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Chicago takes starring role in ‘Dhoom 3’

A musical number by Bean is highlight 'Dhoom 3' Bollywood film shot largely Chicago.

A musical number by the Bean is a highlight of "Dhoom 3," a Bollywood film shot largely in Chicago.

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:46PM

Chicago stars in a new Bollywood film boasting a musical number by the Bean and featuring action sequences that sacrifice a score of cop cars.

Cue the superlatives for “Dhoom 3,” India’s biggest-budget film from India’s biggest studio, Yash Raj Films. It’s the first Indian film to hit IMAX screens in that country, and it opens on Friday on 236 North American screens. That’s a record wide-release in this territory.

Hindi dialogue is subtitled in English for local screenings.

The two-hour, 52-minute film belongs to India’s biggest franchise, wherein a detective and his comic sidekick chase wily crooks. The first “Dhoom” (2004) was mostly set in Mumbai. “Dhoom 2” (2006) hopped to Rio. Writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya shot the third installment in Chicago from July 16 to Oct. 29, 2012.

“The Dark Knight” inspired the use of Lower Wacker Drive for high-speed mayhem. Acharya sought the look of “West Side Story” when he staged a singing and dancing scene near Clark and Diversey in an alley with back porches.

Carrie Holt de Lama worked as a production supervisor on the film and observed the Bollywood crew of 120 would “obsess” over details, from fake snow to old bank locks. They used Google maps to track the blocks. “They knew the city better than some of our own locations people,” says the 45-year-old Chicagoan.

She adds, “They were fiercely defending their aesthetic all the time and making sure the shot was absolutely beautiful.” Her favorite setup was at Ping Tom Park in Chinatown, with two helicopters, 22 boats and 165 stunt people. She estimates the production spent $18 million here and hired about 400 Chicagoans.

Bollywood fans from the city and across the country came to see Aamir Khan, the star of “Dhoom 3.” Production assistant Nic Park, 23, says: “I have this surreal image burned in my mind: this lady carrying a baby running full throttle at Khan.” Holt de Lama explains: “A lot of people just wanted Khan to touch their babies.”

During a visit to Mumbai, Holt de Lama saw Khan buy out an entire restaurant and a movie theater to have an evening uninterrupted by fans. “He loved Chicago because he could go shopping without people bothering him,” she reports. “The Armani on Michigan Avenue was his favorite.”

Khan wants to come back. Holt de Lama passed him a screenplay by a Los Angeles writer about a vampire in Chicago. Rabid fans may clamor for his bite.

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