The starting point for events that propel director Anees Bazmee’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 are questionable and illogical. Two strangers – Reet Thakur (Kiara Advani), a medical student on her way home to Rajasthan where she is to be married meets Ruhan Randhawa (Kartik Aaryan), a footloose traveller who persuades her to change her travel plans and live a little. The sudden change of itinerary also ends up saving their lives.
Back home in Rajasthan, the news of a bus accident has sent Reet’s family into mourning. No family member rushes to the scene of the accident to confirm this death, leave alone asking for the mortal remains of their dearly departed. This is a family that has forsaken logic years ago, using Tantric arts to entrap an evil spirit in their grand haveli, locking up Manjulika 18 years ago.
Ruhan, who seems to have no family, friends or purpose, easily becomes accessory to Reet’s ridiculous plan to return to Rajasthan, live in the abandoned and haunted haveli and execute a convoluted plan that will involve duping her entire family. Reet’s extended family buys into Ruhan’s claims of being a medium between the living and dead. Where other people’s phones go tring, tring, says Ruhan, his phone goes conjuring, conjuring. And that’s one of the better jokes.
Reet’s father, uncles, aunts, cousin’s flip from grief to celebration in a few short days and even more quickly shelter Ruhan who turns out to have a knack for thinking on his feet and slipping out of sticky situations with ease. The film plays up the idea of blind faith and the speed at which we elevate men to demigods. Adorned in beads and black robes, Ruhan earns the title of Ruh baba. He embraces the persona and delivers frivolous suggestions, while other frauds try to expose Ruhan’s ruse.
While Aryan does all of this, including a solo dance number and going head to head with Manjulika, Kiara Advani mostly hides behind curtains, and shows off a lovely wardrobe. It’s not much of a role for her, and not much of a challenge for Aryan either, who has played versions of Ruhan before. Yet his vigour and insults (mainly directed towards an overweight child) give the film a boost of energy. In their limited characters, Aryan and Advani find enough to make Reet and Ruhan likable.
And then there’s Tabu as the steadfast, loving, dutiful daughter-in-law Anjulika, who stands by her disabled husband (Amar Upadhyay) — she would make Sooraj Barjatya proud. Or would she? Among the ensemble is Rajpal Yadav as Chota Pandit, Sanjay Mishra, Ashwini Kalsekar and Milind Gunaji.
Bazmee and writer Aakash Kaushik pull off a moody thriller with flashes of humour in a sequel that is high on packaging and low on spirit.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is a writer, film critic and festival programmer. She tweets @UditaJ