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Phone Bhoot movie review: It’s neither horror nor comedy — it’s awful

Phone Bhoot movie review: It’s neither horror nor comedy — it’s awful

Phone Bhoot movie review: It’s neither horror nor comedy — it’s awful
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By Sneha Bengani  Nov 4, 2022 7:56:11 PM IST (Published)

Everything about Phone Bhoot is so little thought through, it’s mind-boggling. It feels like an unending slog that’s painfully unfunny when it’s not cringy. It’s playing at a theatre near you.

Starring Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khatter, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Jackie Shroff, Phone Bhoot is so bad, it makes Saif Ali Khan and Arjun Kapoor’s Bhoot Police from last year look like a masterpiece.

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Jasvinder Singh Bath and Ravi Shankaran have written the film as a series of awful jokes—each one worse than the previous— and ill-conceived incidents with two childhood friends Major (Chaturvedi) and Gullu (Khatter) at the heart of the incoherent mess. At 137 minutes, this Gurmeet Singh directorial feels like an unending slog that’s painfully unfunny when it’s not cringy.
Horror fanatics Major and Gullu live in an apartment that looks like the venue of a Halloween party for children. They have tried and failed at several businesses. Just around when they get an ultimatum from their fathers to pull up their socks, they meet a genial spirit Ragini (Kaif) who volunteers to help them with their new ghost-busting start-up in return for a favor, which she promises she’d reveal when the time comes. And so together, they jump deeper into brainlessness.
Everything about Phone Bhoot is so little thought through, it’s mind-boggling. The film is obsessed with Kaif’s in-your-face sexiness and tries hard to ensure you don’t forget about it either. It does everything it can to stoke it, from making her recreate the unbelievably misogynistic Slice Aamstura ad to a do a steamy shower dance with Khatter on the song In The Night No Control from Akshay Kumar and Rekha’s 1996 movie Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. Aware that Kaif has made a career out of forcefully gyrating her body into what we have come to see (and appreciate) as dance, at one point, Phone Bhoot gives us not one but two of her doing it. Yes, it’s that desperate. I’m surprised that Kaif, who has been working in Hindi films for 19 years now, would still want to do such roles.
The problems with Phone Bhoot are too many and run too deep. Therefore, it is as pointless as the film to delve into each one of them. But I’ll tell you about a few. To start with, Major is Punjabi and Gullu, a "Madrasi". The film uses their regional identity as a gimmick so it can crack a few more bad jokes. A little after the interval, Ragini betrays the trust of the boys. But you soon realise there was no need for it. Our villain Atmaram (Shroff) who lives in a lair that looks like a cheap set from a TV show that couldn’t do any better, constantly keeps breaking from character. One minute, he’s the ominous baddie who makes spirits kill people for money. The next, he is your quintessential Jackie Shroff, smiling, cursing, and saying bhidu. It’s almost as if the veteran actor saw through the façade during the shoot and gave up. Smart of him. Around halftime, I also considered leaving the theatre. It was too much of an onslaught for a Friday morning.
Khatter and Chaturvedi are both actors with great potential. However, even they cannot elevate this travesty of a film. If nothing else, their bromance could have been the saving grace, but it’s not. Their chemistry is so forced and lifeless, it hurts. I have no idea what they are doing in this shitfest masquerading as a movie. They are yet to attain the kind of celebrity where a blunder this enormous does not affect their careers.
Though it promises to be a “bhayanak comedy,” Phone Bhoot is anything but. The only time it felt close to it was towards the end, when it teases at a sequel. That was the one instance in the entire film when I actually laughed. And was terrified.
Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here.
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