This is a comedy about the ludicrousness of human greed. In this movie, five teams of no hopers look for suitcases of demonetised cash, all in fresh, pink Rs. 2000/ notes. The corrupt Commissioner of Police and his Inspector (Boman Irani and Vijay Patkar) have just exchanged crores of old notes for new, when the deal is abruptly hijacked by a con man (Ajay Devgn) and his assistant (Sanjay Mishra). The scene is a telling comment on the 2016 economic exercise of the Government, and its eventual failure to curb corruption.
But when the new ‘black money’ turns into a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the mad comedy begins. The plot is a wholesale lift from Stanley Kramer’s ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World’ and, like the original, involves cars and aircraft in daredevil stunts across the countryside, all conducted by several teams of social aspirants who are salivating over the prospect of finding easy money to tide over their problems.
A dying man has identified the location of the treasure to the gentlemen (and one lady) gathered round him. Immediately that he kicks the bucket (in the original, he actually kicks a bucket placed near his feet) they take off in a race to the finish. The film cuts from one team to another, from following one hopeless journey to the next, and in each we take a look at human beings who have reached the bottom rung of their moral universe. Their world is the consumerist hell of the middle class; defined solely by possession and transaction. Appropriately, when unemployed duffers, Arshad Warsi and Javed Jaffrey, are lost in the desert, vultures gather around them for the feast. When Riteish Deshmukh’s life is hanging by a thread, he prays to the Gods, and promises a generous offer at a temple, should he be saved. But when he miraculously escapes death, he backtracks and abruptly withdraws the tender.
Probably the most cynical of the treasure hunters are the Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit characters. They play a warring, middle aged couple in the middle of an ugly divorce. A constant tirade of abuse is hurled around, as also a volley of venom directed against the institution of marriage that has bound them in their hell on earth.
None of this is actually funny, but the movie plays to the gallery by placing each set of characters in preposterous and farcical gags. The sheer ludicrousness of the set-ups – involving air, land and water transport – gets a few laughs. ’Total Dhamaal’ is a lightweight project, with a few heavyweight actors, that takes off in fits and starts. This is like a helicopter with engine trouble. A crash landing is imminent.