If you wanted to create a film to show that Men Are Awesome! and Women Are Sexy!, you could not do much better than Bollywood action thriller Dhoom 2. It reminds me so much of a 1980’s hair band album. Ninety percent of it is about how much men rock. Ten percent of it is the equivalent of the one slow love ballad on every Poison, Warrant, and Motley Crue album, designed specifically to convince the women in the audience that underneath that bad boy, party hearty, slap your ass exterior is a heart of gold just waiting for yoooouuuuuuuuu. And like the videos of songs on these albums, the women don’t wear much clothing and they spend a lot of time “dancing.”
Dhoom 2 is flashy, colorful, and it goes well with popcorn, but let’s take a look at what else you’re getting with your tasty concession stand treat. (Or your microwave-in-your-kitchen treat, as the case may be.)
Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) is a solemn supercop, kicking ass to make the world safe for decent, law-abiding folks. His wife, Sweety (Rimi Sen), is pregnant, so her entire life revolves around eating, nagging, and being suspicious of Sonali Bose (Bipasha Basu), Jai’s leggy college gal pal who is now a cop and has just appeared to work with Jai on a case. Jai’s goofy partner, Ali (Uday Chopra), is head over heels for Sonali, but she won’t give him the time of day. He is doomed to be alone… that is, until he meets Sonali’s twin sister Monali, a hippy dippy carbon copy (also played by Basu) who somehow has a thing for short, goofy guys and makes Ali’s dreams come true. Meanwhile, Jai has blackmailed lovely cat burglar Sunehri (Aishwarya Rai) to get next to the international master superthief known as Mr. A so Jai can bring him to justice.
Got all that?
Let’s talk about Sonali first. Jai and Ali are back at the police station after a hard case when Sonali appears on the scene. Her glamorous look, tight clothes, windswept hair, and exposed midriff mark her as a wise, experienced member of law enforcement. Accidentally handcuffing herself to a chair in an interrogation room cements her status as a valuable member of the team that’s forming to catch Mr. A. Indeed, she is the expert on Mr. A, having been devoted to his case for two years. Her valuable expertise is highlighted when Jai takes over her briefing on Mr. A’s next move and calmly explains where the next heist will take place. When the stakeout and ensuing chase fails, Sonali shows great courage and persistence by deciding to resign. In her next attempt to catch Mr. A, she breaks her ankle, and completely disappears from the movie.
It’s an interesting take on the Only Woman syndrome in action movies, since her role wraps up just as junior thief Sunehri appears on the scene. Sunehri is all about big talk, but in her first outing she is thoroughly schooled by Mr. A for not doing appropriate recon and planning. He has to save her from Sonali. Lucky guy, he’s repaid by Sunehri stripping off her thief costume to reveal an outfit that I can only describe as Grunge Barbie, then taunting him for checking her out. Sunehri’s motto as she grows closer to Mr. A during her mission to betray him? “Shadows don’t speak. They just follow, silently.” Jai’s advice to her about how not to screw up her mission? “Don’t try to use your intelligence. You don’t have much.”
Monali, the beach bum sister of lady cop Sonali, is included to show that even the most incompetent of guys just has to find the RIGHT gorgeous girl. Sidekick Ali is like the dorky keyboard player in the heavy metal band. He may look ridiculous standing there tapping on an electronic piano, but he’s IN THE BAND. He still gets hot chicks, except for the ultra hot chicks that are destined for the lead singer (Mr. A) or lead guitarist (Jai).
Let’s not even talk about nagging pregnant wife Sweety. In fact, after the first couple of scenes, no one really does. The fact that Jai has a pregnant wife at home doesn’t seem to affect him one bit while gallivanting around the world to bust the bad guys.
This movie is really about Jai facing off with Mr. A in a battle to the death. One of them says to the other “Why are stories incomplete without women?”, and the only answer I can come up with in their universe is “Because then there wouldn’t be any eye candy?”
In all fairness, at least Dhoom 2 does offer an equal opportunity for its main characters to dance and sing while wearing revealing clothing. However, that does not earn it any stars. Bad Bollywood, no biscuit!
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.