Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Parth Bhalerao, Boman Irani, Usha Jadhav, Sanjay Mishra, Brijendra Kala
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
What's it about:
A spoof within a spoof ? Bhootnath Returns is perhaps one of the most relevant and original ideas to have come out of Bollywood in recent times. Mixing the potent formula of a superstar's charisma, a brilliant child actor who is a natural and touching some sensitive yet necessary social topics, the film yo-yo's between some smartly written scenes to cliched and long boring sequences about social welfare. Bhootnath (Bachchan) is sick of people laughing at his inability to scare a single kid in his first visit to earth. To clear that stigma and maintain the dignity of his fellow ghosts he returns in his Bhoot avatar on a mission to terrorize and frighten as many kids as possible. In this effort he stumbles upon Akhrot (Parth Bhalerao) a chota packet bada dhamaka kid who asks Bhootnath to contest for elections after realizing his gentle spirit. The story line then focuses on an odd fight between a local goon (Boman Irani) from Dharavi and a ghost in form of Bhootnath who becomes the nations favourite. The climax is long drawn and the plot loses steam in a preachy and muddled second half.
There are some really funny moments in the first half filled with some smart satire and self depreciating humor. Akhrot tells Bhootnath, "India mein over acting jaroori hai", perhaps setting the tone of what is to follow ? Kids will particulary love the initial interaction between the boy and the ghost and how they play off each others vibes. These are some clean genuinely amusing moments that will charm you with their playfulness. Amitabh Bachchan seems at ease in his second outing as the likeable ghost who has a heart of gold. His gracious act of letting his young co-star make the most out of their scenes is laudable. Parth Bhalerao who plays Akhrot is a find! The twinkle in his eye and the chipped tooth isn't an act but his actual joyful effervescent personality that makes him a star from the first scene. His timing with Bachchan and their banter is one of the major highlights of the film. A particular cameo by Anurag Kashyap where he makes a honest confession about budgetary constraints was a smart move.
While the idea might be interesting, the execution is quite weak. Tiwari stretches out the plot way too much weighing it down with multiple subplots, characters and unnecessary long drawn monologues. The Sahib song with images depicting the dark side of society could have been a passing reference, instead it ruptures whatever momentum the film had built till that point. Similarly the second half is a mine field laden with over the top speeches about election and the importance of voting. Even though the sentiment is sincere the effort taken to convey it to the audience sounds dated and old. Also the scenes with the Ghost Headquarters in the climax and the predictable conclusion the film comes to, prevents Bhootnath Returns from rising above the ordinary.
What to do:
Enjoyable in parts, Bhootnath Returns has the right sentiment, but an over the top climax and cliched writing holds it back from being a charmer.