Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is a silly scary movie that knows it is a silly scary movie, observes Sukanya Verma.
Hindi horror movies are better off without dragging medical science into it. Though hardly an original, Priyadarshan's Bhool Bhulaiyaa, a remake of the Malayalam classic Manichitrathazhu, drew nervous eyeballs as long as it stuck to its spooky 'Manjulika' narrative but no soon it started diagnosing her behaviour as a dissociative identity disorder, everything went downhill.
But Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is a silly scary movie that knows it is a silly scary movie. This sort-of spin-off by Director Anees Bazmee wisely never suggests it has a singular smart bone in its body. Instead it not only owns up to its absurdity but has a ball playing a cliched, cheesy game of boo!
It's the kind of piffle where a bride-to-be (Kiara Advani) holidaying in Manali allows her family to assume she's dead in an accident because she overhears over a phone call that her sister and fiancé are romantically involved, before she can inform she's narrowly escaped.
Lucky for her, Kiara's Reet bumps into a wealthy wanderer Ruhaan (Kartik Aaryan) in the snowy mountains. They hit it off enough for him to assist her in the lie and pose as the psychic 'Rooh Baba' in touch with her ghost. Little does he realise there's already enough otherworldly crisis to contend with in her family (Tabu, Amar Upadhyay, Milind Gunaji).
Only minutes before Reet-Ruhaan's meet-cute, a freakish prologue involving a priest engaged in mumbo jumbo, thunder and lightning complimenting the ominous mood call our attention to Manjulika's black magic woman camouflaged behind kilograms of kohl and rockstar locks furiously dragging folks by the floor until captured and locked up for eternity.
It's not rocket science that eventually some chump will unlock that door and unleash her beast on all and sundry. But writer Aakash Kaushik's script is so chuffed about the idea of Manjulika on the loose, he devises ridiculous red herrings to let everyone role play her at least once.
Truth be told, Manjulika's mystery is one of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2's most short-lived secrets, but her portrayal is its biggest trump card. Ever the scaredy-cat, I avoided looking her in the eye but when I did catch an unwanted glimpse, I appreciated the pains taken to make her look like a ghastly twin of Stree.
If you're wondering whether her backstory has any connection to Vidya Balan's malevolent Bengali dancer, it does and it does not. But this is definitely not the story it had the potential to be despite fleeting echoes of Woh Kaun Thi and Makdee.
Armed with a stockpile of jump scares and other horror essentials -- a sprawling haunted haveli inhabited by a painted ghoulish face on a black-clad witchy figure, a joint family to scare out of their wits because, of course, the more the murkier and a secret betrayal whose disclosure will leave you scratching your head for days on end -- Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 sets the stage for stereotypical scenes of evil laughter and terror filled shrieks.
What lends the frights some froth is a cast completely dedicated to the farce. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2's wobbly script makes no sense but isn't a complete writing debacle either. The one-liners are aplenty and pack in a zany, tongue-in-cheek humour.
Sanjay Mishra and Ashwini Kalsekar as the soothsayer and his boisterous wife whose livelihoods take a beating in face of Rooh Baba's growing cult had me chuckling at slapstick gags. Rajpal Yadav's goofball gags hit all the right notes while Rajesh Sharma's comical fundas go beyond the usual wuss.
Compared to them, Kiara Advani doesn't have much to contribute, but her eerie, energetic Manjulika dance makes for quite a devilish distraction.
Co-star Kartik Aaryan gets the funniest lines. As a flippant, self-aware parody on superstition, pop culture and paranormal, he holds his own and keeps the horseplay together for most part.
What Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 highlights best is Tabu's delight in being an actress. We've seen umpteen movies capturing her talent, but here we see the enjoyment she seeks from her profession.
She can be blameless. She can be diabolical. She can be digitally de-aged. She can be complex. She can be inscrutable. Can you imagine a better bhool bhulaiyaa than that?