At a time when OTT platforms are serving up a lot of garbage in the name of being realistic and visceral, along comes a horror comedy that literally tells us to push logic into the corner and go along for a mostly fun and mildly scary ride. Phone Bhoot is the latest in Bollywood’s ongoing flirtation with the horror-comedy genre.
Director Gurmeet Singh along with his writers Jasvinder Bath and Ravi Shankaran Raj deliver what their crazy promo promised but only in the second half of the film. The pre-interval movie is lengthy and will surely test your patience.
Two unemployed horror movie addicts, Major (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and Gullu (Ishaan), under immense pressure from their father to find work, get an idea to start a unique ghost hunting service when they meet a female ghost, Ragini. (Katrina Kaif) who succeeds in their business but asks them for a dangerous favor in return, which they are forced to honor. On the other side is Atmaram (Jackie Shroff) who along with his Rahu and Ketu plans to save Ragini’s plan.
Want to celebrate the crispy popcorn horror movies of the Ramsay Brothers of yesteryear? Then you came to the right place. The film is dedicated to the heart-pounding horror films of the 90s that we saw in Bollywood. Be warned though. You really have to love the matinee frenzy and go rah-rah at the tributes to the classics, including plenty of pop culture references like Raka, the zombie-like statue that Gullu and Major refer to as their god, a Tamil spirit who fears the superstar. Rajinikanth and a chudail (played by Sheeba Chadda) who is called Chikni Chudail. There are various references from previous Excel Entertainment (producer of the film) outings like Fukrey and Mirzapur and even a tribute to Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.
Singh tries to create a universe where one of the two main protagonists is a proud believer. It is the only solution for spirits to attain moksh. The film provides an opportunity to consistently mock the genre. Of course, Phone Bhoot doesn’t go that far, but it’s quite evident that the horror comedy pretty much dominates this film, and that it’s a self-aware piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It is only after Jackie Shroff’s entry that it takes a hilarious turn. Shroff is in his ‘Bhidu’ mode and effortlessly delivers one punch after another. It is his perfect performance that makes the writing more alive.
Among the lead actors, Ishaan is clearly the show stealer. Despite its many simple and punchlines, the film would have fallen flat had it not been for Ishaan who plays Gully with winning confidence. On the other hand, Chaturvedi tries to lend support to Ishaana’s raunchy charm. After Gully Boy, the actor had a rather lackluster run and Phone Bhoot adds to it.
It is a joy to watch Katrina Kaif return to the big screen. He seems to be at ease throughout the film, snapping clear lines with enough confidence. He brings a certain charm to his character.
I wish the first half of Phone Bhoot had made me laugh and the second half, which is incredibly quirky, had been portrayed more cleverly. The film rushes to a chaotic climax and therein lies the problem. Overall, this is a film that will tickle every palate, but if you want to unwind from the day’s busyness, you can give it a shot.