Bhootnath Returns: Return of the friendly ghost

It is a feel-good film that doesn’t make the villain give up easily.  

More than just a fantasy for children, director Nitesh Tiwari has reimagined Bhootnath franchise as a socio-political satire, which entertains and provokes at the same time. Of course kids are central to the story but the treatment is not childlike. In the election season, Tiwari underlines the value of vote without going didactic for the most part.

Embarrassed with his situation in the afterlife Bhootnath (Amitabh Bachchan) is sent back to earth to redeem himself as a ghost. Here again he faces a kid called Akhrot (Parth) who could see him and is not afraid of him. A street urchin, he lives in Dharavi and peddles poverty porn to the foreign tourists. With Bhootnath’s help Akhrot clears some prized real estate off its haunted tag and we get to indulge in witty repartees between the boy and the baba. However, the tables are turned when the bigger evil comes in the way in the form of local politician Bhau (Boman Irani). Pushed by Akhrot and lack of development all around, Bhootnath decides to take on Bhau in the Lok Sabha election. It spirals a wave of events that are hilarious and disturbing at the same time. The turn of events is best described by Bhootnath’s lawyer friend (Sanjay Mishra) when he says “Sir aap to mazaak mazaak main serious ho gaye”.

Howsoever corrupt and influential a politician might be, the fight between a man and a ghost seems unequal. But with a masterstroke, Nitesh takes away the powers of Bhootnath making it not only a level-playing field but also underlines our inherent fear that standing against a seasoned politician is no cakewalk at the hustings. It is a feel-good film that doesn’t make the villain give up easily.

The fantasy is not foolproof, like we never get to know why the bhoots residing in haunted places could not take the revenge from their tormentors in the outside world but the levity in the screenplay is so consistent and sharp that you don’t really mind the small potholes that come along the way. Also, the fact that a friendly spirit is fighting the election is presented as a metaphor for our inability to participate in the biggest festival of democracy makes you believe. When Bhootnath says ‘for a secure future, the past has to play its role well’, it rings a bell. Nitesh has humanised his characters. So if Bhootnath has stage fright, Akhrot lives upto his name. Similarly, the normalcy in the fantasised Bhootworld makes you suspend disbelief.

It does get preachy towards the end and starts sounding like a public service advertisement of the Election Commission, but by then we have had enough fun to actually mind it. Bachchan is once again the centre of attraction here and despite being a ghost, he or his voice is present in almost every frame of the film. The superstar goes for exaggerated expressions at times, but Nitesh justifies his intention early that he is out to arouse the masses. And who knows the art better than Bachchan, who continues to address and entertain three generations at a time. Boman is adept at blending satire with sinister and here again he comes across as a believable monster.

Akhrot’s character is a reflection of the new age child, who is confident and is not overawed by the presence of a ghost around him. For once a child actor is not trying to be cute as the character is drawn from life and not a Bollywood stereotype. Parth stands his ground in front of Bachchan. Nitesh, who co-directed Chillar Party, has given him more punchlines than Bachchan and the boy justifies the faith reposed in him. He is the most natural creature in the supernatural space. It is he who actually drives this fantastic ride with Bachchan looming large as pillion passenger.

Genre: Fantasy/ Satire

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Parth, Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra, Bijendra Kala

Plot: The friendly ghost returns to cast a spell on a politician but finds him more manipulative than he could imagine.

Bottomline: A feel good family entertainer that deserves a chance.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 9:53:27 PM |

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