When we were little kids, countless stories, movies and folktales ingrained in us a fear and fascination for ghosts. What would you do if you suddenly bumped into a ghost? Scream, run, hide or may be simply faint out of fright. Ghost and their stories are generally scary, spooky and sometimes evil.
But here director Kittu Saluja takes us on a journey through the forbidden jungle of Pratapgad where we meet a bachcha-friendly bhoot (Spirit of Bhanu Pratap Singh – army commander of the king of Pratapgad) aka Ghost Uncle as named by the kids.
The story starts coolly with our 11 year-old Raghav (Markand Soni of Khichdi fame), a fun-loving carefree kid whose academic performance is a greatest concern for his mommy. Though witty otherwise, he is constantly compared to Roma (Ishita Panchal who plays Tappu in television soap Uttaran) and Igloo (Akash Nair). In sharp contrast to Raghav, Roma is always a class topper and an avid reader of mystery and horror books. Chubby Igloo nicknamed Motu is more interested in eating than anything else. He loves his bag which is full of all the booty that rescues the gang in unexpected moments of danger.
Roma and Igloo have come from USA to enjoy their summer vacations with Raghav. The trio flies down to Solampur where Raghav’s granny resides. People staying there believe that one should avoid passing through the prohibited area of the jungle after its dark. But as their flight is delayed, the kids obviously happen to travel across the hilly region when the night falls. And what’s next? Very very predictable, glitches! The driver (Baake) suddenly realizes that a tyre of their car is punctured and after he somehow succeeds in fixing it, they have a brief run into a scary-looking man. Chill! Our kids are safe as they hurriedly escape.
As the kids hear Baake narrating the ghost scene to their granny, they feel curious to know the actual picture. For a reality check, Raghav calls up his local friend Ali (Tejas Rahate), a polio legged poor village boy who is bindaas, uses a lot of slang and is familiar with all village tittle-tattle. One fine day Ali’s dad is kidnapped by Gora Saab, a descendent of a British Colonel who had tried to steal the precious blue diamond or ‘Neel Mani’ from the local king. Gora’s only aim in life is to seek the lost treasure and fulfill his grandfather’s dream. For this he tortures the villagers and forcibly seizes their land.
Distressed Ali and his friends decide to liberate Ali’s dad from the clutches of Gora Saab. For this they somehow reach Gora’s hideout and get the half-torn treasure map. Don’t ask how the kids so effortlessly reached Gora’s hideaway! It seems these kids have exceptional super powers! While running helter-skelter in order to flee from Gora’s men, they unknowingly cross the threshold and enter Pratapgad ka Jungle. Aur fir wahi ghode ki awazein and finally an encounter with our legendary bhoot (Jackie Shroff)!
Obviously our Ghost Uncle has magical powers and he serves kids a yummy meal on a dining table in a jungle. He even brings them jhoolas so that the kids can sleep at ease. How nice! Humein bhi aise bhoot uncle chahiye. Life would be much simpler then! Kittu, we did not expect this from you. Though the steamy translucent image of the ghost on a horseback is striking, you could have definitely experimented with the ‘magical powers’ bit of the film.
Moving ahead, the ghost asks the kids to fulfill his pratigya of protecting the ‘Neel Mani’ as it is Janta ki amanat and hence should be used for a good purpose. Amidst all this, Gora’s goons are back searching for the kids. The magic tricks are done with Igloo’s bag are old and banal. What’s new about a bag hanging in the air!
Now the kids are on a mission to find the blue diamond and are trying to find their way through an underground den where they have to overcome various hurdles. Fire oozing out of various corners, skulls and skeletons hanging here and there, blue gurgling water are all a part of the maze. How cliché! We wonder whether today’s video game-savy kids will be able to take pleasure in such cheap thrills. Moreover, it seems quite silly when Igloo is shown to have a solution to every crisis they face.
When a children’s film hits the theatres, we expect the film to dole out power packed performances full of thrills and fantasies but ‘Bhoot and Friends’ didn’t turn out that good, may be due to a weak storyline. At any point of time during the two-hour film, you do not feel that you have come across anything fresh or novel.
Our thumbs up goes to the bachcha party! Very intriguing and natural performances by the entire gang! Even the background score by Sunil Singh is not that bad. Sachindra Sharma has done a good job with the dialogues, especially for the kids.
To wrap it up, we would say that producer Aneesh Arjun Dev’s Bhoot and Friends has its own plus as well as minus points. When it comes to entertaining kids, we rate it as 6/10.
A worthy watch for the New Year’s Eve!