Monday, 22 October 2007

Bhool Bhulaiya (2007)

An eerie palatial house, a zany family bound with superstition coupled with an eccentric psychiatrist results in Bhool Bhulaiya, Priyadarshans latest cinematic venture.

Priyadarshan is a name that has become synonymous with comedy, be it Hera Pheri, Hungama, Hulchul or Garam Masala. Coupling his forte with Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal has almost guaranteed fireworks at the box office so his latest venture, Bhool Bhulayia demands a viewing for fans that stand loyal to the Priyadarshan trademark…one would think so; however with Bhool Bhulayia the veteran changes track, presenting a supernatural saga with bustling hoopla.

The motions unwind with Siddharth (Shiney Ahuja) returning to his motherland from America with his newly wed wife Avni (Vidya Balan). Both are greeted with open arms by his somewhat anomalous family made up of Batukshankar Upadhyay (Paresh Rawal) Badrinarayan Chaturvedi (Manoj Joshi) and his childhood friend Radha (Amisha Patel) alongside a whole host of other characters.

Tension strikes when Siddharth insists that he stays in his ancestral home which has been shrouded in mystery and misery for generations by the family. They believe it to be haunted by wandering spirits which reside on the third floor of the house, an area that is strictly forbidden to visit and locked away behind tantras and mantaras.

However, the neoteric couple that Siddharth and Avni are means they dismiss any conceptions of ghosts and ghouls and reside within the manor much to the dismay of the family.

A curious and intrigued Avni decides to explore her surrounding and ventures where no one has ventured before; to the third floor of the manor…unleashing unexplainable events which the family believes are the doings of the evil spirits…but in an era of scientific jargon, Siddharth refuses to believe these are the actions of the preternatural and looks to seek the answer behind these cabalistic proceedings.

The finger points to Radha, whom Siddharth believes to be mentally unstable and the culprit of the abstruse goings on and in order to bolster his doubts, he calls in his friend Dr.Aditya (Akshay Kumar) a clownish psychiatrist to redeem Radha of her ailment.

Aditya, with his dissident manner sets about to treat his patient but as the events become more inane, he unleashes a horrifying truth of the unerring doer responsible for the calamity of fiascos.

A truth which makes Siddarth realize that not every question concludes with a logical answer, leading to Aditya taking drastic measures to ensure that pandemonium does not obscure reality. However, in an attempt to restore harmony, how far can mere mortals go to fight the paranormal?

Supernatural thrillers have been depicted on the Hindi silver screen for eons, from Bees Saal Baad, to Jaani Dushman, from 100 Days to Kaun…many of which have been successful in providing the regulatory chills and thrills. Bhool Bhulayia however gives itself the onerous task of slotting itself into the appropriate genre of either thriller or comedy…and seen as the film packs both into its duration, the impact is not as strong as it could have been.

Priyadarshan sets the scene right from the opening shot, the panning of the ostentatious manor house in its twilight glory and apprehensive characters weary of the unknown that lurks beyond its walls features all the ingredients of a supernatural joyride.

Furthermore, the introduction of Avni and her inquisitive nature to explore the mansion is depicted in an engaging manner, with the viewer on the edge of their seat waiting for havoc to unleash itself from behind the white-washed walls and dazzling doors.

However, it is Priyadarshan’s need to entwine comedy throughout these moments which hampers the tone of the film, confusing the viewer as to whether they should be anxious or laughing resulting in an erratic mish mash.

The entry of Akshay Kumar raises the expectation of the film and one expects the character of Aditya to create mayhem as he encounters the absurd residents of the household and rightly so, as Akshay breathes a new energy into the story, bringing both jocoseness and restraint to the tale.

Climatically, the film is perhaps at its best although the need of the flashback could be argued as slowing down the pace when it was perhaps more important to build up solicitude rather than dwell upon such incidents in immense detail. However, like with any good thriller, the resolve to the problems and how they are depicted make for engaging and spine chilling viewing, especially pleasantry for fans of spectral happenings.

