Director: Indra Kumar
Cast: Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Ritesh Deshmukh, Javed Jaffrey
We’re at a stage in slapstick Hindi cinema where I’m starting to appreciate the Dhamaal franchise for not being the Masti franchise. Not being a sex comedy in this country, however, comes with its own set of problems. Money becomes the central U-rated theme. Adults end up giving diluted adult spins to children’s humour. Everyone becomes a Cartoon Network character. Everyone makes faces at the camera as if it were a two-year-old infant. Racist caricatures replace tasteless innuendos, Sonakshi Sinha does an item song, former superstars try to act like they care, Sanjay Mishra’s vocabulary is bro-specific, the Prime Minister is praised for demonetization, humans start behaving like zoo animals and zoo animals look uncannily human…and Ajay Devgn continues to imagine that he is funny.
In a way, I sort of envy Total Dhamaal’s unpretentious embrace of stupidity. The writers alone could legalize weed. But that doesn’t make it smart. Props for the scale, though. There are no less than three plane crashes (one that involves Johnny Lever as a Bengali pilot flying an auto-turned-helicopter while crooning Ekla Cholo Rey; the Baazigar “pankha” story comes to life here), a couple of garish road accidents, floods, train crashes and a bunch of CGI animals that turn out to be the best performers in a movie full of glorified baboons. More importantly, is the tiger Gujarati? The lion looks Punjabi. The gorilla, a distant relative of the Baby’s Day Out ape? At one point, a (Parsi?) baby elephant vomits sugarcane mush onto Warsi’s face. To be fair, Also, why is there no crocodile? Are reptiles not cool enough? What happened to equal representation?
The “plot” plays out like an extended Laff-A-Lympics episode, where the four pairs of characters – Ajay-Sanjay (insufferable, insufferable), Arshad-Javed (Jaffrey exhausted the mental-disability quota in the first Dhamaal), Anil–Madhuri (a bickering soon-to-be-divorced couple) and Ritesh-Pitobash (probably the only twosome in on the joke) – race across landscapes to reach a treasure stashed off at a zoo. They are chased by bad cop Boman Irani, who seems to be playing a clown at a kiddie birthday party, while Mahesh Manjrekar has a cameo as an effeminate “Madrasi” gangster. I could swear I heard Jackie Shroff’s voice serving as a street-talking GPS navigator. Or was it the late Razak Khan? That would just be morbid. And people wonder why critics nurse a drinking problem.
I did leave my brains at home. In the freezer, even. But this movie’s commitment to juvenile delinquency is so total that it managed to bypass my brainless body in the hall and send dated whatsapp forwards to the freezer. It’s no wonder that strange literary terms like “out-and-out family entertainer,” “paisa-wasool masala” and “mindless fun” are currently swimming in my empty skull.