A scene from Total Dhamaal Image Credit: Gulf News

Conmen with a conscience is a yawn and that’s where a chaotic caper like ‘Total Dhamaal’ stumbles.

Until then, the wacky comedy about a greedy bunch on a treasure hunt, played by prominent Bollywood stars, was trundling along just fine. The laughs were coming easy and the characters — who weren’t the brightest bulbs in a classroom — managed to keep us hooked to their wild antics, stunts and physical comedy in the first half.

This is one film where idiocy is celebrated, even glorified, with glee.

These conmen move in pairs. The film opens with Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Mishra indulging in bro-speak and stealing two suitcases filled with wads of cash right from under a corrupt police commissioner’s (Boman Irani) nose. Mishra is in his element here and he complements Devgn’s dead-pan humour.

Their jokes land as they take a swipe at each other’s bachelor status and more.

If you are looking for cerebral humour, then you are barking up the wrong film. The humour in ‘Total Dhamaal’ is in-your-face and silly. The trick to enjoy this mad caper is to enjoy their crazy ride without looking for any deep meaning. These were Devgn’s words, not mine, when he spoke with Gulf News tabloid! earlier. But that man has a valid point.

This film is littered with a motley crew of Bollywood talents. To watch a super-fit, age-defying Anil Kapoor play a weary husband constantly sparring with his feisty wife Bindu — another well-preserved star Madhuri Dixit Nene — was charming. They are a newly-divorced couple and are on their way to break the news to their son when they take a detour to become instant millionaires. Their chemistry is still intact and their misadventures are so stupid, that you just laugh at their outlandish, cartoonish feats.

One of the interesting parts of ‘Total Dhamaal’ is that the humour and rowdy jokes are never bawdy. They just like to take swipes at ‘Madrasis’ [a broad term for South Indians] and penny-pinching Gujaratis. Have you seen the cringe-worthy caricaturing before? Yes. Do you laugh at it? Reluctantly.

While a part of you balks at the stereotypes peddled time and again in Bollywood films, you still play along.

In terms of performances, every actor — be it Arshad Warsi, Riteish Deshmukh or Jaaved Jaffrey — do their bit to crank up the madness. The one with Deshmukh flying a plane with Johnny Lever is comic gold.

While the first half where the crazy bunch try to find their way towards the hidden stash is enjoyable, the second half set mostly in a zoo falters considerably. Suddenly, the morally-bankrupt bunch develop a moral compass and embark on this mission to save animals who are being poisoned by a bunch of greedy businessmen.

Why deviate from their chosen path of finding ill-gotten wealth?

The sub-plot doesn’t work and the VFX-laden animal encounter scenes seems forced. Ideally, this star-studed screwball comedy should have just stuck to the brief of showcasing the gleefully dumb and dumber bunch. However, don’t hold it against them.

If you are looking for a comedy that thrives on nonsense, more than sense, then you have signed up for the right ride.

Check it out!

Film: Total Dhamaal

Director: Indra Kumar

Cast: Madhuri Dixit Nene, Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Riteish Deshmukh, Sanjay Mishra and Johnny Lever

Stars: 2.5 out of 5