With Total Dhamaal, Housefull 4, Bollywood is going Baahubali-esque big on comedies in 2019
Comedies like Total Dhamaal and Housefull 4 this year are being projected as event films which are high on scale, budget, star appeal and most remarkably, VFX.
Comedy seems to be serious business for Bollywood in 2019. While last year witnessed a wide range of successful comedies in Luv Ranjan's Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Amit Sharma's Badhaai Ho and even a black comedy like Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun, they did not boast of the same scale as the comedies lined up for release this year seem to.
The trailer of Indra Kumar's Total Dhamaal substantiates why the multi-starrer comedy is being touted as the 'wildest adventure ever'. The third instalment of the successful Dhamaal franchise, the Ajay Devgn-starrer not only takes the hilarious series forward but also adds various new dimensions to it in order to lend it a fresh appeal. Like Devgn's 2017 blockbuster horror comedy Golmaal Again, Total Dhamaal retains its comic tone but also treads into the sub-genere of an adventure comedy. Set in a jungle, the madcap comedy seems to be on the lines of Jake Kasdan's 2017 super hit fantasy action adventure comedy Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In fact, the first look of Total Dhamaal saw Crystal the Monkey from Hangover II make his 'Bollywood debut', perched on Devgn's shoulder.
But the Hollywood influences in Total Dhamaal are not confined to only the setting and the characters. The scale in terms of budget, star cast and vision, seems to be in line with the global standards. When Kumar narrated the script to Devgn, the star decided to back the project in the capacity of a producer as well, in order to realise or enhance the director's vision. In the past, Ajay Devgn FFilms has churned out big budget films like Raju Chacha, All The Best, Son Of Sardar, Singham 2 and Shivaay. Devgn is also producing Tanaji: The Unsung Warrior, a large-scale period war drama that also stars Saif Ali Khan. Thus, it is only natural he attaches himself with Total Dhamaal, which seems to be of equally huge proportions, given he has plans to release it in 3D.
As the trailer suggests, there will be umpteen cameos by a wide variety of wild animals. As the makers intend to claim "no animals were harmed during the making of this film", clearly, they are going to employ copious amounts of VFX in their film. Devgn's 2017 action entertainer Shivaay won a National Award for its special effects, so it is certain that the star takes that department very seriously. In fact, last year, he went on to announce that he has pushed Total Dhamaal from its 7 December, 2018 release to 22 February, owing to the exhaustive VFX work. He has reportedly spent Rs 12 crore only on the VFX front.
Besides the Dhamaal regulars, and the addition of Devgn and a host of supporting actors, Total Dhamaal has also pulled off a casting coup. When Indar signed his Beta lead stars, Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, for a reunion after 27 years, the stakes went even higher. Though the two '90s stars have collaborated on a number of films like Pukar and Ram Lakhan, they will be seen in an all-out comedy for the first time. They will not only bring their chemistry and impeccable comic timing but also major star appeal to the Dhamaal franchise.
Along with Total Dhamaal, Fox Star Hindi also has big money running on Housefull 4, the fourth instalment in Sajid Nadiadwala's super successful Housefull franchise. It is the only release slated for Diwali this year, a spot that was reserved for Vijay Krishna Acharya's gigantic period drama Thugs of Hinostan last year, that starred Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Katrina Kaif, and was backed by Aditya Chopra's Yash Raj Films. Housefull 4 is also Akshay Kumar's long-awaited return to comedy after the star delivered a string of social and patriotic dramas over the past three years, including Rustom, Padman, Jolly LLB 2, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Gold.
Besides Akshay's return, director Farhad Samji and Nadiadwala's vision and investment have also upped the ante as far as the genre of comedy is concerned. Touted as the first 3D comedy film of India, Housefull 4 has no qualms about admitting the film it aims to level up with. The parallel narrative will reportedly juggle between the present and the past, set in a "Baahubali-like" era. Kumar's look as a bald prince of the pre-Independence era also surfaced online last year. And if that was not enough, Rana Daggubati, who played the antagonist in the Baahubali franchise, is reportedly playing the bad guy in Housefull 4 as well.
While ambition to replicate the Hollywood superhero films or the breakthrough Indian event films shall be encouraged, these comedies should also take into account Uncle Ben's famous words, "With power, comes responsibility". Or with scale, comes substance. Daggubati is a part of Housefull 4 only because he replaced Nana Patekar after the veteran actor was ousted as a result of Tanushree Dutta's sexual harassment allegations against him. It was preceded by Sajid Khan quitting the project after allegations by several women surfaced against the director, who was slated to return to the Housefull franchise after giving the third instalment a miss. It took a while, and pressure from Akshay and wife Twinkle Khanna, for the studios to take action against Patekar and Khan.
Sajid Khan's brand of humour has often been criticised for being sexist, Heyy Babyy being case in point. In fact, after starring in Dhamaal and Double Dhamaal, Sanjay Dutt walked out of the third part because he reportedly "did not want his kids to see him in adult comedies". Since comedy is indeed a tricky business, both these films should also screen what they are about to put out there, before they go bigger than ever before in 2019.
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