Friday, April 12, 2019

Total Dhamaal: Review

After the outbreak of flag-waving that took over Hindi cinema last month, it’s a relief to be able to write a review that doesn’t read like a state of the nation address or a dispatch from the battlefield. On the other hand: baby elephant vomit. Fart gallery. Tiger extinction joke. Sanjay Mishra addressing Ajay Devgn as “bro" so many times you’ll want to retire either the term or Sanjay Mishra.

Fine, I laughed at the tiger joke. But there’s not much else in Indra Kumar’s Total Dhamaal that’s worthy of being up on a big screen – even a phone is too large a canvas for ambitions this small. This is the third film in the Dhamaal series, a trilogy so mediocre its only competition is the execrable Masti films. And the Housefull films. And the Golmaal films.

After Devgn and Mishra steal 50 crore in cash from a crooked cop (Boman Irani), they’re double-crossed by their getaway driver. He crash-lands in the mountains and, before dying, reveals to his former partners that the money is stashed in a faraway zoo. Present at this confession are three other pairs of no-gooders: ex-firemen Riteish Deshmukh and Pitobash Tripathy; Arshad Warsi and Javed Jaffrey as the bumbling Shrivastav brothers; and the almost-divorced Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. The film tracks the progress of these four teams as they try to reach Janakpur zoo by helicopter, smartcar from hell, car with Jackie Shroff-voiced GPS, and sky-diving.

Not for the first time, Kumar aims for It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and ends up with It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Film. It isn’t crass like the Masti series – also directed by Kumar – just deeply unfunny and lazy, a series of tired gags executed by uninspired performers. It’s been a decade since Devgn’s gotten a laugh (onscreen, at least), and though it’s nice to see Dixit and Kapoor reunited, there’s no bite to their bickering. Irani is the Billy Gilbert of modern Hindi comedy, which is to say he’s nearly always better than the material he’s given. Jaffrey, clad in a green full-sleeve shirt, a yellow beret and khaki overalls with minions on them, scratching a vulture under the chin, is what passes for a bright spot.

A couple of days after the terrorist attack on Indian soldiers at Pulwama, Devgn tweeted that Total Dhamaal wouldn’t be released in Pakistan. Even in that heated moment, he managed to unite hundreds of people on both sides of the border, who immediately tweeted back that the real punishment would be to release the film in Pakistan and nowhere else.

This review appeared in Mint.

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