Three years ago, two filmmakers directed the children's film <em>Chillar Party</em>, which went on to win a National Award. One of the two - Vikas Bahl - is 2014's first critical darling, having helmed the delightful <em>Queen,</em> which continues to draw in audiences for repeat viewings. The other, Nitesh Tiwari, is the man behind this week's release, <em>Bhoothnath Returns</em>, a sequel to 2008's <em>Bhoothnath.</em> There's no comparison that can be drawn between the two films, of course. <em>Queen</em> is a commercial-indie hybrid with an atypically strong female lead. <em>Bhoothnath Returns</em> features an indefatigable Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role and utilises an aesthetic Indian audiences have grown to love in the past decade - the Rajkumar Hirani way. In this sequel, which has the unmistakeable soul of a <em>Munnabhai</em> film, Tiwari borrows Hirani's tried-and-tested approach to storytelling that mixes calculated irreverence with overly optimistic world-views. At the same time, his vision is a lot more authentic and unflinching than the <em>3 Idiots</em> director's rose-tinted, escapist vision. Bachchan reprises his role as <em>Bhootnath,</em> the avuncular ghost with a heart of gold, who returns to Earth to - yes, it's true - contest an election in Dharavi against the local goon Bhau (Boman Irani, in top form). As ridiculous as its central conceit sounds, this is a very entertaining film that works for three reasons. The <em>first</em> is pint-sized Parth Bhalerao as the plucky Akhrot, a boy who is the only one who can see Bhoothnath (he is also alive, in case you were expecting a Sixth Sense sort of twist). Much of the film's warmth, especially in its crisp and crackling first half, comes from the chemistry between him and Bachchan. Bhalerao is a natural scene-stealer, and leaves the Big B choking on his dust-cloud on most occasions. While the script mostly requires him to wise-crack his way through, he is astoundingly good in a stand-out emotional scene with his mother towards the end, in which he displays the maturity of a much older actor.
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