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Excel Entertainment’s Phone Bhoot (UA) is a horror comedy. It is a spoof.
Major (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and Gullu (Ishaan Khatter) are bosom pals who join forces with Ragini (Katrina Kaif) who is a spirit. The trio offers solutions to people who are possessed or who are being troubled by ghosts or spirits. Atmaram (Jackie Shroff) is also a ghost. He runs a business of sending ghosts to trouble people. Obviously, he feels threatened by the newly-started business of Ragini, Major and Gullu. Even as Atmaram wants to put an end to the trio’s business, Ragini seeks Major and Gullu’s help to serve her own interest. What is it that Ragini wants? Do Major and Gullu help her? What happens to the crores of rupees Ragini had promised Major and Gullu by way of profits from their business? What happens to Atmaram’s business?
Ravi Shankaran and Jasvinder Singh Bath have written an intelligent story and screenplay which evoke comedy at short intervals. Since it is a spoof, the duo resorts to anything and everything to create humour — and succeeds most of the times. However, a lot of the humour is of the kind which would appeal to the classes and the gentry rather than to the masses or universally. In that sense, it is quite an experimental drama because the market for such spoofs is yet only emerging. This is not to say that there’s nothing for the masses. Some jokes and anecdotes will, of course, appeal to the mass base of the audiences but many of the jokes will be lost on them. Having said that, it must be added that Shankaran and Bath exhibit a keen sense of comedy and an inherent talent of creating humour out of even silly episodes, which is not at all easy. Their dialogues aid them in their task, but many of them will, like their screenplay, appeal to the gentry mainly.
Katrina Kaif gets into the skin of the character of Ragini and plays the ghost which is visible only to a select few, with sincerity. What’s more, she makes Ragini a believable character by herself believing in it. Ishaan Khatter and Siddhant Chaturvedi are in form as Gullu and Major respectively. Like Katrina, the two also make their characters believable and endearing. Ishaan Khatter has a fantastic sense of timing, so necessary in a comedy. Siddhant Chaturvedi is so easy in front of the camera that he endears himself to the viewers. Jackie Shroff plays Atmaram with all the conviction at his command. He leaves a lovely mark. Sheeba Chaddha is first-rate as Chikni Chudail. Armaan Ralhan leaves a good impression as Dushyant. In spite of getting limited scope, Manu Rishi Chadha and Kedar Shankar lend excellent support as Major and Gullu’s dad respectively. Manuj Sharma (as Rahu) and Shrikant Verma (as Ketu) are effective. Surendra Thakur has his moments as Raaka. Varun Sharma, Pulkit Samrat and Manjot Singh evoke laughter in the single scene in which they appear as prank callers. Hitika Gupta, Kavish Handa, Divyendu Sharma, Shaheem Bhat, Tahoor Qadri and Shipra Singh Acharya (all as prank callers) are adequate. Kshitij Pawar (as the constable), Uday Mohite (as the cop), Jugal Kishore (as the milkman), Vipul Deshpande (as Mr. Kulkarni), Deepti Lele (as Mrs. Kulkarni), Shreya Lodhia (as Dolly), Anushka Suguna Pushparaj (as Lavanya), Sukhita Iyer (as Lavanya’s mother), Nayeem Shaikh (as Lavanya’s father), Mehul Buch (as Brijesh), Bhakti Rathod (as Brijesh’s wife), Prerna Gandhi (as Brijesh’s mother), Sabina Shaikh (as Brijesh’s maid), Farrukh Seyer (as Aslambhai), Madhavi (as Aslambhai’s wife), Nidhi Bisht (as the daayan), Sunny Dhillon (as the farmer), Mohit Thakur (as Johnny Dushman) and the others provide nice support.
Gurmeet Singh’s direction is very good. His narrative style complements the script beautifully. Also, he has extracted wonderful work from his actors. Musically, the Kinna sona (music and lyrics: Tanishk Bagchi) and Kaali teri (music Sourav Roy; lyrics Kumaar) are very popular numbers. Jaaoon jaan se (music Rochak Kohli; lyrics Kumaar) and the theme song (music Mikey McCleary; lyrics Baba Sehgal) are quite nice. Choreography of Kinna sona (by Ganesh Hegde) and Kaali teri (by Raju Sundaram) are eye-filling. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is very impactful. K.U. Mohanan’s cinematography is of a fine standard. Manohar Verma’s action and stunts go well with the mood of the film. Vintee Bansal’s production designing is in synch with the film’s flavour. Manan Ashwin Mehta’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Phone Bhoot is a well-written, well-enacted and well-made entertaining film which should do well in the good multiplexes and high-end single-screen cinemas of the big cities on the strength of youngsters and high gentry. But the inherent reluctance of the public to come to the cinemas for films like this (which can be consumed on OTT platforms) will adversely affect its box-office takings which, in the final tally, may be far less than merited. Its business in mass centres, of course, will be dull for the reasons mentioned above.
Released on 4-11-’22 at Inox (daily 5 shows) and other cinemas of Bombay thru AA Films. Publicity: quite good. Opening: below the mark. …….Also released all over. Opening was not good enough at most of the places.