Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Amal Siddique, Shah Rukh Khan
Direction: Vivek Sharma
Dear Mr Amitabh Bachchan,
Hey! Hey! Hey! There was an actor I knew once, who took my breath away. Guess I was impressionable. There is an actor I see now, who makes me gag when I watch his desperado craftsmanship, forget artistry. The actor, sorry to say is your good-self. What happened?
Now first-time director Vivek Sharma’s Bhootnath confirms my most dreadful suspicions. I had evidenced a decline in the Bachchan University of Acting with Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (alas, your carpet-like coat was more impressive than your dancing), Chini Kum (does it behoove you to pounce on dear Tabu in the London grass and ask, “You want to do it here?”).
<b1>And the last straw that broke this camel’s back was that scratch session of the nostrils in Ram Gopal Varma ki Naaq. Something died within me that day. Bye bye childhood Indian idol. Sniff, sob, sniffle, cinema can be such a bawl game.
Anyway, largely the subject du jour is Bhoothnath. You are a ghost, wearing fungus streaks on the face, silvery nails, and again a tattered carpet! Oh man!
So, you’re angry with the new inmates of your Madras-style mansion in Goa: it even has a tumble down staircase, reminding you of Renuka Shahane going for a toss in Hum Aapke Hain..Koun! Instead of Renukaji, you tumble down, die and become a bhoot. What a hoot!
Time passes (slowly), then a tiny tot tumbles on that staircase. From a bad ghost you become a good ghost. Mercy be, you even change into slightly better suits. Come come, is there a darzi for ghosts in Goa? Did you pay by credit card?
Mischievous tot Bunkoo and you play pranks. Loved that, especially the way you moved furniture around magically. Bunkoo and you were quite sweet for 10 minutes. And then hey, hey, hey, after the intermission, Bhoothnath became Baghban 2.
Everyone cried, an ungrateful son fetched up, a prayer meeting was organised to give mukti to your spooky spirit. And Mr Bachchan, you smiled, cried, smiled, cried, as if you were at a photo-session. Sincere tip: a crash refresher course at the Pune Film Institute might help.
Really, it’s no point just putting on a thick bass voice (dubbing remixes zindabad), darting the by-now predictable glum-and-jolly expressions, repeating the Albela Bhagwan-inspired dance moves, and for heaven’s sake, stop that, “Haiiieeeeeen”, an irritating cross between a question and exclamation. It makes my toes curl.
Frankly, Mr Bachchan, after Black is there anything that you have done that you can proud of? And believe me, it’s facile if not immature to impute personal motives vis-a-vis criticism. Open up your windows, this has happened to actors infinitely superior to you. Frankly again, do understand that professional discourse is what cinema, acting and criticism are all about.
So instead of scanning the myriad facets of Bhoothnath, why this letter to you? Simply because, your role, in this case, has becomes bigger than the project. The kid (Aman Siddique) is adorable like all kids are. Juhi Chawla could do with some body toning pronto and hello, Shah Rukh Khan is criminally wasted in a role that was obviously set up to boost ‘star value’ just in case.
From what I’ve heard, seen and detected, you do take an interest -- more than the amount required of an actor -- in quite a few of your projects. Obviously, this was not one of them. Vishal-Shekhar’s music is dull-dull-dull, ditto the cinematography and writing.
And do you approve of the belief in the irrational and the absurd advanced by this misconceived enterprise? Do you believe it’s okay to carry school teachers and principals as buffoons?
“I only act,” is the traditional way-out of an uncomfortable question. So be it. Sure do act. But how about doing it the way you used to? With flair and conviction, not with ham and bacon.