Home Entertainment Phone Bhoot review: Katrina Kaif-Ishaan-Siddhant film is painfully unfunny

Phone Bhoot review: Katrina Kaif-Ishaan-Siddhant film is painfully unfunny

Phone Bhoot movie review: Somewhere struggling underneath this mess starring Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khatter and Siddhant Chaturvedi must have been a movie. But the one we get is a wrong number.

by News Desk
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New Delhi: ‘Phone Bhoot’ is a mad ride of a horror comedy which hinges on absurdity borrowing references from the 80’s, 90’s of Bollywood and TV horror shows like ‘Aahat’, ‘Vikram Vetaal’, ‘Ssshhhh…Koi Hai’, etc. This Katrina Kaif, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ishaan Khatter starrer has been directed by the ‘Mirzapur’ fame director Gurmmeet Singh and that sets expectations high which are deflated moments later by the film.

‘Phone Bhoot’ opens with the most typical opening sequence like that of a horror show, using elements like blood, thunder, lightning, and a voiceover which narrates the tell-tale of the entire film. And, as entertaining the narration is, the makers leave no ‘sense of wonder or horror or comedy’ for the audience to enjoy because we are literally spoon-fed everything.

The opening sequence is a dream sequence which makes intelligent use of montage and symmetry to give meaning to this meaningless drama until it gets over-the-top, stretchy and monotonous.

The plot is predictable and given away within the first 30 minutes because there are too many people talking. ‘Phone Bhoot’ is chasing characters who are chasing ‘bhoots’ when in fact the story could have been anything else, literally.

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Just when the extended opening sequence breaks into ‘Kinna Sona’, you know the film is done for. I mean why waste five good minutes to show off your experimentation with camera and actors’ dance moves when it achieves nothing but ticks the formula of having an opening sequence song in a film. Why?

‘Kinna Sona’ feels overstretched and from then on, as an audience you become aware of that staggering pace the film is all set to follow.

After the first 15 minutes of the film, it actually begins to feel like that ‘Phone Bhoot’ has been made in a state of some kind of intoxication or like Ishaan’s character( Gullu) says, some ‘hit’ has made them see ghosts and whatnot.

Soon after, Sheeba Chaddha as Chikni Chudail makes an entry and stereotypes and tropes associated with the characteristics of chudail are challenged and re-asserted until you do not know what’s going on any more. And, with the overpowering voice of god( narration) introducing characters in the film, ‘Phone Bhoot’ becomes a cringe experience.

The bad screenplay with over-exploited metaphors, bad dialogue is only partially redeemed with the use of some experiment with form in the film. As mentioned earlier, interesting use of camera and space with an obsession with symmetry in this asymmetrical tale is commendable.

But barring this, the cringe music, the typicality of using a norm/bias/stereotype in the most generalized and boring manner could definitely have been worked upon. Why do films have portray that every Punjabi likes to dance or every Tamilan loves Rajinikanth( with all due respect to Thalaiva)? Why, Why, Why? This use of repetition here is purposely done to reveal another element in the film which really bores.

The typical TV soap narrative device when a circumstance, decision or anything makes a character turn their head three times on the resounding of a slap. Borrowing of such syntax is welcomed when it contributes to something rather than just becoming a meaningless mockery of not just the element but of the subject of the film.

Like the TV element, meta-referencing to ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge’, other films like ‘Fukrey’, ‘Gadar’ and moments from pop Bollywood culture like Tiger Shroff,etc. are all used well until they become too cliche.

More than being a homage or critique to that kind of culture, ‘Phone Bhoot’ looks like a ridiculous mockery of itself, a lineage it belongs to.

Thanks to actors’ performances especially that of Siddhant Chaturvedi in a Punjabi avatar, Ishaan Khatter as this love-sick idealist and Katrina Kaif ( who isn’t bad either), ‘Phone Bhoot’ is watchable.

However, the post-interval film is a whole other ballgame. Everything falls apart, from coherence, consistency, to performance, and climax. It all comes shuddering down with a weirdly placed cameo by Jackie Shroff who kind of plays himself ( his style of talking etc) and a badly scored music composition that makes no sense whatsoever.

What is worth mentioning is the interval of the film, which for me was also the best part of it. Not because there was a break but because even there the narrator in the form of a voiceover couldn’t help guide my action, reaction to the film asking audiences to take a loo and popcorn break. Yet, in that meta-audience commentary on the theatre-going experience, it looked fresh and nuanced and honestly the only thing which was funny in the film.

The post interval film has only one good sequence, that of breaking into the ‘Kali Teri Gut’ song which is well-shot, choreographed and visually executed to reveal and establish something worth seeing.

Other than that, there really is nothing to do but to wait for the film to end which finally does that on the inevitability of a ‘sequaaaaal’ as a character in the film says.

10 years ago, a film like ‘Phone Bhoot’ would really have appealed to audiences and children who grew up watching ‘Goosebumps’ or the kind of shows mentioned earlier. But, today the feature length film format, text and audience have changed completely. The filmmakers can stop underestimating their audience and begin challenging their sensibilities to feed them something to hold their attention.

Having said that, it cannot go without mentioning that horror-comedy is a tricky genre and to challenge its tropes and create a formal experiment with its template is a commendable endeavour. Only if the experiment had been taken seriously by the makers of ‘Phone Bhoot’, the exercise could have been successful.

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