Total Dhamaal movie review: Yet another Ajay Devgn atrocity. 1 star
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit
Director: Inder Kumar
Some actors stand for quality. Ayushmann Khurrana, for instance, distinguishes himself from his peers through his discretion in picking scripts. Having Khurrana on the poster makes us expect something unique and intelligent. By that measure, Ajay Devgn is the Anti-Khurrana, an actor who has become a byword for mediocrity. Devgn can act — he shone in Omkara, Company, Gangaajal, Kachche Dhaage, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam — but of late, he appears exclusively in movies that make critics like me question our careers.
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Total Dhamaal is an Inder Kumar cover version of Stanley Kramer’s rollicking It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Devgn — a man with such a distaste for syllables that he has robbed his own name of one, making it appear impossible to pronounce — may have appreciated that this film was born out of an English DVD, and better still, a DVD that would mean he didn’t have to do much, and there would be enough actors around to share the blame.
The 1963 original is nuts, a relentlessly long work of all-star slapstick starring… well, pretty much every Hollywood actor who could tell a joke. Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy and Ethel Merman were some of the stars, while Jerry Lewis, Peter Falk and The Three Stooges made cameos. The whole point of this absurd production about a treasure-hunt was a farce that would pit these diverse comic talents alongside each other, riffing together for the first time ever.
The idea of greed doesn’t get old, and It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World — about a wild-cashchase involving stolen money and readily gluttonous hunters — has been remade often, most cleverly when adapted indirectly, like David O Russell’s Three Kings. The Hindi film that played it well was S Ramanathan’s Bombay To Goa, the frothy 1971 film that starred every comic in sight.
Inder Kumar displays no such ambition. Where Bombay To Goa had Shatrughan Sinha, he gives us Ritesh Deshmukh doing a bad Shotgun imitation. Here we see faces common to every single Dhamaal/Golmaal movie, Sanjay Mishra and Manoj Pahwa making faces while Boman Irani and Javed Jaffrey wear loony clothes. The only stars are Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor, and it is tragic to see them languish thus. Not just are they one of the most combustible screen pairs of all time, but have exceptional comic timing. This film gives them jokes without punchlines.
The script is unforgivably lazy. There are setups galore — a car has a bonnet both at the front and at the back — but there are no payoffs. Instead, Kumar and his actors move from setup to setup, hoping we have indeed left our brains at home. There is exactly one okay laugh, involving a man with the surname Pilot being mistook for an actual pilot, making me wonder if Kumar ran into someone named Writer.
As I now massage my traumatised temples, I thank Devgn for appearing on the poster, and make note to heed his statutory honesty in the future. Be warned, the word ‘gag’ can mean many things.
(The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. They do not reflect the views of Hindustan Times.)
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