About the story: Deshbandhu Roy (Ritesh Deshmukh), Boman Contracter (Aashish Chowdhry) and the brothers Aditya (Arshad Warsi) and Manav Shrivastav (Javed Jaffrey) are four friends who not really know the meaning of the word "job" and shift for their livings with cheatings of all kinds. When they witness a car accident and try to help the seriously injured driver Bose (Prem Chopra), the latter, dying, unveils to them that he has hidden his life earnings – 100 million rupees – in a graveyard in Goa. Immediately the four friends try everything to reach Goa and to get the money, but very soon they start quarrelling about their respective shares so that now everyone seeks to beat the others to the money. While trying to reach Goa first, Boman gets undesired company by his hysterical father (Asrani) and Roy by a terrorist named Babu Bhai (Sanjay Mishra). On top of that, there’s one more trying to get ahead of them all: inspector Kabir Nayak (Sanjay Dutt) who has hunted the criminal Bose in vain for ten years and now in compensation for his lost promotion at least wants to encash the 100 millions...
"No Drama + No Romance + No Action = Dhamaal" is the film’s tagline, and the most important point at the film’s promotion obviously was "No Romance" as from the very beginning it was pointed out that Dhamaal (= fun) would be a film with no heroine and therefore with no romance. Having seen the film, I can confirm: Very good so. In this cat-and-mouse game between four not very intelligent good-for-nothings, a car-addicted papa, a wannabe terrorist with the wrong profession and an inspector who is not as cool as he pretends to be, each whiff of a romance would have been hampering and only would have stopped the tearing speed of the story.
For no doubt about it: There are no dry sequences in the story, there is always something happening. And I really can’t understand why most of the Indian critics had their problems with the film’s second half; for my part, I liked the part when the quarrelled friends and the inspector, each in their own way, try to reach Goa, even better than the first one, especially as the story became more and more exciting towards the end. Yet, all in all, the film is average, albeit fair average. The jokes are (in my opinion) partly too shrill and loud, partly stale and only partly so that I can say: Yes, here it was amusing for me and I even could laugh out loud.
But this is also and especially thanks to the actors as all of them have a wonderful sense for comedy and act with perfect timing. Javed Jaffrey as the bit dim Manav who with his notorious tendency to speak out the truth permanently gets his buddies into trouble mostly got the best marks from the Indian critics; okay, this form of overacting is not really my cup of tea but if you like it you will have a whale of a time with him. Very positive surprises were Ritesh Deshmukh (a very successful mixture of wannabe-hero and likeable loser) and Aashish Chowdhry (who thanks to his bullying father is the poorest wretch of this gang of four). Arshad "you’re so smart, Adi" Warsi this time is not really a Circuit but his saxophone scene alone is already a veritable reason to love him in this movie.
Finally Sanjay Dutt as inspector who was cheated for his promotion and now hunts sheepsheads. Okay, best thing first: He is not overacting this time (which, since Ek Aur Ek Gyarah and Shaadi No. 1, is my secret fear everytime I hear that he’s acting in a "laugh riot" again). He is more quiet and controlled, his timing his reliable as always, and with his dry-and-dust humour he spices more than one joke. But – and maybe I simply know him too well meanwhile – this time you notice that he was very tensed at the shooting. Usually he perfectly masters the art of not letting his personal problems affect his work, but obviously at Dhamaal, the sword of Damocles of his imminent verdict in his Arms Act case definitely hung too low above him. No wonder that director Indra Kumar before the film première payed his deference to Sanjay for not having let him and the crew down in his embarrassing situation but having finished the shooting professionally and with full commitment: "If I were in Sanjay's place, Dhamaal would have never got completed."
Maybe this was the reason for Kumar to gift his Kabir Nayak – a name which definitely seems to be borrowed from Sanju’s former prime role Khalnayak (whose title song even is to be heard when the gang of four in public blacker Kabir as a homicidal criminal) – with special scenes like the one with the children dressed up for a performance, the child with the Krrish mask solemnly telling him, "You are the real superhero". Or the touching final scene when the kids once again confirm to Sanjay, "We love you, uncle". In retrospect, these parts of the film appear like precautious statements for the worst case which promptly happened only a short bit after the last shot.
Considering his situation during the shooting, you just can take your hat off to Sanju in full admiration when he at the end credits, together with Arshad, Javed, Ritesh and Aashish, rocks like in his best days and you only can guess how on earth he managed to look so happy and relaxed. May the sequel which Thakeria and Kumar, in spite of Sanju’s verdict, in steadfast loyalty already are planning with him, come into being under better circumstances.
Produced by Indra Kumar & Ashok Thakeria; Directed by Indra Kumar
131 Min.; DVD: Shemaroo, English Subtitles (including songs); the DVD also contains a Making Of.
P.S. Obviously Sanju and the children had a lot of fun while shooting together – if we may believe this report from the Mumbai Mirror.