Atithi Bhooto Bhava Is A Multiverse Of Mediocrity, With Nothing New To Offer
‘Atithi Bhooto Bhava’: The Friendly Ghost Trope Resurfaces In This Pratik Gandhi-Jackie Shroff Starrer

The most innovative thing about this Zee5 original is its title

Director: Hardik Gajjar
Writers: Shreyes Anil Lowlekar, Pradeep Srivastava, Aniket Wakchaure
Cast: Pratik Gandhi, Jackie Shroff, Sharmin Segal, and Divinaa Thackur
Rating: 2.5/5


Srikant Shirodkar (Pratik Gandhi) is in a live-in relationship for four years with Netra (Sharmin Segal). They love each other, IF they are not fighting. One night, an inebriated Srikant gets an old man (Jackie Shroff), a stranger from the streets, home. And his life and the movie take a bizarre turn. The man, Makhan Singh, turns out to be the ghost of his grandson. Yes, Srikant is the reincarnation of Makhan’s grandfather (hence Makhan calls Srikant Daarji), who had promised young (and alive) Makhan to help him get his girlfriend. So, after death, Makhan was waiting all this while for his grandfather’s next stint as a human on this planet.


Having finally found him, he now wants his daarji to fulfill his promise and find his long-lost girlfriend. However, he is not even sure if she is alive (Bro, how about checking your side of the world and asking your ghost friends and family first before bugging your stand-up comedian grandfather who is already struggling with his own love life?). Anyway, the trio plan a road trip to Mathura (because of course if you can’t take your story to the Hindi heartland, you are not doing ‘content-driven cinema’ right) and Srikant convinces his friend to not only lend them her car but also be the driver.


Rest is an uneventful journey punctuated with Makhan giving gyan on the power of love (while reminiscing about his own love story…yes, two love stories unfold in two timelines giving major Love Aaj Kal vibes) and loo breaks (maybe it is a homage to Piku or maybe it is a simple case of all the characters having diabetes). Once they reach Mathura, Srikant suddenly remembers his past life and the route to his old house in a classic Sonar Kella way. Now, young Srikant is the old granddad, and old and dead Makhan is the teenage grandson. Together they find the woman to complete Makhan’s love story. Srikant in turn finds himself and completes his own.


The Movie


Credits: ZEE5


This is a quirky movie where Bheja Fry meets Love Aaj Kal meets Piku meets Bhootnath. It is a movie that might have looked good as an idea, but it needed much more experienced and nuanced handling. There are some great ingredients but with the lack of a good cook, what we are served reminds us of Rachel Greens’ infamous meat trifle.


It tries to be many things all at once—a tale of a live-in relationship drama, a roadtrip movie, a supernatural comedy, a ‘friendly ghost’ story, a reincarnation drama —and fails at all remarkably. The movie has the same vibe of an impatient kid running amok and ransacking a candy shop. It just keeps jumping from one mood/scene to the other. Yes, there are some funny scenes that seem too
desperate to justify the ‘comedy’ genre that the movie is bracketed as. But mostly, the film leaves the audience flabbergasted at the goings on.


The movie has Pratik Gandhi and Jackie Shroff in almost every frame, but comedy is not their forte. Also, they lack the chemistry that was required to get the audience invested in their beyond-death bond. Also, ‘…how old is Makhan’s girlfriend now’ should be a math question.


The Cast


Credits: ZEE5


This is Pratik Gandhi’s second outing as a Bollywood leading man and second collaboration with the director– his first, Bhavai, was also helmed by Gajjar. But unlike his two collaborations with Hansal Mehta, Scam 1992 (the series that made him an OTT star overnight), and Baai (one of the segments in Amazon Prime anthology, Modern Love Mumbai where Gandhi stuns with his nuanced performance as a gay man), neither of his big-screen outings with Gajjar are that impressive. But then, he has set the standards too high for himself.


