Hindi Reviews

Total Dhamaal Review: Tired Humour and Clichéd Plots In A Movie That Stereotypes and Humiliates South Indians

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Director: Indra Kumar

Cast:  Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Esha Gupta, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Boman Irani, Riteish Deshmukh, Sanjay Mishra

A Total Dhamaal review would require one to take this film, its story and plot, its characters and cast, and its idea of humour seriously, and believe that the makers genuinely thought the film was worth doing.

I found myself unable to muster that much of an effort for this film. However, in larger interests, here goes an honest attempt at reviewing the film.

*****

Total Dhamaal stars Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Esha Gupta, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Boman Irani, Riteish Deshmukh, Sanjay Mishra, and some CGI/Animatronic animals. And a whole lot of lazy stereotypes and slurs that come straight from the 1970s.

The film was directed by Indra Kumar, based on a script written by  Paritosh Painter, Ved Prakash and Bunty Rathore. The film was produced by Ajay Devgn Ffilms, Anand Pandit Pictures, Fox Star Studios and others. Music directors are Gourav-Roshin and Sandip Shirodkar.

*****

There’s a bit of money – well maybe a bit more than a bit of money. And there are five teams of two people each who want to lay claim to that money. And so they must chase each other and try and get the better of the other in an attempt to reach the money first. Your classic zany scheme/comic caper. Except, the jokes are written by a 12-year-old, not particularly bright school yard bully. Which is why, in 2019, we have a lead actor – Madhuri Dixit – describe someone as a ‘Madrasi’.

In an earlier scene, Javed Jaffrey and Arshad Warsi apply for a job at an art gallery. And so of course, they must destroy a bunch of things that apparently have beauty and value. But first, let’s squeeze in an old Reader’s Digest era joke. Arshad almost drops a vase, and the owner of the gallery gasps, says “that’s 300 years old!” Arshad responds, “Oh? The way you screamed, I thought it was a new one.”

When South Indians aren’t stereotyped as bumbling fools, they are the villains. Who are still bumbling fools. How does that work? One can either be villainous or bumbling fools. Not both, not at the same time. The villain of the film is Chinnappa Swamy – a name I, in my 37 years of practice as a south Indian, have never come across. Chinnaswamy yes. Chinnappa yes.  And because he is a south Indian he has to say “Saaari” because that’s what Madrasis do in Hindi land.

There’s a constantly bickering husband-wife couple: Madhuri and Anil Kapoor, who are apparently Gujaratis and so that’s an easy way to insert glowing recommendation to current Prime Minister. Whatever else, Narendra Modi has an assured life post politics in Hindi cinema.

Then there’s Johnny Lever. The last time I found him funny was when…

Mayilsamy on a bad day with the same jokes would be infinitely funnier.

I used to really like Javed Jaffrey – perhaps mainly in the Maggi Ketchup commercials. And the voice-over on Takeshi’s Castle, the few times I’ve seen it. Therefore it was hugely disappointing to see a man struggle to elicit any laughter in this tired, cliched plot.

Oh no, wait. The cinema hall was indeed laughing. There were some 20 odd people in this fairly posh cineplex in Bangalore, all who grew up or have lived in the south for a fair bit of time. And with some south Indian, even Tamil friends. But they were laughing.

So perhaps, it was just me.

*****

The Total Dhamaal review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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