By Prerana Panja
Bhooter Bhobishyot is a 2012 Bengali ghost comedy film directed by Anik Dutta. The mid-2000s to early 2010s were a particularly bad phase for Bengali cinema. The Tollywood that once upon a time boasted of celebrated filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ajot Kar, Ajit Singh, Tarun Mazumdar and the like who gave artistic yet commercially successful films which offered some enrichment to the filmgoers.
With time, this was replaced by pathetic versions of Bollywood and Tamil masala remakes, offering a combination of stereotypical melodrama and embarrassing comedy. Although things were improving for Bengali cinema, it had not seen a good comedy in over a decade.
The dream of an esoteric and pseudointellectual film or sharp, intellectual humour built into the narrative seemed like an illusion. That’s when Bhooter Bhobishyot came into the picture and revived the Bengali comedy film scene. It was original and unconventional. The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing Bengali films of the year.
Bhooter Bhobishyot, although a ghost story at the centre, couldn’t be farther from the conventional ghost stories. It doesn’t feature spirits with heads doing a 360° or green slimy monster, nor do they feature innocent young children with evil in their eyes. This isn’t a film that will send chills down your spine, instead, it’s a film that’ll have you laughing your ass off.
The film, literally translating to Future of the Ghosts tell us the story of exactly that.
As Kolkata progresses, the old ancestral homes and mansions are being torn down by greedy promoters, to built multiplexes and malls. This poses a great difficulty for the ghosts that reside in the old mansions who are gradually becoming homeless. The future of these poor creatures hangs in the balance. Where will they go? Who will advocate for them? With no political party or media supporting them, what will they do?
Dutta achieves the near-impossible with this rollicking comedy, which hasn’t been witnessed in recent times – He manages to engage and entertain all stratas of the Bengali society in equal measures.
He begins the film with a hilarious song setting the premise for the story as the ghosts sing about their problems. Post which, we’re introduced to Parambrata, an ad filmmaker who visits the old deserted mansion with his assistant director and production manager to scout for a location for his film. His Director-of-Photography is still stuck in traffic so he decides to wait for him at the mansion alone, dismissing his AD and production manager. As he explores the house, he is astonished by how well maintained everything is, he almost feels like he is in a time capsule. Waiting for his DOP, he falls asleep and is suddenly awakened by a resident of the house, which takes him by surprise as the house was supposedly deserted. The man explains that the caretaker was mistaken and politely enquires about his purpose of visit. Upon learning that he is an aspiring filmmaker, he pitches a story of his own.
This is where the fun begins and this is where I’ll stop so I don’t give out any spoilers.
Bhooter Bhobishtyot is different from other cinema in the sense that it doesn’t feature a hero and heroine in the conventional sense but instead features a roster of kinky and eccentric spirits that come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds which make for some hilarious conflicts and bickering between them.
The dialogues brewing with wit, wordplay, puns, innuendos and oxymorons make for the highlight of the film. We can’t miss out on the fact that the film feels like an ode to the master, Satyajit Raj himself – from the rhyming of the dialogues, the title card designs to the background score are all inspired by Ray’s work.
Another highlight is the outstanding performance by the ensemble cast, Swastika who plays Kadalibala with her ghostly 40s makeup and opulent persona, Mumtaz who plays the young lovelorn girl, Paran Bandopadhyay as the zamindar bhoot and George Baker as Lord Ramsey are sure to catch your eye!
This film, however, doesn’t come without its flaws. The title cards inspired by Ray seem outdated and the subtle lisp of the production manager is inconsistent throughout the film.
Barring these minor flaws, the film is near perfect according to me.
This superbly scripted and brilliantly crafted work of art with Aveek Mukhopadhyay’s stellar camerawork and Raja Narayan Deb’s engaging music, this is exactly what the Bengali diaspora needed.
If you’re a Non-Bengali speaking person, you can watch the film with the subtitles.
Although the subtitles don’t do complete justice to the carefully scripted dialogues, you are sure to enjoy the film nonetheless.
You can catch the film on Hotstar VIP.