His role as Srikant Shirodkar is relatable but toxic. He is anti-anything that is considered remotely romantic. As a standup comic, his staple content is bashing and making fun of his girlfriend and their relationship. He (and the people who wrote him) lacks empathy but since it is a man’s world — told by a man, of a man, and from a man’s perspective — we get to laugh at the woman and Srikant casually gets off the hook for being toxic. Sample this, she points out that she is allergic to green chilies but Srikant finds it funny and projects her as an annoying girlfriend. He even plays out the incident at his show for gags. Toxic men need not be macho, toxic men can also be your cute, lanky, next-door neighbor as well.


But Gandhi imbues the Srikant with genial humor, honesty, and a dash of innocence, and tries to make this rather problematic character likable. He is sincere but falls short. Comedy might not be one of his strengths. Also, he fails to imbibe the Marathi accent and mannerisms; instead, he sounds Gujarati even while mouthing Marathi dialogues. It reminds one of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Dibakar
Banerjee’s stunning short film, Star, in the 2013 anthology Bombay Talkies, where even though the actor had given a powerhouse performance (especially in that poignant last scene) he had completely failed to make the character Marathi. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see such brilliant actors taking the ethnicity of the characters casually.


Credits: ZEE5


Jackie Shroff, as Makhan Singh, hardly comes across as a smooth operator in the movie. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t have the impeccable comic timing of Vinay Pathak, the genial charm of Rishi Kapoor, or the acting chops of Amitabh Bachchan but is made to play a character that demands him to be all of them together and more. Also, it is nothing short of blasphemy to turn the sexy, suave, and stylish sunglassed Shroff into an old haggard ghost. Some people are born to be the Bollywood ‘Hero’, let’s spare them the ‘realism’ (and shabby wardrobes) of ‘content-driven’ cinema.


Let apna bhidu remain Apna Bhidu.


Credits: ZEE5


Sharmin Segal as Netra is wasted. The Malaal actor tries to bring in a balance and put into perspective Srikant’s character flaws, but the material she is given to work with is too flimsy and hardly helps the cause.


In a movie about a ghost trying to find his long-lost girlfriend with the help of his reincarnated grandfather, it is foolish to look for logic. But the director keeps testing the willing suspension of disbelief of the audience. The ghost needs a vehicle to travel and is not up for a train ride or a flight. He wants a road trip because he used to be a truck driver and misses the roads. Fair enough. But during the trip, he just sits smugly never even once offering to drive. Srikant makes his friend (Divinaa Thackur) drive the entire 1400 km stretch from Mumbai to Mathura, and they have the audacity to instruct her to speed up every once in a while. Talk about taking your friend for a ride and making her drive as well. Srikant is toxic and manipulative. But then, Makhan, who comes back as a dead person and convinces his reincarnated grandfather to find his girlfriend, takes the cake when it comes to being manipulative. Maybe it’s in the genes.


Divinaa’s character doesn’t have much to do but serve as the driver. The other characters hardly even talk to her. When they do, she suddenly and randomly opens up about her own love story—a story that appears from nowhere and goes nowhere. Her track seems to have been incorporated as an afterthought. However, nothing beats the randomness of the absolutely unnecessary racist and cringe dialogue: “Galiyaan bhi Chinese ho gai hai, sab ek si dikhti hai”.


And The Multiverse Of Mediocrity


Credits: ZEE5


The songs (and there are too many of them) are soothing to the ears. But somehow they don’t stay with you. It seems like you have heard melodies similar to these too many times. Madhu Vannier’s cinematography has very brief sparks of cool. Aniket Wakchaure’s writing is mediocre at best and fails to add any spunk to the story.


A quirky attempt like this needs charm and wit and of course, breezy dialogues to successfully take off. And without these, it just drags itself on making it a tedious watch. Like the ghost, the movie also overstays its welcome. Sharper editing by Kanu Prajapati and Satya Sharma might have helped.


It is a movie that is consistent in its mediocrity. Nothing really shines. But it is not a cringefest either.


You can watch the film on streaming platform Zee5.


Lead Image: Credits: ZEE5

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