‘You are full of clichés,’ tells Kartik Aaryan’s character to Manjulika. Can we say the same about the film which has not only the spectre of Manjulika but also the cult success of Bhool Bhulaiyaa hovering by? Well, Anees Bazmee’s standalone sequel to Priyadarshan’s 2007 film does not exactly break new ground. The horror element brings back memories of the ghost of Manjulika. Not the one played by Vidya Balan but the name and the song Ami Je Tomar add to the atmospherics of horror of a haveli in which ghost has been locked for 18 years.
A chance meeting between Reet Thakur ( Kiara Advani) and Ruhan Randhawa ( Kartik Aaryan) in Manali and a few convoluted twists later in which Reet decides to fake her death lead them back to her ancestral haunted mansion in Rajasthan.
What is interesting about the storyline by Aakash Kaushik is how it juxtaposes ghost playact with the presence of an actual ghost. As Reet is presumed dead, Kartik’s Rohan masquerades as someone who can talk to spirits, predictably hers too.
For a while, the atmosphere is light and jovial. A few coincidences and soon he becomes the rather delightful Rooh baba giving Chhote Pandit (Rajpal Yadav) and Bada Pandit (Sanjay Mishra) a run for their money.
Kartik gets to romance Kiara (in hiding), sing songs (in dreamland) and above all, has the best punch-lines. Endearing as always, he has your attention and does make you chuckle every now and then. Till the first half, the humour sustains the narrative.
Apart from Rajpal Yadav, we have Sanjay Mishra tickling our funny bone. Though Mishra’s hard of hearing act is not so amusing, can his comic timing ever be off key. “Our Bengali is as good as our French,” utters Bada Pandit and you can barely suppress a smile.
More smiles are in order, never mind that in an Anees Bazmee film logic has little place. So, silliness abounds as much as absurdity. As expected some gags work and some don’t. A fair dose of humour is not just lowbrow but below par, especially comedy in the name of digs at this cute little boy of the family is not just socially incorrect but totally unwarranted. Slapstick humour or not, here actual slaps are supposed to amuse us. Wince!
What works despite the implausibility that comes appended with horror and Bazmee’s signature style is the comic timing of its actors. Pun-laden dialogues add to the fun. If the initial proceedings delude you to wonder what a fine actor like Tabu is doing in this horrorcom, rest assured she has a stellar part, nay parts, which are far more than meets the eye. Anjulika, Manjulika…Tabu’s double role tells you how a consummate actress like her can actually give you contrasting shades at one go, be as calming a presence as frightening.
To be fair, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 does manage to entertain and scare in equal parts, but the run-time of over two-hour-and-twenty-five minutes saps your energy. The long-drawn climax between the twin sisters Anjulika and Manjulika, despite an interesting twist, drags the film’s entertainment quotient further down. At best, time pass.