I’ll be honest, I had no intention of catching Bhootnath Returns (BR) at the cinema but that would have been my loss as this lovely film proved to be quite entertaining. The main USP is a heightened sense of social awareness and call to action for the public of India to exercise their right to vote. At times, there is a smug feeling of self righteous permeating and in those moments, BR feels more like a public announcement message than a commercial Hindi film. This is a shame as the point BR makes is an intelligent and well thought out one.
This is not to say BR misses the mark entirely- one thing this film does rather eloquently is to make complicated premises seem very simple as well as an emotional track that allows the audience to get invested without overwhelming the screenplay. The songs are fun and rather well placed, carrying the story forward as well as providing a moment to reflect. Tiwari achieves an uneasy balance with his direction that thankfully veers towards engaging rather than unwatchable.
Thank god also for Amitabh Bachchan, Parth Bhalerao and Boman Irani who perfectly chime in with their respective performances. Bachchan has fun reprising the protagonist role whilst Boman goes for full on entertainment as the corrupt Bhau. But it is the freshness and energy that the young Bhalerao brings that is the soul of BR. Uninhibited, unprocessed and played straight, Bhalerao brings out an interesting chemistry with both Bachchan and Irani that encompasses many different dimensions that is watchable and unique.
I haven’t actually seen the first Bhootnath but didn’t feel that hampered my enjoyment of BR. If anything, it made the Shah Rukh Khan cameo and the flashback to the first film seem like a totally separate volume. One other likeable aspect of BR is that it sets out to be a family film and succeeds in that respect with plenty to keep children watching and enough in-jokes (pleasingly of a non-salacious nature) to amuse adults. A pleasant film then with something important and relevant to say, this may not be everyone’s first choice of film to watch but a rewarding experience for those who do choose it. Liked!