Total Dhamaal Review

The cast of Indra Kumar’s “Total Dhamaal.” The film could have been eons better, but as it stands, it is still a fun outing at the movies. (photo provided)

Fox Star Studios, Ajay Devgn Ffilms, Maruti Internationals, SAB Films and Anand Pandit Motion Pictures present “Total Dhamaal”

Produced by: Ashok Thakeria, Indra Kumar, Markand Adhikari Bros. and Anand Pandit

Directed by: Indra Kumar

Written by: Ved Prakash, Paritosh Painter and Bunty Rathore

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan and Gourov-Roshin

Starring: Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Arshad Warsi, Riteish Deshmukh, Jaaved Jafferi, Boman Irani, Johny Lever, Manoj Pahwa, Vijay Patkar, Pitobash, Sudesh Lehri, Srikant Maski, Sp. App.: Esha Gupta & Sonakshi Sinha

Indra Kumar, vis-à-vis the other directors who have made a name in comedy, stands somewhere in-between. His humor is not in the classily clean and hilarious zone of Rohit Shetty, Anees Bazmee or Priyadarshan, nor of the populist David Dhawan kind but is still superior to the erratic form of Sajid Khan. Kumar was fairly innovative, if a bit innuendo-laden, in “Masti,” his first comic enterprise, clean and truly uproarious in “Dhamaal,” and again had a mixed feeling in his later comedies. As an experiment, he went totally and deliberately sleazy in “Grand Masti.” And he fell flat on his face with “Great Grand Masti” and its oddball content of “fun.”

This time, he goes on his “Dhamaal”-“Masti” trail of a moral message with emotions in the end. What I liked about the film was its relentless madcap air, be it the helicopter made from an auto-rickshaw with a ceiling fan as a propeller, the funny happenings and lines during the dying sequence of Pinto, and the character of the South Indian villain (Mahesh Manjrekar) in the climax. I liked the way everyone lands into varying big troubles looking for shortcuts to Janakpur’s Zoo.

And that is where the skeleton storyline comes in: Guddu and accomplice Johnny (Sanjay Mishra) rob corrupt police commissioner (Boman Irani) and his assistant (Vijay Patkar) of 50 crore, their commission in an illegal deal, which loot they are forced to throw down in suitcases from the top of a high-rise hotel onto the road where their loyal chauffeur Pinto (Manoj Pahwa). an erstwhile animal trainer, is waiting. Pinto is swayed by temptation and decamps with the loot. A chain of events leads to his death in a copter crash.

Besides Guddu and Johnny, three pairs of money-crazy characters come upon him when he is dying: just divorced and squabbling couple Avinash (Kapoor) and Bindu (Dixit), out-of-a-job firemen Lallan (Deshmukh) and Jhingur (Pitobash) and brothers Aditya (Warsi) and Manav (Jafferi). Pinto parts with the information that the wealth is hidden in the Janakpur Zoo under the sign “OK.” Finally, it is decided that whoever reaches the place first becomes finders keepers. And so begins this race, with the furious top cop, swindled of his ill-gotten wealth, also in hot pursuit.

Indra Kumar’s comedies have their Achilles Heel infrequently going tasteless, and we see that even here: the antique store sequence is intrinsically funny but not in the way the owner is dispensed with, and the same applies to some lines and visuals in the early sequence and aftermath of the robbery by Guddu. The firefighting sequence is also in bad taste as the pair prefers to save those who offer them the maximum reward.

More importantly, in cahoots with the writers, Kumar skips details on how Avinash and Bindu escape after the waterfall, and how Lallan and Jhingur finally reach the zoo. The forced humor about the double-faced remote-controlled car grates after a point, though the sequence in the tunnel is quite funny.

And while the zoo proceedings are novel and handled well, we cannot escape the toning down of the humor into soppy melodrama and the moral stands in the end on money versus values, which could have shown in a crisper, more entertaining way as in, say, “All The Best,” “No Entry” or “Malamaal Weekly.” Here is where we realize that, somewhere, Kumar, the director of the soppy “Super Nani” (which for its genre was handled in dated fashion but quite well) is showing his true colors for his eternal but (in comedies) misguided preference for moralistic melodrama. The climax is ultra-predictable and could have been both crisper and a lot funnier.

Technically, “Total Dhamaal” scores very high. The cinematography (Keiko Nakahara), visual effects including the CGI-generated animals (NY VFXWaala belonging to Devgn), background score (Sandeep Shirodkar) with its vintage R.D. Burman feel in the riff) are of high standard, and the dialogues deserve kudos for the most.

From the songs, Laxmikant-Pyarelal-Anand Bakshi’s “Paisa Yeh Paisa” is the only one that remains in the mind despite an average re-creation, and Kookie Gulati’s title-video of this song is exceptional.

The performance honors go to Ajay Devgn as Guddu and Crystal (the monkey from “Night At The Museum”) – they are both extraordinary despite routine roles for them! Jaaved Jafferi, totally in the third sync (film-wise) with his character, is hilarious. Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s quicksilver expressions and body language show that she is a born comic actor. Warsi is as always, and a few of Deshmukh’s and Kapoor’s expressions compensate for their otherwise routine performances. Johny Lever is a scream, and Irani, Patkar and Pahwa are, as always, flawless. Of special mention is Mahesh Manjrekar, who is a cute delight as the evil Chinappa, while Srikant Maski as Reddy is quietly hilarious.

This is a film that could have been eons better. But as it stands, it is still a fun outing at the movies.

Rating: ***1/2 (Almost)

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