Saturday, February 22, 2020


Release date:
February 21, 2020
Bhanu Pratap Singh
Vicky Kaushal, Akash Dhar, Ashutosh Rana, Meher Vij, Bhumi Pednekar

I can’t quite figure out why Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship allowed itself to waste away. It borrows part of its name from one of Ram Gopal Varma’s better post-2000 films, but squanders a promising start and fails to do justice to that supernatural thriller’s legacy.

This Bhoot stars Vicky Kaushal as a member of a government shipping department involved in clearing out an abandoned ship called Sea Bird that gets stuck on Mumbai’s Juhu beach. As it happens, the vessel is haunted. So is Kaushal’s character Prithvi – unable to let go of a tragedy involving his wife and child a while earlier. His unhappy past appears to have turned him into a man who will go to any lengths and risk his everything to help others, especially young women.

The first half of Bhoot Part One is actually very good, starting with a neat rejigging of the familiar Dharma Productions logo. Director Bhanu Pratap Singh manages to build up a spooky atmosphere on screen, and the initial sightings of the film’s spirit are terrifying. It all comes to nought though with the dwindling quality of the narration, loopholes and unaddressed questions gradually rearing their head, and in the second half, with a half-baked back story to the paranormal presence on that ship.

Among the familiar faces who show up in brief roles are Ashutosh Rana as a clichéd professor who studies the supernatural, Meher Vij from Secret Superstar who is part of the backgrounder and Bhumi Pednekar whose talent deserves better than two back-to-back ineffectual cameos in one weekend – in addition to this film, she is also in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS). To be fair to Bhoot Part One, at least Pednekar’s character here has some significance – she is irrelevant in SMZS.

The visual effects in Bhoot Part One are fair enough, but their worth is diminished by the emptiness of the script in the second half.

Sometimes though, from the most unexpected quarters comes a point that needs to be desperately made in the disturbing times we live in. Prithvi’s best friend in Bhoot Part One is a man called Riyaz (played by Akash Dhar, the brightest spark in this cast). While names are not concrete proof of an individual’s religious identity, they do serve as indicators. Riyaz could well be Hindu or Christian, but it is a name you will usually find on Muslims or Parsis. That a vital character in a film belongs to a minority community without a shindig being thrown about their religion, without any of the stereotypical community markers that most Bollywood films consider mandatory, without them being demonised in the way one particular minority group is increasingly being demonised by post-2014 Bollywood, yet without their presence being used to deliver a speech on secularism, is a crucial statement on representation.

This positive is hardly enough to salvage the wreckage of Bhoot Part One though.

As if it is not bad enough that they made an entire film without compelling the writing team to improve the script, it turns out the producers are planning a Bhoot Part Two. Oh dear.

Rating (out of 5 stars): 1.5

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
117 minutes 

Poster courtesy: IMDB

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