15 years after after the ghost of Manjulika was created by Priyadarshan, she is back under the direction of Anees Bazmee. Both are masters of choreographing comic chaos with an ensemble cast and when an apparition comes into the picture, the chaos threatens to become a spectacle. No such luck here as in its second installment, this Bhool Bhulaiyya is not consistently exciting enough to negotiate.
There are a few turns that make you guffaw and a couple of twists that spook you, but for the rest of the journey, Bazmee relies on the reputation and background score of the original, and an easy-to-please audience to sail through.
Rouhan (Kartik Aaryan) is a happy-go-lucky character who finds a beautiful Reet (Kiara Advani) in the hills and convinces her to take him to her ancestral spooked haveli in the desert. Circumstances and an urge to win her over force Rouhan to start playing a psychic who can converse with spirits. Soon, he becomes Rooh baba, outclassing the existing Pandit (Sanjay Mishra). But, in the process of hiding Reet’s reality from her clan, he inadvertently wakes up a latent soul who had met with a disturbing end.
Writer Akash Kaushik has mapped an engaging plot, but somehow the humour is in short supply and the elements of horror remain hidden behind closed doors for a long time. And, if the first half is supposed to be about the chemistry between Kartik and Kiara, it is sadly missing.
Apart from Manjulika/ Anjulika (Tabu), the characters are made of cardboard and hardly have any purpose beyond being part of a circus. Kartik is invested in whatever he has got, but the writer has provided him little to hold on to apart from that limpid smile. The good-looking Kiara seems happy just to be part of a big budget charade.
Things improve in the second half as Mishra and Rajpal Yadav (the sole carry-over character from the original) get some funny lines and juicy situations to play with, while Rajesh Sharma is not bad either in making good use of the situational humour. Some of the indirect references to the current socio-political atmosphere find their target, like when the head of the family (Milind Gunaji) orders to check every closed room of the mansion. It is not the best of Bazmee, but he keeps the narrative buzzing with his trademark everyday humour that could be watched with family.
Eventually, it is Tabu who keeps this horror-comedy afloat. One of the few actors who excel both in serious and superficial cinema, she has a knack for horror tales right from Guddu Dhanoa’s Hawa. Here, as the good and the evil, her performance leaves everybody redundant, including Kartik.
If you don’t put a price on your smile, this is for you, as (apart from Tabu) there is not much to reminisce about this Bhul Bhulaiyya.
Bhool Bhulaiyya 2 is currently running in theatres