consequences. The bad guy of Dhoom, as the franchise had clearly established, did not have a justification for turning villain. However, Aamir, who played a dual role in the film, made most part of Dhoom 3 about himself, and moreover, the reason why he, or rather they, turned into the bad guys. This turned the otherwise fast-paced Dhoom into an emotionally wrought family drama, with Jackie Shroff playing the father to the younger versions of the helpless evil twins.
There were several reports stating Shah Rukh Khan had been approached to play the villain in Dhoom 4. Though he has played the bad guy convincingly in films like Darr, Anjaam, Baazigar, Don, Fan, and more recently, Raees, he may be avoiding the cliche of a superstar turning a villain into a man who is a victim of his circumstances. Since he understands obsession like no other actor, it would have been fun to see him play an unapologetically bad character again. While it might take an SRK to infuse new life back into the franchise, the record-breaking box office collection of Dhoom 3 only proves it still enjoys an extremely wide appeal.
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