Cast: AmitabhBachchan, Parth Bhalerao, Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra
Direction: Nitesh Tiwari
Nitesh Tiwari’s ‘Bhootnath Returns’ is perfectly timed for this election season. While the film drives home a very pertinent message, the execution is labored and preachy.
There was a time in Hindi cinema when any film with a message, patriotic or otherwise, ended up being jingoistic and sermonic. Then Rajkumar Hirani happened and he crafted an impeccable blend; his satires were perfectly pitched, they addressed real issues and at the same time were so skillfully steeped in humour that the audience was never made to feel like there was any form of pontification.
Despite genuine attempts at tongue-in-cheek humour, ‘Bhootnath Returns’ failsto replicate that model. The film looks promising when we see a Hogwarts-like (theschool in the Harry Potter series) fantasy place called “Bhoot World”, where ghosts are waiting for their chance to be reborn. However, the novelty fades soon and once Bhootnath (Amitabh Bachchan) is back on earth, the bhootish pranks seem repetitive.
Corruption, inflation, crimes against women and many such societal evils plague contemporary Indian society. The state of affairs in our country is ghastly and we need nothing short of ghostly intervention to set things right. It’s simple. However, we spend too much time on establishing why our protagonist feels the need to contest elections. The first half therefore, proceeds at a tedious pace.
With the arrival of usually reliable comic characters like Sanjay Mishra(Bhootnath’s lawyer) and Boman Irani (his political rival), you hope that the second half will be breezy and effortless. Instead an overdose of melodrama slackens the tempo.
Considering that our friendly neighbourhood ghost’s candidature for the elections is under strict scrutiny, you would expect him to take his poll campaigning and his marketing strategy very seriously. Instead, the plot pans out to tell an insipid tale, where Bhootnath expects people to “vote for change” with very little prodding. There are no rabble-rousing speeches here, just a gentle reminder of what your duties are as a citizen of this country.
Can’t help but again compare it to how effective Munnabhai’s Ghandigiri message was in ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ (2006); there was such an adept display of cause and effect. No matter how pessimistic you felt about the state of affairs in this country, you would still want to attempt Ghandigiri once to see if it really works.
Bhootnath’s message in comparison seems too localized to have national appeal and I just don’t see him do enough to propound his theory and create mass awareness among the citizenry. His thought that better sense will prevail among voters just seems utopian.
Veteran actors seem to repeatedly falter on the comic timing. Or may be they just needed some smarter lines to belt out a memorable performance. Amitabh Bachchan makes the film immensely watchable, while child actor Parth Bhalerao is effective for the most part; he is a little too cocky for my liking.
You have some cameos by the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap but there too, the director flounders on the execution.
‘Bhootnath Returns’ is watchable because of the timeliness with which it brings you the message, “cast your vote” and “vote for change”.
Kyunki ab ki baar, aapki mann chahi sarkar!