Performance wise, Akshay Kumar acts well in a role that by now has become typical of him to a degree. Given his past few films, Heyy Babyy, Bhagam Bhag, Namaste London, the overtly garish and loveable buffoon is enacted with extreme ease and likeability. However, it would be a welcomed changed to see Akshay present the viewer with a meatier and harder hitting role in the near future in which he would excel just as much as any other actor, rather than the frivolous antics he has become so familiar with onscreen.

It is Vidya Balan who walks away with the merits in Bhool Bhulaiya, turning out a performance that required both extreme vulnerability and barbarism. After playing the girl next door in Parineeta, the spunky journalist in Salaam-e-Ishq and the glamorous heroine in Heyy Babyy, Vidya takes her acting capabilities a step further in Bhool Bhulayia expanding her range and leaving the viewer both awe-struck and fascinated with her performance of dual personality.

Shiney Ahuja is competent in his part but at times tends to deliver a somewhat over the top performance which lacks clarity. The role of the concerned husband is often one that manages to garner much sympathy from audiences but down to either a poorly developed character or a shoddy performance, Shiney somehow misses the mark.

Amisha Patel is efficient as Radha and actually manages to leave an impact rather than becoming obfuscated by the umpteen characters in the film, proving her screen presence and acting capabilities can be prevalent when handled by the right director.

Paresh Rawal is competent in a role that does not demand histrionics from an actor of his stature and is certainly one of his poorer roles in the gallery of Priyadarshan films he possesses.

Similarly, Rajpal Yadav is wasted and extremely unnecessary. One wonders, whether or not Rajpal Yadav is becoming excessively indulgent with his poor choice of roles lately, first with Don, then RGV Ka Sholay and now Bhool Bhulayia.

Musically, the film has little to offer. “Hare Krishna Hare Raam” is a song that has gained immense popularity over time but fails to find its way into the narrative of the story. Likewise, the remaining songs that are incorporated into the film prove to serve more as gap fillers rather than progressing the story, making the music of Bhool Bhulaiya almost non-existent.

The biggest culprit of Bhool Bhulayia is its promotion. From the trailers, the makers have projected the film as a comedy but in fact, there is less comedy and more concentration upon the fear factor. This misleading of the audience is indeed what makes Bhool Bhulaiya at times a disappointment for those in hope of a wacky and rib-tickling comedy.

Priyadarshan has tackled serious subjects in the past with great charisma and excellence. The flawless Virasaat which oozed directorial brilliance from every frame is a perfect example of his ability to transcend a story onto the big screen which is poignant and gritty at the same time. Even the criminally underrated Saat Rang Ke Sapne, a personal favorite, is testament to the brilliance Priyadarshan has within him.

However, unlike Saat Rang Ke Sapne, which ultimately was a serious subject laced with subtle and at times black humor throughout, Bhool Bhulayia is presented as a supernatural affair with somewhat slapstick comedy, appearing completely out of synch with the ambience of the film.

Priyadarshan works better when he is treating the viewer to delicious shots of winding stairways and contorting shadows rather than bumbling characters or nonsensical situations which divert from the horror factor.

Bhool Bhulayia is a bona fide attempt to create a supernatural themed tale, flavored with comedic anecdotes along the way. However, in an attempt to bring both genres together, the result is a slapdash concoction of laughter and repugnance which unintentionally dilutes the amalgamation of the two, akin to a whimsical horror ride.


Anonymous said...

Excellent review I must say,one of the better ones Ive read
look forward to more of the same
Though i have a few questions
1.Do you think the two times Vidya has to go from avni to manjullika and back is she convincing?I mean for me the transition from avni to manjullika was ok but the subsequent one on both occasions was superlative
2.Do you think Priyan tried to cover up Vidya's dancing skills(or lack of them) in the dance sequence through some clever videography?I am in two minds about this one
3.Would you rate this performance by her as the best this year by an actress?

Anonymous said...

Ace review here Sunny...

