Film: 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa'; Cast: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Shiney Ahuja, Amisha Patel, Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav; Director: Priyadarshan; Rating: *There is only one reason to bear through this insufferable mumbo-jumbo of black magic and para-psychology. And it's not Akshay Kumar. Sure, his comic timing remains supremely impeccable.
But we've seen him do this stuff many times over. And a sense of predictability has now crept into the way he laughs, the way he stops just a split second before exhaling the guffaw, or the way he lifts his bare feet before the camera and yawns.
Yes, in 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa' he does it all and brings the house down.
But once he gets down to playing the serious psychologist doing an 'Exorcist' on the possessed US-returned Vidya Balan, you wonder if there's a serious smirk secreted in the knee-jerk horror comedy.
Welcome to the house of horrors with the ghost of a wronged nautch girl cursing, abusing, singing and dancing in Bengali.
By the time the buck stops at Vidya, we've had enough of the Priyadarshan regular - from the reliable Mohan Joshi, to the insufferable Rasika Joshi, the unusually unfunny Rajpal Yadav and the 'loose-limbed' Paresh Rawal. Priyadarshan's patented parody fails to appeal - this time projected into a story that seems to endorse blind faith and black magic.
One wonders why Paresh is playing all these badly written characters these days?
'Bhool Bhulaiyaa' just makes you wish ghosts would haunt the people who thought up this piece of odd abomination.
As usual Priyadarshan spends a lot of time in detailing trivia, which finally adds up to much ado about absolutely nothing. The characters of the village are piled on for about 30 minutes of playing time. Another 30 minutes goes into introducing the wacky inmates of the ancestral house ... And that's when Akshay makes his entry.
But the one person who keeps you watching the film is Vidya Balan. As a woman possessed, she pours so much intense energy into her raging Kathak dance as the courtesan that you forgive Priyadarshan all his trespasses of vulgar excesses.
Vidya brings a great deal of charm, elegance and horrific angst to her part. As she swirls and twirls as the enraged dancer in a jealous king's court, she appears lovely in this distinctly un-lovely film.
Technically, the film substitutes genuine aesthetics with dashes of flamboyance selected from all the haunted haveli films - from 'Madhumati' to 'Mehbooba'. The art decorator avoids the cliche of the cobwebs on the walls. But those appear to be surrounding the brains behind this ghostly tale.
The house swarms with oddballs of every gender and hue. The basic question of who needs psychiatric help, becomes redundant after a point. Everyone seems insane.
Ironically, Vidya, who turns out to be mentally ill, emerges as the most graceful of the lot.