Director: Indra Kumar
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Riteish Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra, Johnny Lever, Mahesh Manjrekar
Rating: 3 Moons
Here’s a film you can leave your mind behind and go and see; because it’s a mindless comedy, not meant to be meaningful cinema. But see it you must. Director Indra Kumar has wickedly packed into it all of Bollywood’s best and brightest comedic talents. Don’t go searching for great characters among them. It’s a first class ensemble cast but they all are as light, nonsensical and fizzy as the script is. Yet they serve a purpose. Which is to make audiences unwind. Go expecting over-the-top humour, bumbling sidekicks and lungi-clad nariyal paniwalas, and the mandatory peppy item numbers set to 80s remixes.
Happily, Indra has remembered where he lost the plot in the sequel Double Dhamaal of 2011, because the director has decided not to reinvent the wheel with the third installment of the franchise: he’s gone back to the original Dhamaal of 2007. That was a cracker of the film. Here too, 12 years later in Total Dhamaal, there’s a dying man talking about a Rs. 50 crore jackpot that he stashed away not in some Swiss bank, but a zoo in Janakpur.
The witnesses to his death, eyes shining with greed, ears perked up, include husband-wife Madhuri Dixit Nene and Anil Kapoor, the unintelligent Javed Jaffrey and his brother Arshad Warsi, the cool and cunning Ajay Devgn and his ingratiating accomplice Sanjay Mishra, Police Commissioner Boman Irani, Ritesh Deshmukh with a North Indian accent and many other jokers above all of whom rises Bollywood’s original and ageing comedy king Johnny Lever in a cameo as a Bengali scientist and pilot. Thus begins a mad race between them to reach the zoo first and claim the treasure.
This is the 1963 Hollywood cult comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World all over again, but nobody’s grumbling about Bollywood’s remake, because the gags in Total Dhamaal come so quickly and continuously that you are left with no time to question, wonder at and even properly enjoy the earlier scene because the next one is at your throat already! Look out for the outrageously hilarious sequence when Johnny Lever tries to fly a makeshift helicopter fitted with a rickshaw’s hand-crank starter and a ceiling fan. His expressions and the timing of his dialogue delivery are unmatched even today.
But giving Johnny Lever an unintentional run for laughs is the hugely entertaining and refreshing duo of Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit who still have that crackling chemistry on screen after 18 years. Their feisty bickering as the Gujarati husband and Maharashtrian wife is class. We are introduced to them as the couple getting divorced in court and Madhuri simply sparkles in this scene. Also, the time when she’s explaining why she called for a vet instead of a doctor to examine him.
The familiar trio of Riteish Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi and Javed Jaaferi are reunited, with Arshad and Javed reprising their roles as the sibling duo Adi-Manav. They join in the chase with a hi-tech car that has a mind of its own. Riteish, as the mercenary fireman Lallan who rescues people that pay him the most, gets the film’s corniest sequence with Johnny Lever and the helicopter. Ajay Devgn, whose production house financed this crazy adventure, is all swag and dependable. Sanjay Mishra as his sidekick is sadly wasted and beyond a point his addressing Ajay as ‘bro’ with his English is grating. Similarly, Boman Irani has little to do, except being slapped by his sidekick, the always-reliable Vijay Patkar.
The great thing about Total Dhamaal is that it retains its promise of being a family entertainer. There’s no sexual innuendo, no vulgar one-liners or double entendres and the script rests on entertaining only with its funny moments. Some of the gags you have seen and heard by the same director before and they do tend to drag the pace but otherwise, Indra Kumar delivers a clean film. Predictably, the climax has all characters assembled together (in a zoo!), it has a love track and an ending that will have the audience in splits. You are guaranteed two hours of clean, paisa vasool entertainment with your family sitting next to you. This is like one of those 1980s’ Bollywood masala potboilers produced for the masses that were so bad, they were good.