Sunday, September 09, 2007



To cater to the audience’s current taste for comedy, Indra Kumar has made a no-nonsense laughathon—no time-wasting with romance so no heroines, a bare minimum of songs, no cheap gags, except for a couple of yucky toilet jokes. As trade folk say, the kind of film that can be seen with the family, without cringing. Not much of a plot either, but the writers Paritossh Painter, Balwinder Suri, Bunty Rathore) keep up an endless flow of comic ‘items’. (The idea has been borrowed from the 1963 hit It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World)

Four none-too-smart friends find themselves out on the streets without work. Their petty scams (delivering paintings dead people supposedly ordered and collecting the balance!) almost land them in jail. Luckily for them, a dying crook (Prem Chopra) tells them the location of a buried booty of ten crores. Unluckily, a cop Kabir (Sanjay Dutt) gets the idiot in the pack (Jaaved Jafferi) to blurt out that the money is in Goa and all of them get into a race to reach the treasure first.

That’s all there to the plot, the rest is padded with gags, some of which work, some don’t—but the total tally is more for than against Dhamaal. Even though he is a Parsi stereotype, Boman’s (Ashish Chowdhry) father (Asrani) with an insane obsession for his old jalopy is hilarious.

Roy (Ritesh Deshmukh) gets the best scenes, and does a wicked Sanjeev Kumar mimicry. His fighting with dacoits with a gun made of soap is also very funny Surprising Arshad Warsi is a bit listless here, more so because he has a lisping, sweetly moronic Jaaved with him in every scene and he is in top form.

The timing of all four is fabulous—as seen in the pizza-on-the-ceiling scene, and the one in which they try to entrap Kabir by pretending they are cops and he is a wanted criminal.

The first half is full of silly but amusing scenes; the second gets slower and low-energy. Some of the sequences like the cliff-hanger with kids, the dacoit chase and the too-stretched airplane landing, hamper the pace.

A bit of trimming would have helped, but director Indra Kumar keeps the boisterousness under control, avoids the Masti-like temptation for vulgarity and makes it all look like fun. However, this one is the writers’ film, and the three of them show promise.

Ram Gopal Varma has shown an alarming penchant to revisit his own films—so gangsters, cops and ghosts keep popping up repeatedly in his movies.

His latest, Darling, an odd mix of Fatal Attraction, Blithe Spirit and Bhoot, has the ghost of a dead woman haunting the man who caused her death.

Aditya (Fardeen Khan), married to Ashwini (Isha Koppikar) and father of a kid, starts an office affair with Geeta (Esha Deol). When she declares her pregnancy, he reneges on the promise of leaving his wife and marrying her. In the ensuing clash, she dies and in a panic he buries her and tries to forget the episode. But Geeta won’t let him be—she returns as a ghost to torment him.

She turns up at the most inconvenient moments – an office meeting, a police interrogation and when Aditya is in a romantic clinch with his wife. Varma, never too concerned about morality (he produced My Wife’s Murder, which said it was okay to kill a nagging wife), makes these scenes comic, and tries to swing sympathy towards Aditya, quite overlooking the fact that he did something terrible.

Not till Geeta’s weeping father (Shishir Sharma) appears on his doorstep, does Aditya seem to suffer a single pang of guilt. The other office lecher (Zakir Hussain) is also portrayed as a nice, friendly chap. Sexual harassment at work is hardly an issue to be treated so flippantly.

In spite of what happened, Geeta’s ghost says she still loves Aditya, taking the film to an unexpected end; the killer, of course, goes unpunished. What’s a murder or two between lovers!

Varma’s quirky approach comes across in scenes with the cop and his assistant who is spookier than the ghost. But what’s with the wife dressed like a kaamwali bai all the time, and speaking in a harsh, haranguing tone?

The film could also do with better performances. Fardeen Khan has to portray nervousness and fear, but all he can manage is a ridiculous pop-eyed look. Esha Deol looks scary but can’t act, ditto for Isha Koppikar. Like most Varma films, this one’s well shot, sharply edited and has an interesting background score, but nothing to really hook the viewer, except a few scattered chuckles.


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