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‘Phone Bhoot’ movie review: Katrina Kaif’s horror-comedy is a spirited show all the way

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There are comic punches that Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ishaan Khatter connect really well, but there are also plenty of blank shots that are simply fired for effect or to complete the rhyme

There are comic punches that Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ishaan Khatter connect really well, but there are also plenty of blank shots that are simply fired for effect or to complete the rhyme

Horror comedy is the new flavour in Bollywood and  Phone Bhoot is the latest  desi version of  Ghostbusters after the arresting  Bhoot Police. Mounted for teenagers in all age groups, the quirky tale pans out like a visual comic strip and opens up delicious possibilities for subversive and politically-incorrect ideas in the pop-culture space.

Gullu (Ishaan Khatter) and Major (Siddhant Chaturvedi) are so crazy about horror stories that they cross over to the other side like a walk in the park. Their pad is like a museum of horror films. One night, a wandering soul called Ragini (Katrina Kaif) knocks them out of their senses when she enters their life and offers them a business idea of liberating spirits caught in the mortal world. The boys seem like passengers who missed the  Fukrey bus and are hard on money, but they have their morals intact. They don’t want any undue profit, but Ragini charms them into the plot… for she has her own axe to grind with an evil occultist Atmaram (Jackie Shroff). The bombastic Atmaram also promises salvation but he ekes out blood money.

The plot prepares us for a roller coaster-ride on the politics of salvation, but the kind of detailing the production designers show in creating the spooky universe around Gullu, Major, and Ragini is somewhat missing in the uneven writing of Ravi Shankaran and Jasvinder Bath.

A still from ‘Phone Bhoot’

There are comic punches that connect really well, but there are also plenty of blank shots that are simply fired for effect or to complete the rhyme. One could see tantalising possibilities but the humour doesn’t dig deep enough, perhaps to keep the target audience interested. From Raka to Ragini, the references to iconic characters of horror films is interesting, but a comedy has to be more than just wordplay. After a point, the narrative is reduced to a series of skits as the writers lose grip on the arc of the story. The good thing is director Gurmmeet Singh is self-aware of the silliness on display and the film doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, without losing sight of the intrinsic logic.

The film also explores diversity in the ghost world, as a Tamil soul is exorcised by a photo of Rajinikanth, and the Punjabi one is controlled by a peppy bhangra number! Language remains a derisive issue after death as well, as a Bengali witch cannot pronounce  moksha. There is an Aslam  as well holding up the good man’s lantern for those who could lose way to the other side.

The casting is fresh and the young Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ishaan Khatter nail the wicked mood as the charming and cocky Punjabi and Tamil ghostbusters who provide salvation to the jinxed souls for a price. Their comic timing salvages the underwritten parts. As an idea, Katrina Kaif as a bewitching spirit makes sense and she loosens up to meet the demands of the genre. Jackie Shroff also surrenders to the absurdist mood, as he plays the iconic  Hero tune in the garb of a villain.

Not everybody’s cup of tea, Phone Boot is like the spirited blend of coffee and lassi that helps Gullu and Major take on the bluff of Atmaram.

Phone Bhoot is currently running in theatres



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