Synopsis – When an abandoned ship mysteriously appears on the beach, an officer send to investigate.
My Take – As I have mentioned many times before, Bollywood does not know how to create good horror films, while they did find success in a variety of films, and a few small time gems finding their way in between, with some even pushing the envelope to unexpected levels (Tumbbad), over the last decade, a handful of filmmakers (namely Ekta Kapoor and Vikram Bhatt) have run the genre right into the ground by overusing a once successful template filled with the same old cliches, which don’t seem to have the same effect anymore.
However, when filmmaker Karan Johar, known mainly for boosting the romantic genre, announced his intentions to step into the field, my interest personally piqued. As Johar, no matter the need or not, is never ready to comprise on the scale and grandeur required for his Dharma backed film.
With a strong concept in hand which was formed by twisting a true 2011 story of an oil tanker that had been abandoned by its crew near Oman, drifted to ground in Mumbai, having evaded the coastal security. A strong cast, led by Vicky Kaushal, who had an excellent last year with back to back successes, and as per the promos, a fantastic cinematography along with just the right kind of background sound to evoke fear.
Making me believe that this film, helmed by debutante Bhanu Pratap Singh, seemed to have all the ingredients to make a good horror. A factor which stands true for its first half, which nearly succeeds in every department, that is until the writing takes a sudden flip in the second half, and sends the whole film sinking.
Here, director Bhanu Pratap Singh, does a decent job in creating moments of scare and you do really feel a chill operating down your backbone while you see the protagonist transferring across the spooky holds and passages with nothing but a torchlight in hand. Add to that some soar cuts, a doll which seems to appear and disappears, and a lady who can creep up on ceilings on all fours and you’ve got all of the components wanted for a cracking horror film.
However, when the film in the second half decides to dive into the history of the ship, it literally eats into the film’s affect. Making this yet another missed opportunity for the much loved genre.
The story follows Prithvi (Vicky Kaushal), a surveying officer, who following the death of this wife (Bhumi Pednekar) and his young daughter, has become somewhat of a reckless brave heart at work. And just a day after rescuing a group of women from a trafficking racket, finds himself embroiled in the case of a mysteriously abandoned ship called Seabird, which landed on Juhu beach in Mumbai, without appearing on the radar of the coast guard.
While he and his colleague/ best friend Riyaz (Akash Dhar) are tasked with getting rid of the ship by any means possible, Prithvi finds himself drawn to it, especially after he tumbles into some ghostly possessions of the past group on the boat. While during his examinations he does acknowledge the fact that the boat is spooky, he begins to realize that something evil has made it its home, and is ready to plague misfortunes on anyone who tries to get close to its secrets.
Like I mentioned above, the first half of the film is quite engaging and manages to raise a few gasps and chills. The screenplay is very fast-paced and the narrative quite gripping, which manages to keep the film quite intriguing about how it’s going to evolve eventually. Despite considerable borrowing from films on possession, the overall ambience of the film is quite well done, and the film holds you firmly.
The cinematography by Pushkar Singh is breathtaking. The way the haunted ship is captured, the low light dark nighty frame, the VFX, the camera handling, the wind angle shots the zoom shots, everything seemed of international level. Extremely stylistic and visually striking!
The eerie environment inside the abandoned ship and its unexplored chambers create a dark, mysterious backdrop to the plot unfolding. There are no songs in the film but the background score is amazing. It just lifts the scary bar to an all another level. The cinematography and the background score are really nail-biting. It will force anyone to ‘hide-behind-hands’. Both complemented the horror to be served with appetizing scares! The scares, pacing, sound design, and camera work can only be described as precise.
Unfortunately, the second half is where the story starts falling apart. It transports you back to the days of watching horror films on the single-screens, as it quickly degenerates into a contrived plot line, including the possibility of a possessed individual trapped inside and a malevolent spirit trying to communicate something to Prithvi. Leading to a climax which is no doubt the film’s biggest failing.
With the lack of substance, the whole film comes to Vicky Kaushal’s shoulders, who here gives an earnest effort. Here he pulls off this character with utmost decency. His guilt of the past and his scare of the present is quite evident on his face. But it seems it would take more than that to save this sinking ship. Bhumi Pednekar barely has any screen time, but makes the most of it.
Ashutosh Rana seems to have created a niche for himself in such roles. The script doesn’t know what to do with him, and in the end, does no justice to his caliber. Akash Dhar is all alright in his supporting role, and tends to go overboard in certain scenes, while Meher Vij is wasted. On the whole, ‘Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship’ is a middling average horror film which never realizes its full potential and drowns itself in clichés.
Directed – Bhanu Pratap Singh
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 114 minutes