"the film fails with its comedy and punch-lines"
Producer Indra Kumar began his movie career by making superhit family drama films like Dil (1990) and Beta (1992). But moving to the comedy genre has not been plain sailing, including Total Dhamaal which is far from being spectacular.
Despite having a big star cast and doing well globally and at the box office, the film has received more negative responses than positive, especially from the critics.
Most of Kumar’s comedy films since the new millennium have done fair to good business. However, the Great Grand Masti (2016) did not do so well.
Kumar has stated that the movie did not do well because it was leaked online one month before its release.
While he tastes both success and failure with the adult ‘Masti’ series, Indra Kumar spawned a ‘family-friendly series’ in the form of Dhamaal.
Dhamaal (2007) is hailed as one of the best clean-comedies of all-time. With genuinely funny scenes and great performances, it was a treat.
The second instalment of the Dhamaal series, Double Dhamaal (2011), however, failed to light up the box office.
The trailer of the film Total Dhamaal gave much optimism, but the final product was not quite there.
Even though the film has done good business, let’s reflect on some of the key areas where the film does fall short.
The Extremely Talented Cast: Wasted?
Total Dhamaal released in theatres on February 22, 2019.
It features the regular ‘Dhamaal’ cast of Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Riteish Deshmukh, and Sanjay Mishra, etc.
Other actors that joined the cast include Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, and Esha Gupta.
In Total Dhamaal, a bounty of Rs. 50 crores (£5.4 million) is hidden in a zoo. All the characters in the film fight against time and their competitors to get their hands on it.
Anil (Avinash Patel) and Madhuri (Bindu Patel) play the role of a Marathi-Gujarati couple on the verge of divorce.
Ajay (Guddu) plays the role of a conman who steals the Rs. 50 crores (£5.4 million) from police commissioner Boman Irani. Sanjay Mishra is Devgn’s sidekick Jonny in the film
Arshad (Aditya Shrivastav) and Javed (Manav Shrivastav) reprieve their roles as a pair of bumbling brothers, while Riteish (Lallan) plays a Bhojpuri former firefighter.
A host of other actors make the ensemble cast, including Esha (Prachi) as the owner of a zoo.
There is a really funny cameo by Johnny Lever (Shubruto) also in the film.
The amazing chemistry between Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, and the comedic talents of stalwarts like Ajay, Riteish, Arshad, Boman, and others gave Total Dhamaal the potential to be a mouthwatering enterprise.
But, alas, it was not so!
Sanjay Dutt was supposed to be a part of Total Dhamaal. But due to date issues, he could not be part of it.
Kumar, subsequently, had to slash Dutt’s character from the film and partly rewrite the script.
The Same Old Storyline
The story of Total Dhamaal is the same as the original Dhamaal film. A few groups get into a nad race to find some hidden treasure.
Total Dhamaal lays the foundation of the money-based comedy caper from the very beginning with the remixed song ‘Paisa Yeh Paisa.’
And then it is pretty much downhill from there.
Police commissioner Boman Irani arranges a deal to convert Rs. 100 (£10.8 million) crores of demonetised notes, with himself taking Rs. 50 crores (£5.4 million) as commission.
Devgn and his sidekick steal the money from the hotel where the deal takes place. However, Manoj Pahwa, the driver takes the loot and runs away.
Pahwa, however, meets with an accident. But before he dies, he tells the story of the stashed away loot to Anil-Madhuri, Arshad-Javed, and Riteish-Pitobash. Priobash Tripathy (Pinku Choksey) plays the character of Jhingur.
But just like in the first film of the series, Pahwa dies before revealing the exact location of the treasure. He only mentions that it is hidden in a zoo.
Thus, commences the madcap race to find the hidden Rs. 50 crores (£5.4 million). The entire storyline is stitched together by some funny incidents till the climax.
These include an auto that has been converted into a helicopter, an old bridge over a canyon and car chases to name a few
There is even a car GPS system that offers directions in ‘chindi’ (which is ‘chaalu hindi’) voiced over by Jackie Shroff.
The end at the zoo features a caricatured Tamil speaking Mahesh Manjrekar (Chinappa Swamy), zookeeper Esha, tacky CGI animals, and other live animals.
There have been mindless funny comedies from the stable of Kumar and his ilk in the past.
But Total Dhamaal just turns out to be a pretender even in this genre.
The music by Gourov-Roshin is nothing much to write home about either. They are just everyday run-of-the-mill compositions, which are easily forgettable and already forgotten.
Whilst ‘Paisa Yeh Paisa’ is a fair remix, ‘Mungda’ is an assassination of the evergreen song.
The latter featuring Sonakshi Sinha as an item girl is so bad that even legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar was aghast and pained after hearing it.
She publicly voiced her opinion against it. Mangeshkar mentioned that it was a sad state of affairs that original singers were not consulted before their songs got remixed.
Following the criticism from Mangeshkar, Ajay issued a statement that Lata Ji can slap him and others for spoiling the song.
Sinha stated that remixes allowed the younger generation to get to know and hear old songs.
And according to her, that was a good thing.
Kumar took a more practical approach to the entire situation. He expressed that music companies hold the rights to songs and they can do what they want with them.
He gave the example of the song ‘Neend Churayi Tumne’ from his movie Ishq, which was remixed and used in the film Simmba (2019).
Kumar continued that the rights to that song were with the music company. Hence, they offered the remix rights of the song to the makers of Simmba.
That was that, and that is how it is, according to Kumar.
Technical Aspects, Are there any?
There is not much to talk about the technical details of film making – it is a total washout.
The direction is aimless, without thought. The editing follows suit along a similar road. The screenplay is insipid and does not evoke any interest.
The CGI (Computer Generated Imagery is substandard. After the highs of Bahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), this was low.
The only saving grace for Total Dhamaal is the acting.
Virtually all the actors have done a fair job, considering the limited scope available in the film.
There are some gags that are funny and may make us laugh. But those are few and far between. Many so-called attempts of humour turned out to be lame.
Lakshana Patel, a reviewer for India Today was critical of the film saying:
“The little respite in this adventure-comedy is the pairing of Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, who prove that they still have the same impeccable chemistry and partnership almost two decades later.
“While Ajay Devgn gives a fair performance with his poorly written character and punches, it’s surprisingly the otherwise fantastic Sanjay Mishra who is a letdown.
“Overall, the film fails with its comedy and punch-lines and leaves you with a headache.”
Total Dhamaal made Rs. 16.50 crores (£1.85 million) at the Indian box office on the first day of release.
Taking into account that the film was not well received critically, it had a very good opening. And it also had a good second day.
Trade Analyst, Taran Adarsh went on Twitter to highlight the opening of the film. He tweeted:
“#TotalDhamaal – non-holiday release – creates dhamaal on Day 1…”
“Biz multiplies as day progresses… Mass circuits rocking… Metros/plexes witness upward trend… Biz should grow on Day 2 and contribute to a big total over the weekend… Fri ? 16.50 cr. India biz.”
Watch Trailer of Total Dhamaal here:
Similar to some of the other Bollywood films, Total Dhamaal is certainly not a compelling story.
You may catch the film at a cinema near to you, or you may wait for a TV release. Or you can skip it altogether.
After all the audience is king and the choice is theirs.