The 2013 film Dhoom 3 features the beautiful and breathtaking song "Malang" which is estimated to be one of the most expensive Bollywood item numbers ever filmed at a cost of more than Rs. 5 crore (nearly US$ 800,000).
The music for "Malang" was composed by Pritam Chakraborty, who also composed the music for Dhoom and Dhoom 2. The lyrics were penned by Sameer Anjaan who described the song as "a beautiful, pure and sublime Sufi love song." The song was picturized on Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif and sung by Siddharth Mahadevan and Shilpa Rao. According to Bolly Meaning, the word "Malang" has many, sometimes contradictory and confusing meanings but is "someone who is not worldly while living in this world" and is associated with love which is of a nomadic nature or a "vagrant love."
The song was shot at Reliance Studios on an elaborate set which took over two months to create.
To a western audience, the first thing you notice is what appears to be a humongous Star of David as a backdrop. Swami B.G. Narasingha explains that this is actually an ancient Vedic symbol which was adopted by the Jewish tradition in the 17th century. According to the Swami:
Before it appeared in the west, from the most ancient of times to the present day, Sat-kona has been at the heart of spirituality in India. The Sat-kona [the six pointed star with a hexagram within, defining sacred space], is constructed by joining two perfect triangles — one pointing upward signifying Purusa and the other pointing downward signifying Prakrti. It is the oldest spiritual symbol known to the world. Sat-kona has been around since the beginning of the universe. We do not expect to find any archaeological evidence to support this statement, however, from sastra, Vedic literature, the evidence is there.
Over 200 professional stuntmen, dancers and acrobats were flown in and hosted in Mumbai for 20 days to learn the choreography and perform in the video. Cirque Du Soleil performers were brought in to train Bollywood stars Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif for this item number.
For this gymnastic performance, Aamir Khan had to have a flexible and lean body type - getting down to 9% body fat. Both Katrina Kaif and Aamir Khan had to train for a year-and-a-half to get their bodies toned for the gymnastics they would perform in Dhoom 3.
Makeup and costumes
It took Aamir Khan 3 hours everyday to have the tattoo-like body art applied. According to IndiaToday,
Renowned airbrush artist from Los Angeles Adam Tenenbaum was hired for Aamir's makeup. The make-up genius used special iridescent cosmetic grade non-toxic paint on Khan's body, as it is considered to be the safest option for body art.
In an Urban Asian interview, Adam Tenenbaum explained how Aamir Khan's body art was designed:
"Aamir's look was originally based on a character I designed for a circus performer here in Hollywood, an aerialist. We all agreed the design fit perfectly for Sahir, who is the leader of a cirque performance troupe. The look helped highlight Aamir’s muscular physique, as well as, create a dynamic physical tension. Basically, it was a blend of strength and grace. Hard-lines mixed with contours. There was a lot of tweaking of this look throughout the initial stages of development, with Aamir having ample input in the specifics and details. I really enjoyed working hand-in-hand with such an established actor."
The beautiful, elaborate, and form-fitting bodysuits for Katrina Kaif were imported from the United States.
At one point in the item number, the cast performed at heights up to 80 feet with quick turns. At one point, Aamir Khan had to whirl 60 times in a minute as part of the choreography. Vertigo and nausea became an issue. Along with having a doctor on set, Aamir Khan was given motion sickness medicine during the shoot which helped.
The stars performed the aerial acrobatics without any safety net or harnesses. While the actors make the performance look simple, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes. According to a Bollywood Hungama interview with Aamir Khan:
"We were about 40 feet high in the song 'Malang'. We had hired special artists for this. Katrina had suffered a lot of bruises on her legs during the shoot but luckily nothing major. It was a very tough task. We had to train with the circus artist properly before we went up high because in the movie there was nothing underneath to protect us. So we had to take a lot of care. 'Malang' has a lot of acrobats and it has loop work and straps and silks which is normally never a part of the Indian circus acts."
In a GulfNews article, Katrina Kaif further explained,
"You need physical strength to do aerial scenes because you cannot use any kind of harness or safety equipment. That was a big challenge because I had to learn how to use my body strength. Most girls don’t work with our shoulders and I didn’t. So I had to train for days and eat a lot. And I didn’t try to cheat."
Vaibhavi Merchant - who also did the choreography for Dhoom and Dhoom 2 - orchestrated the complex choreography for "Malang". In a rediff article, she explained:
"It took me four months to put 'Malang' together. From conceptualising the sets, the costumes, and props, to what are the aerial acts that they will be performing, what apparatus they will have, how it will be choreographed, when they are on ground how they will look."
Shampa Gopikrishna - who made her Bollywood debut choreographing for "Ang Laga De" from Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela - choreographed Katrina Kaif's performance. "Dance is all about pushing the boundaries and challenging oneself," she explained in an Indian Express article. Though the daughter of famous choreographer Gopi Krishna (1935-1994), Shampa is a newcomer to Bollywood and she was very fortunate to receive the opportunity to choreograph for "Malang". According to the Deccan Chronicle:
"Vaibhavi (Merchant) ma’am had seen me in Jhalak [Dikhlaja], she knew that I was good with aerial acts as well, so she roped me in ... We worked on it for two months but the actual shoot lasted only 11 days. It’s not your usual Bollywood dance routine and features several aerial acts, so it was quite a challenge to pull off..."
Actual filming for "Malang" took 12 days with daily shoots taking up to 12 hours. Katrina Kaif and Aamir Khan were suspended for six to seven hours each day. Because there were so many artists dancing or performing acrobatics on the set, several retakes were necessary to get just the right footage. According to Vaibhavi Merchant,
"Even when the actors were dancing on the ground, there were other performers behind them who were flying and swinging mid-air. In every shot, there was someone aerially bound."
The following video playlist includes the teaser for the song, a lyrics video, "Making of" and "Behind the scenes" videos and finally, the official full video for the song "Malang".