Phone Bhoot is whacky, irreverent fun fare

Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khatter and Siddhant Chaturvedi play the leads in Phone Bhoot. Photo: Spice PR

Excel Entertainment presents Phone Bhoot  Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani & Farhan Akhtar Directed byL: Gurmmeet Singh  Written by: Ravi Shankaran and Jasvinder Singh Bath  Music: Tanishk Bagchi, Mikey McCleary, Rochak Kohli & Roy Starring: Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khattar, Siddhanth Chaturvedi, Jackie Shroff, Manu Rishi Chadha, Sheeba Chaddha, Nidhi Bisht, Armaan Ralhan, Kedar Shankar , Manuj Sharma, Surendra Thakur  Sp. App.: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Manjot Singh & others 

This is a horror comedy that falls more in the second genre than in the first. What can be said about a ‘horror’ movie’s fun potential other than the fact that most of the ghostly scenes and happenings elicit giggles and laughter from the audience and there are no attempts at all to scare viewers?

That said, I must say that the humor caliber is a mixed bag. It goes from whacky and outright crazy to clichéd and unfunny and also never rises to uproarious levels like in the recent landmark films of this genre—Golmaal Again and Stree. Some harder work on the script, lots of fine-tuning and commitment (to the consumer audience) could have made this one really memorable, and just the fact that it is much better than the fiasco that was Great Grand Masti is not really enough.

Two inseparable friends, Gullu (Ishaan Khatter) and Major (Siddhant Chaturvedi) have a fetish of experimenting with ghosts and ghostly matters. They have rescued a life-size ‘statue’ named Raaka from some ruins and stay in a home full of ‘haunting’ furniture and props (and posters of horror movies!) where their rent is overdue. They organize events pertaining to ghosts.

Their latest enterprise, a Moksha (salvation for souls) party becomes an unexpected success, though the duo is unaware that all the guests are actually ghosts. A woman named Ragini (Katrina Kaif) befriends them and suggests a business idea—of an online ghost-buster service. Their respective fathers (played by Manu Rishi Chadha and Kedar Shankar) give them a joint ultimatum—earn five crore within 90 days or give up their infatuation with ghosts and trying to earn from the supernatural in terms of events and parties.

The friends initially refuse Ragini, but finally agree after their fathers’ ‘threats’. After multiple failures, they succeed in one exorcising enterprise—with a surprising result. They ask Ragini what she has to gain from helping them. She tells them that she will expect them to help—at the right time.

And as the two friends succeed in this enterprise, they come into the orbit of the evil Atmaram (Jackie Shroff), who traps aggrieved souls with false promises of moksha. Among his victims is Chikni Chudail (Sheeba Chaddha), a Bengali woman with whom Major and Gullu have already had a funny encounter. And then Ragini asks them for what she wants in return.

The film revels in references to old Hindi films, iconic hit songs and dialogues and some of the lines are really witty, crazily irreverent and humorous, like Gullu addressing a headless ghost with the word ‘Sir’ and then stating that ‘Sar hi to nahin hai (the head itself is missing)!’ with a pun on the word in its English and Hindi meaning. And Ragini’s enquiry with Chikni Chudail about her ‘weak Hindi’ is a fine example of wit at the real Katrina’s expense about her not-too-good command on our national language!

Overall, the film works at a superficial entertaining level where the brain can be safely told to stop whirring and our ‘spirits’ (pun intended) are lifted by the humor. One wishes, however, that the climax was far wittier and shorter and not convoluted and stretched to 15 minutes plus. The writers never cottoned on, one guesses, to the saying, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ in their journey with anguished souls!

Technically upmarket, especially in K.V. Mohanan’s camerawork and Vintee Bansal’s outstandingly ‘ghostly’ production design, the film has decent background music that not does distract or disturb (John Stewart Eduri) and the usual forgettable ‘songs’. Gurmmeet Singh, the Mirzapur director, tries out a refreshing genre with decent results.

Katrina Kaif effortlessly dominates whenever she is in the frame. The two heroes do well, though Ishaan Khatter is patently more sincere and thus effective. Jackie Shroff manages the spoof routine well, with Manuj Sharma (Rahu) and Shrikant Verma (Ketu) doing a good job as his ‘henchmen’. Anuksha Suguna Pushparaj (as the spirit Lavanya) and Armaan Ralhan (as Ragini’s love, Dushyant) are good. Sheeba Chaddha as Chikni Chudail comes up with yet another super turn: here’s one actress who is leagues above her contemporaries in range and brilliance.

A one-time watch, Phone Bhoot makes for a passable two hours-plus in the movie halls.

Rating: ***





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