Film: Bhoot Police (Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar); Duration: 129 minutes; Director: Pawan Kripalani; Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Yami Gautam and Javed Jaffery.
‘Bhoot Police,’ directed by Pawan Kripalani, is a straight-laced horror-comedy that relies heavily on farce. It’s a film to which every Indian can relate. It’s an adventure storey about a team of two fake exorcists out to make a living and a cop on the trail of them. Despite the fact that the narrative focuses on the conmen, this film is not a cat-and-mouse chase between the cops and the ‘corrupt’ men.
They are not corrupt. Saif Ali Khan, who plays Vibhooti Vaidya, believes there are no “ghosts” or evil spirits, but the duo can survive as long as people believe in these superstitions. Vibhooti is accompanied by his younger brother Chiraunji, played by Arjun Kapoor, who has reservations about spirits and the afterlife as well as a conscience.
The duo travels the countryside in a converted bus, basking in the glory of their father Ullat Baba, solving people’s problems and mostly engaging in con-jobs. Their father, by the way, was a genuine exorcist.
It is at ‘The Spirit Carnival 2021’ that Chiraunji unintentionally discovers his father’s diary and meets Maya (Yami Gautam), who has travelled all the way from Dharamsala to seek Ullat Baba’s assistance. Simultaneously, Inspector Chedilal (Javed Jaffery) spots Vibhooti and pursues him, knowing he is a fraudster.
With Maya in tow, the brothers flee the carnival. They decide to assist Maya and her sister Kanika (Jacqueline Fernandes) in removing a “kichkandi” (an evil spirit) from their tea estate. In this case, they solve the problem by inadvertently assisting a mother in reuniting with her daughter, ensuring that both are saved.
The farce begins with a promise, and as the plot progresses, the cleverly constructed sequence of events peppered with layers of humour appears to impress, but in reality, it overflows with absurdity. The racy, punchy dialogues are a cross between rural and urban lingo, and logic is not a priority. And the hurried turn of events during the climax becomes a little convoluted and tiresome to follow.
Saif and Arjun are as good as ever with their comic timing, which is now standard fare. Yami Gautam is watchable, but Jacqueline is dismissible in a poorly written character. Jamie Lever, who plays a tea-garden worker, and Javed Jaffery, who plays a police officer, are both wasted in dull expositions.
The film has exceptional production values. Rajasthan’s expansive landscape and sets appear natural and vibrant, with bright colours. The lens of cinematographer Jaya Krishna Gummadi captures the visuals with aplomb, but the scenes shot in the dark seem a waste of screen time during the final half-hour of the film.
The sound, which is seamlessly layered by Pooja Ladha Surti’s razor-sharp editing, keeps the narrative rolling despite the fact that you can’t see anything. Sachin Jigar’s thunderous background music sounds like a symphony in an old-school Hindi film. Overall, you’ll be entertained by the film.