Among the most creative names to appear in a Bollywood film about ghosts and lost souls, Vibhooti and Chiraunji have to be among those who appear in bhoot-pret-bhatki-hui-aatma.
You smile as soon as you hear them because you know what they’re thinking. When it comes to this supernatural horror comedy featuring a couple of expert ghostbusters, that smile lasts for quite some time, at least until the film runs out of momentum.
Saif Ali Khan’s character, elder bhai Vibhooti, is only in it for laughs. He’s in it for the lollipops and the ladies, and the more gullible they are, the better. The younger brother, aka Chikoo (Arjun Kapoor), is a firm believer in what he has seen and heard. He is persuaded that ghosts and other-worldly entities exist, and that their role as ‘tantriks’ is to assist people in removing these evil spirits from their homes and businesses. In pursuit of this goal, he walks around clutching an ancient book and reciting mantras, while the ‘bada bhai’ hoots and claps and rolls his eyes at his every movement.
Once they arrive at the tea estate where they are staying with her sister (Jacqueline Fernandes), the game changes. It is a questing lass (Yami Gautam) who whistles them up to her house (where she resides with her sister). A terrifying spirit known as a ‘kichkandi’ (great, frightening word) is on the prowl, and it’s not good. The brothers must expel the alleged ‘aatma’ in order to let her scared employees to take a deep breath.
From from point forward, it’s open season. Little girls who strangely arrive and vanish, a dog with an antique bone that is mysteriously deposited under a bed, a ‘havan’ to ward off evil spirits, and a plot to wrap wool around the eyes are all explored in this novel. A police officer (Jaaved Jafferi), who is hot on the trail of the two brothers, turns in to liven things up a little. Monsters begin to creep out of the walls, and the stage is set for the final clash to take place.
Throughout the show, there are some amusing asides about the things that are going on in our world, which is the true horror show. Vibhooti demands GST on a ‘bhoot bhagao’ transaction, snarkily invokes the ‘beti bachao beti padhao’ slogan, and snuggles up to a good-looking supplicant who addresses him as ‘Guruji’ and begs him to accompany her to America and help’make America great again.’ One unidentified individual claims to be the baba who sold his Maruti. Yes, there are no monks or Ferraris in this place. An anonymous contributor adds, “Do hazaar ke note mat dena, pata nahin kab band ho jaayen.” And this, from Vibhooti Baba, is one of my favourites: “I see dead people.” Haha.
Vibhooti chuckles as she says, “Jab tak andhvishwas rahega, hamara dhanda chalega.” He’s pretty obvious that all of this talk about bhoots is nonsense, but the film doesn’t seem to be able to decide on which side of the debate it wants to take a position. You have characters who are critical of ghosts, but you also have all these creatures floating around scaring people: spirits ‘possess’ a couple of characters, and the computer graphics team has a good time making us see Gautam crawling on a ceiling (old schtick, can we please get rid of this one?) and spitting out black juice (can we please get rid of this one?). Is this for real, or is it all a bunch of smoke and mirrors?