Six years ago, when the original hit the screens, we had noted that Bhoothnath had everything going for it as a franchise to teach kids moral science. Here was a ghost who taught kids not to cheat. The conscientious ghost returns this election season to provoke you to vote, at least for the sake of your kids.
It's a children's film that is actually targeting the parent. While pretending to teach kids the concept of democracy, Bhoothnath Returns appeals to a demographic old enough to vote.
While the core plot of a ghost fighting an election sounds far-fetched on paper, this is a well-meaning fantasy with the heart of a Munnabhai film. It's likeable enough to make you excuse the blatant lecturing.
Like Lage Raho Munnabhai, the sequel that turned Munnabhai into an ambassador of non-violence and social change, Bhoothnath Returns too turns Bhoothnath into a champion of change. If Munnabhai made people give Get Well Soon cards as a sign of protest, Bhoothnath makes people not hear/listen to people without voter IDs. There's Boman Irani playing the villain once again. Hell, this could have been a Munnabhai film — where Munnabhai decides to fight an election.
It helps that the tiny hero of the film Akhrot (Parth Bhalerao) is a natural, a scene-stealer who makes Bachchan play the foil and both of them are superb. Watch out for the scene where Akhrot tells his mother he knows she always puts the soft rotis on top for him and eats the harder ones herself and the speech Bhoothnath gives that compares political choices with options given to people on how they would like to die. This is the kind of genuine drama that makes us overlook the frequent jumps in mood.
What begins as a comedy slowly turns into drama, but we don't mind at all because we are invested in the plot.
While it's a relevant film this season that also educates the masses on the importance of casting their vote, Bhoothnath Returns is far from perfect. It almost forgets Akhrot in the second half and turns the little hero into Bhoothnath's sidekick. It is simplistic, idealistic, probably even naive to assume that the victory of one independent candidate could bring around change. It doesn't want the political reality of India come in the way of a good Bollywood story, but interrupts the flow with a documentary montage of what India has become to illustrate the headlines.
But when you have actors like Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra and Brijendra Kala in the cast, even the most hackneyed of movie situations seem credible. The surprise cameos are a crowd-pleasing bonus.
We would vote for Bhoothnath Returns though the film — NOT the actors — does overact. Because like Akhrot says, “India main overacting chalta hai.”
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Parth Bhalerao, Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra, Brijendra Kala
Storyline: The friendly ghost sent back to earth to scare a few kids befriends a poor kid and decides to contest elections to fight the system
Bottomline: If the first was Moral Instructions, this sequel is an entertaining Social Studies lesson for kids