Till now, I had my suspicions about this, but now I have to say I am totally convinced. There are definitely two in-house ghosts that haunt two big production houses of Bollywood that go by the name of Chopra. Last year, we saw the Yash Raj ghost at work, ensuring that Laaga Chunari Mein Daag dripped with copious amounts of gloss and glycerine, and that the decrepit amphitheatre in Aaja Nachle was needlessly transformed into a mega Bollywood set every time there was a dance sequence.
There’s another similar evil specter that haunts Bhoothnath, and no- it’s definitely not Amitabh Bachchan, God bless him. This time it’s a certain Baghban-Bhoot that comes to wreak havoc in the latest film from the house of BR Chopra. It’s the most unwelcome guest appearance ever in a film, one that takes a perfectly fine kiddie-flick into the murky depths of maudlin melodrama, till the film almost loses its er, spirit.
The second half of Bhoothnath could literally be called ‘Ek Aur Baghban’- the sense of déjà vu is embarrassingly overwhelming- the weeping, ignored parents, the callous son, the super-bitch bahu and the sweet grandson are all reintroduced to us as Bhoothnath nosedives into a painful narrative stand that is a flashback in more ways than one. Hell, even the ‘new-age’ musical duo Vishal-Shekhar seem stuck in a time warp, as they dole out an accompanying retro-number that in this day and age would even make the likes of Nadeem-Shravan wince.
And the only reason the film somehow survives this blast from the past is undeniably its leading man, who shows us yet again why nobody does it better than him. Amitabh Bachchan oozes playfulness and poignancy even when saddled with the most clichéd of scenes, and this is indeed a performance difficult not to like. It’s a pleasure to hear that commanding voice boom and fill the theatre, and Mr. Bachchan, despite playing what is not exactly a challenging role, leaves us pretty mesmerized. Take a bow, Bhoothnathji.
Then again, the attack of the Baghban clone aside, Bhoothnath itself isn’t too bad. It isn’t exceptionally smart or witty, but is enjoyable in its own sweet way, and pretty much runs like a well-oiled Bollywood summer holiday movie, the kind that the great Indian family would well enjoy together, judging by the frequent chuckles in the theatre. It’s neatly and simply shot and directed by Vivek Sharma, who doesn’t strive for any brilliance as such, but has things pretty much in control, and with the kind of cinema we get to see these days, that actually admirable for a first-time helmer. He isn’t in awe of the huge stars in his film, and it is actually refreshing to see Shah Rukh Khan in a guest appearance that isn’t forced and doesn’t keep announcing its presence loudly.
Besides the insuperable Bachchan, the rest of the actors do a rather nice job too, and it is credit to the cast that Bhoothnath remains fairly enjoyable for the most part. Aman Siddiqui does well with his badmaash-Banku act, and while he plays the typical precocious Bollywood kid, he is never cloying or irritating. His eyes turn from mischievous to innocent in a flicker, and he shares a charming camaraderie with the friendly ghost. Juhi Chawla is her good old self, as loveable as ever and disarmingly natural in the role of a mom who wonderfully isn’t near-perfect; she hates getting up in the morning, and hates cooking even more- endlessly stuffing her family with sandwiches.
And so, while Bhoothnath is far from being perfect fare, hey- it ain’t too drab either. With the kind of films that have recently populated screens, and will continue to do so at least till a few more weeks- if you are itching to be in a theatre since a long time, might as well make it this one- before the ghost evaporates itself.
By – Jahan Bakshi