Bhoot, directed by Bhanu Pratap Singh, is Dharma’s first horror film in its 40 years of existence. It’s also one of the most watchable films the Karan Johar-led production house has made in over a year. Unnerving, atmospheric and exceptionally well-performed, Bhoot straddles and blurs the lines between psychological drama and good old horror, and ultimately comes off as a winner.
Vicky Kaushal plays Prithvi, an executive at a shipping company, who’s tasked to get Sea Bird, a massive vessel, moved from Juhu beach where it has docked itself after drifting away from its original port. The ship, much like the leading man, is haunted. The sea is a cause of trauma for both: early on, it’s explained that Prithvi lost his wife and daughter in a freaky river-rafting accident. Predictably, his initial deep dive into the abandoned ship reveals something queasy: not all is well aboard, neither does it appear to be.
Will unlocking the mystery on the ship and getting it sailing again liberate Prithvi from his own demons? More precisely, what are these demons? Are they real or imagined, self-inflicted or external?
Singh plots his horror drama tightly, creating an eerie portrait of Mumbai, one that glows ominously in cinematographer Pushkar Singh’s gloomy frames that shift seamlessly from depressing greys to understated blues, evoking an unsettling feeling of desolation and abandonment. That sense is heightened once the camera’s gaze shifts to the ship’s insides: a grotesque, terrifying mess capable of inflicting horror by its mere sight.
In between the world-building, the scares come sporadically at first, getting more frequent as we delve deeper into the ship’s body and Prithvi’s mind. In many ways, the ship’s nucleus is symbolic of Prithvi’s ruptured psyche. Both have suffered trauma that they are yet to heal from.
And that’s perhaps the core strength of Bhoot - that it confuses its protagonist - Prithvi - into believing that the horror he’s...