If there’s a cute child or adorable puppy in the frame, it’s tough for adults to remain in the spotlight. Something along those lines happens with supernatural comedy Bhoothnath Returns. On the one hand, there’s Bollywood’s seasoned actor Amitabh Bachchan who returns as the friendly ghost Bhoothnath and on the other, there’s an absolutely delightful street kid Akhrot (Bhaleraoa).
He has the best lines and boy, can that kid deliver those witty lines with a swagger that’s normally reserved for matinee idols.
“Don’t overact so much. But I guess, in India overacting has takers,” advises Akhrot to his new friend.
His tip is doled out when Bhoothnath returns to the land of mortals to earn some respect from his peers. In the “ghost world”, he was relentlessly mocked for not being a ghastly, fear-inducing ghost. During his quest to gain back some ghost glory, he meets the impish slum-dweller Akhrot. He doesn’t attend school but he sure sells ‘poverty porn’ to tourists by taking them on a tour of Dharavi, his neighbourhood.
The first half is filled with light moments that underline their growing bond and camaraderie. But the film, which is touted as a children’s film, takes on a serious tone in the second half. Say hello to the crook-turned-politician Bhau (Boman Irani). He talks the talk but never does much to help the slum-dwellers. He ticks the stereotype attached to Indian politicians: he’s corrupt, uneducated and out to rob the public. Irani’s personality is singularly evil and linear, but the comedian manages to pull off the slimy snake act. Shocked at the abysmal situation, Akhrot suggests that Bhoothnath contest the elections as Bhau’s opponent. It’s a ludicrous premise, but if you are willing to suspend belief you may buy into this pair’s earnest enthusiasm.
However, towards the end the comedy becomes didactic as we are told repeatedly about the importance of exercising our right to vote. While the first half is refreshingly devoid of needless drama, director Tiwari makes up for all that lost time. The climax is loaded with melodrama and tears. But the credit has to go to Akhrot and Bhoothnath for making the twists palatable. Watch this for Bhalerao and Bachchan (in that order).
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Parth Bhalerao and Boman Irani