Bhoothnath (Amitabh Bachchan) finds himself in a quandary when he realises that he’s the laughing stock of Bhooth-world, because he fails to do the one thing all ghosts are good at - spook the daylights out of children.
To prove himself, Bhoothnath asks to be sent back to earth, and surprise, surprise, he again runs into the one child that can actually see him - the Dharavi-dwelling, smart-mouthed, slum kid Akhrot (Parth Bhalerao), who lives with his single mother (Usha Jadhav).
The first half passes by quickly enough - Bhoothnath and Akhrot go about their misadventures, helping people, bhooths and themselves along the way.
The chemistry between the two is excellent and as they feed off each other’s charm and eccentricities, the story comes alive and crackling. They even throw in a Yo Yo Honey Singh item number for good measure, where scantily-clad tourists throw thumkas alongside senior Bachchan and his pint-sized friend, in the narrow slum streets of Dharavi.
But things go awry when along comes local thug politician Bhau (Boman Irani) and his band of goons (one of them being the excellent but under-represented Brijendra Kala), and somehow Bhoothnath and Akhrot find themselves in a mess that’s finally not so easy to escape.
A plan is hatched, and Bhoothnath decides to fight evil by confronting it head on and in one of the most interesting plot points to have ever been made in recent Bollywood cinema, Bhoothnath decides to contest the general elections.
The timing is perfect, the movie does well to capture the mood and thoughts of majority of the voting population of the country.
Unfortunately, children don’t vote and what began as a fun, breezy watch shifts tone right before interval and turns into a social commentary that’s neither subtle nor altogether improper, given that we’re bang in the middle of what’s being touted as one of the most important elections in India’s recent history.
Tiwari shrewdly manages to encapsulate present politics, and while some references and characters cut way too close to the bone, the larger social message comes across clearly and effectively - go vote, that’s all.
Parth Bhalerao manages to hold his own against Bachchan and Bachchan himself is at his usual, charming best.
Undoubtedly one of the best casting directors in the country, Mahesh Chhabria, does well to have thrown together an ensemble that grounds the film’s otherwise melodramatic nature.
Bhoothnath Returns is proof that Bollywood is yet to learn how to make films for the younglings. The ending is too abrupt and there are a few loose threads left to fend for themselves.
While the Bhoothnath-Akhrot equation works exceedingly well, the plot meanders and is essentially confused, is it a children’s comedy, is it an adult drama or is it social commentary, who can tell? What is sure, is that Nitesh Tiwari has managed to put together a movie that will keep both children and adults in the theatres through its 2 hours 35 minutes length, even if it’s a slightly taxing experience. (Watch out for three very interesting cameos.)
Film: Bhootnath Returns (Hindi)
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan,
Parth Bhalerao, Boman Irani, Kurush Deboo