Synopsis – Two brothers whose job is to hunt and eradicate ghosts for money is assigned a project in a remote village.
My Take – With conventional horror as a genre drying up in last decade or so, the Hindi film industry lately, owing mainly to the massive success of Stree (2018), has been finding itself quite allured to the concept of mixing scares with humor. More surprisingly, these films are attempting to serve terror and comedy with a new-age spin and a message to share.
Joining the trend is this latest from director Pavan Kripalani, who had previously helmed decent horror flicks like Ragini MMS (2011), Darr @ The Mall (2014) and Phobia (2016), and now ventures into this new territory by pitching an unusual premise of Indian exorcism practices but with cracker one-liners and frequent spooks sprinkled throughout. Thankfully, given the tricky genre, director Kripalani does a pretty decent job with it.
Sure, it isn’t without flaws, however, the quirky one-liners, fun camaraderie between the four leads, and good production values makes this an entertaining spooky adventure. Never too hilarious nor too scary the film manages to hold its interest specifically due to its ability for not taking itself too seriously.
The story follows Vibhooti (Saif Ali Khan) and Chiraunji (Arjun Kapoor), two exorcist brothers, who travel around the country duping people in the name of ghost busting. While Vibhooti is a skeptic who debunks all paranormal claims and is only interesting in making some quick money out of their clients’ ignorance and gullibility, Chiraunji, armed with their dead father’s guidebook, shows his disdain for their way of living and hopes to pick a real case one day.
Opportunity finally comes knocking when they are employed by Maya (Yami Gautam), who believes her tea estate is being haunted by a spirit of the mountains called Kichkandi, the same spirit their father got rid of 27 years ago. Though Vibhooti gets excited by this new opportunity to make quick money, Chiraunji sees this as a means to finally put his father’s teaching to work.
Without a doubt the film is hilarious. A number of scenes, punctuated by audacious one-liners dropped out of the blue, turn out to better than you would expect them to. Right from the opening sequence, where we are introduced to the ghost busters for the first time, the purported exorcism of a young girl deftly becomes an educate girls moment or the later quick jab at nepotism in the industry, when Vibhuti and Chiraunji attempt to convince the locals of their credentials by pointing to their father’s historical success.
The film works best as an origin story to a potential franchise. Two men with a father’s legacy and nowhere to go, discover that they have a part to play in dealing with the occult. It takes a while coming, but the film plays hard on the bond of brotherhood between Vibhuti and Chiraunji, takes it apart, and then gives each of them a sort of role or purpose to play in their partnership.
Surprisingly though, it is the horror aspect of the film that tends to weigh it down. While the film never employs forced jump scares to make an impact, the film just is never scary enough not does it contain enough genuinely frightening moments to power through its premise.
This feels even more like a major let-down because the mystery or reason behind the haunting is a rather fresh, and once revealed it is hard not to feel the grief for the characters involved. The film also has a completely unnecessary side-track involving Inspector Chedilal (Jaaved Jaaferi) who is chasing the brothers down. It does lead to some hilarity, but it serves no purpose in the larger story.
Nevertheless, the cast seems to be having a blast, a factor which rubs on the film. Unsurprisingly, Saif Ali Khan is the best part of the film. His remarkable screen presence and his one-liners, in particular, with his love for episodes of Naagin, demanding a GST for his services or even going ‘I see dead people!’ will keep one entertained throughout. It is Saif’s impeccable comic timing that gives the film its much-needed edge.
Arjun Kapoor coasts along fine by his side. His character’s endearing honesty is a perfect foil to Saif’s street-smartness, and both seem to get the rhythm just right. Arjun balances himself pretty well while being on the edge of being subtle and without turning into a caricature.
The radiant Yami Gautam and Jacqueline Fernandez are welcome additions and keep the fun going. In supporting roles, Jaaved Jaaferi and Amit Mistry are a hoot, while Rajpal Yadav is wasted. Stealing spotlight in a smaller role is Jamie Lever as one of the locals, who manages to exude much of that crackling timing her father (Johnny Lever) was known for. On the whole, ‘Bhoot Police’ is an amusing spooky adventure, though predictable, manages to be engaging and entertaining.
Directed – Pavan Kripalani
Rated – PG
Run Time – 129 minutes