Bhootnath Returns is unnecessarily bloated. It has far too much sermonising. The narrative is simplistic and naïve. And yet I recommend that you see the film — because it is also heartfelt, genuinely moving and, for the first half at least, slyly funny.
We begin with Bhoothnath, the friendly neighborhood ghost played with good-natured grace by Amitabh Bachchan, arriving at Bhoothworld. Here, he is the butt of jokes because he was singularly unable to scare anyone on earth. Bhoothworld is basically an afterworld sarkari office, where ghosts wait with a number to be reborn as humans. A mosquito rebirth, we are told, can happen instantly, but there’s a lucky draw to be reborn as a film star’s pet. A sign on the wall reads: Keep Dead Silence. It is details like this that make the film fun.
Bhoothnath is then sent back to Earth to redeem himself. Here he meets the street-smart Dharavi boy Akhrot, played by the terrific Parth Bhalerao. Eventually, the ghost finds himself standing for election. His advantage, as Akhrot puts it, is that he’s good and, since he’s dead, no one can kill him. A ghost as an election candidate is a great idea, but director and co-writer Nitesh Tiwari stumbles in the telling. The film twists and turns and also, paradoxically, comes to a halt. Bhoothnath becomes a messiah for reform, bringing water and clean streets to Dharavi. He also participates in a rousing song and dance and, in one particularly tiresome sequence, lectures on the importance of voting.
I was ready to give up when, just in time, Nitesh expertly pulled his scattered narrative together to end on a high note of a new morning in India. It’s all far removed from our reality, but still, it felt good. If you are willing to be a forgiving viewer, check out Bhoothnath Returns. It offers smiles and a smidgen of hope.