I actually liked this one quiet a bit, and have a great weakness for Akki comedies, not great films by any means(BHAAGAM BHAG, NL etc) but certainly a good laugh and time-pass. No doubt Akshay needs to start diverting now and do different things, but I think this is happening naturally with Yashrajs TASHAN, Sippy's MADE IN CHINA, Nagesh's EIGHT BY TEN etc. Specially Kukunoor's film which will see Akki in a acting piece.

As for Priyan...well he cracked the formula to make money, however lost his "film-making" instinct as saying that I find his films good timepass, but as a director this is no doubt one of his better films in recent times. My personal fave remains GARAM MASALA after HERA PHERI....

Glad you mentioned SAAT RANG KE SAPNE btw, underrated film this, superb music and ace performances specially from Juhi and Kher. Arvind Swamy was never a draw in the Hindi belt though. You should check out SAZAA E KAALAPAANI, GARDISH and MUSKURAHAT to see some older Priyan classics..and no dobut his best remains VIRASAT!

Anonymous said...

BTW I should add here I prefer the Tamil version CHANDRAMUKHI to this.. I haven't seen the original Malayalam version yet...though plan to catch it shortly...this is a "story" that has never failed be it in Malayalam, Telugu, Kanadda, Tamil or now Hindi:-)!

Sunny said...

Hey Abhinav, thanks for the comments and do make sure you keep coming back :) I value your thoughts and opinions...

Right now to your questions...

1.I thought the transitions from avni to manjulika were extremely competent in bringing out the shock and fear factor that was required. The sequence where Manjulika is shown lifting the bed when Shiney tells her she cant go out had more of an impact for me as it came out of no where and as a viewer we weren't expecting it...the manjulika episode at the end of the film was again a scene which showed Vidya's talent but somehow I couldn't help be reminded of Urmilia in Bhoot/Kaun when Vidya resorted to the glaring eyes and menacing face look...what do you think?

2.I thought the dance sequence in flashback was quite unnecessary and as Vidya is not exactly the queen of classical dance, it appeared very awkward to watch. In fact, the male dancer seemed to take away the limelight from her. As for Priyan trying to cover up for Vidya's shortfalls...not quite convinced that was the case as he seemed more than confident to show her dancing as Manjulika throughout the film.

3.I'd say it was an extremelly hard performance to master with the two dual personalities but not one that garners the best tag...more so for the fact that the character of Avni left little impact and Manjulika overpowered. Had Avni been developed more then Vidya would have been able to show more range. Excellent actress no doubt about it, but like I my opinion, there were loopholes.

Akshay...yes it will be such a welcome change to see Akki in a meatier role after such a long time and I am awaiting it eagerly. Although he still will be staying faithful to his time-pass films with Singh Is King...

Bhool Bhulaiya was the first interpretation I had seen of the story and whilst it was engaging, my biggest upset was the misguidace in the film promos...I already knew what it was about before watching it but I felt that the promos failed in creating the right mood for the film.

Saat Rang Ke Sapne and Virasat remain my favourite Priyan films...I am yet to see Garam Masala and also Chup Chup Ke...however, maybe it is best that Priyan does stay with his comedic formula as Kyon Ki was a complete and utter waste of time which suffered in all accounts, bad acting, bad story and shoddy editing...the only decent thing being the music.

Anonymous said...

Sunny: Totally agree on Akshay! And yes, the advertising was a definite downer here!

Anonymous said...

Yes,I agree with you on the fact that Avni's characterisation left a bit to be desired infact that is the precise reason why this performance doesnt match up the brilliance of shobhana from the the climax Vidya is as good as Shobhana but in a different way.
About the dancing,its the first time she has been seen dancing so we cannot say a lot about it but considering that it required an out of sync demented enragement it takes some doing..
About the third,if not this one then whihc is the best this year so far?
Ya,about Urmila in bhoot/kaun..see i have a problem with both of those Urmila's eyes and tone say a different language all together at times..the body language also left a bit to be desired..