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Bhoothnath Returns

With the country in the grip of election fever, Bhoothnath Returns has been served up with perfect timing. A sequel to the 2008 Bhoothnath, this film follows Bhoothnath (Amitabh Bachchan) as he returns to the after-world. Here, he is greeted with taunts and condemnation from other ghosts for bringing disrepute to the ghost community for allowing himself to be bullied by a kid on Earth and, horror of horrors, failing to scare a child.

Deeply humiliated at his failure at the one thing all ghosts manage to do so effortlessly – scaring children – Bhoothnath asks permission to descend back to Earth, to redeem himself, by taking another shot at scaring children.

Bhoothnath’s attempt to scout for children to scare leads him to Akhrot (Parth Bhalerao), a slum kid from Mumbai’s Dharavi and the only person who can actually see him. Akhrot helps Bhoothnath scare kids as Akhrot orchestrates a simple act that redeems Bhoothnath’s ghostly stature, and in the bargain, wins him a place to play cricket with the neighborhood kids. Their friendship blossoms as they form a unique business partnership, where they evacuate unhappy spirits from haunted buildings for a hefty price from property developers.

To vacate one such building, the local goon-cum-politician Bhau (Boman Irani) asks them to revive a plush building project that’s troubled by a gang of ghosts. But the ghosts tell the duo that the building stands on disputed land, where the politician’s vicious plans resulted in their death. Fighting for a cause that is tougher and bigger than they had imagined, and to succeed, they will have to take on Bhau in the local elections.

Akhrot and Bhoothnath meet a trusty lawyer (Sanjay Mishra), who runs a garage. The lawyer reveals that the election rules don’t exactly exclude dead people from contesting, and Bhoothnath starts his election campaign with Akhrot’s help. How the film unfolds forms the crux of the story.

Directorially, Nitesh Tiwari keeps the story crisp with engrossing screenplay and snappy dialogue. But the main drawback is the film’s second half. The concept is beautifully woven with the perfect blend of comedy and drama. Each character is created with reasoning and rationality. The comic undertone throughout the film is noteworthy. The climax is gritty and impressive.

The first half of the film moves very quickly and includes some major highlights but, post-interval, the narration starts to drag even though curiosity builds further. But there are many scenes that make you laugh.

For instance Bhoothnath’s first encounter with Akhrot; and the scene where Bhoothnath and Akhrot meet the lawyer and proceed to fill a nomination form for the elections. Bhoothnath’s speech, when he addresses the aam janta, is not only inspiring but also motivates the audience to go out there and vote.

The scene where Akhrot tells his mother how much she means to him a day before the big rally is heartwarming. The cameos by Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap are fabulous.

Cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi is marvellous. He captures the slums of Dharavi on the big screen very well. The sets and locations are apt and support the narrative. Visually, the film is incredible and gets full marks for supporting the narration. Editing by Chandrashekhar Prajapati could have been crisper in the second half of the film.

With a runtime of 155 minutes, the film starts with a bang but fizzles out in some places post-interval. Costumes are apt. Background score and songs are another asset and they blend with the narrative beautifully, although the Party with the Bhoothnath track by Yo Yo Honey Singh during the end credits is a waste and starts after a prolonged credit roll.

Performance-wise, Amitabh Bachchan portrays his character with substantial credibility and makes the character his own. He essays it with the same potency as he did in the first instalment. Parth Bhalerao is OUTSTANDING!!! He matches up to a veteran like Bachchan and impresses with his effortlessness. He is a firecracker of a performer indeed! Sanjay Mishra is superb in his role. Usha Jadhav does justice to her role. Brijendra Kala is good. Gajraj Rao is okay. The rest of the supporting cast fits the bill.

Verdict: The film may not have taken a flying start but word-of-mouth will definitely help it reach the safety mark at the ticket counter.

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