The one thing to be said for Nitesh Tiwari's "Bhoothnath Returns" is that it has impeccable timing. At a time when India is caught up in election fever, and every TV news channel is celebrating "the dance of democracy", the film delivers the same message, albeit with a higher budget and a stronger medium than public service advertisements.s
Combining a children's film with a sermon on the importance of voting couldn't have been easy, and at times, the film falters. Yet, you cannot help but warm up to the characters and the rather uneven storyline, thanks to the generous dose of honesty that director Tiwari brings to the table.
Amitabh Bachchan reprises his role as Bhoothnath, an amiable ghost in the land of spectres, depicted in the film as an idyllic European village with meadows and towering castles. Ridiculed because he couldn't spook earthlings in the first film, Bhoothnath is sent back to scare a few kids, so that he can fulfil his ghostly duties.
Once on Earth, however, Bhoothnath forgets his original mission, thanks to his encounter with Akhrot, a wisecracking urchin in Mumbai's biggest slum, and the everyday hardships of the poor in Indian cities. Akhrot convinces Bhoothnath that the best way to make use of his supernatural powers is to contest elections against the local builder-cum-politician-cum-gangster, Bhausaheb (Boman Irani, who has prospered for long, did nothing for his constituents and is the stereotype of a typical Indian politician.
The concept of a ghost contesting elections might seem far-fetched, but thanks to the crackling chemistry between Parth Bhalerao(who plays Akhrot) and Bachchan, the plot seems to work. Sanjay Mishra , who plays the friendly neighbourhood lawyer, also adds to the great cast and scenes featuring the trio are among the film's best.
There are plenty of simplistic solutions to problems; long, rambling speeches; and lingering shots of kids living in poverty - which leads to the film often over-stating its point. But thanks to the two main leads, you might forgive these flaws.
For that, credit must go to Bhalerao, who seems to revel in playing off Bachchan, matching his comic timing, and enjoying the repartee. Bachchan seems to have mellowed down, a far cry from the days when he loved to play characters that rebelled against the system. This time, he'd like to be a part of it.
Like India's democratic system, "Bhoothnath Returns" has some noticeable flaws, but it does inject enough faith for viewers to cheer it on.