Bhool Bhulaiya

Warning: Here be spoilers! If you haven’t seen any of the earlier versions of this movie (Manichithirathazhu, Aptamithra, Chandramukhi), you would be well-advised to avoid reading this post. If you’re looking for a quick evaluation, here it is: Go watch the movie, it’s quite good.
Sometimes I feel like walking up to Akshay Kumar, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and demanding, “Who are you and what have you done to Akshay Kumar?”

Think about this: the same actor who once graced such eminently forgettable B-movies like Hum Hai Bemisaal with his equally forgettable presence has now become an actor who automatically makes you smile when he comes on screen. Bhool Bhulaiya spends a fair amount of time establishing a fairly intriguing and serious premise about a haunted palace and its new occupants having to deal with assorted mishaps. But five minutes into his intro, you can literally feel the entire audience relax. It’s amazing how good he’s become. Here he takes on a role that was earlier played by Mohanlal (I’m not going to count the Rajni version) — a challenge for any actor. But the good news is, Akshay doesn’t have to be Mohanlal. He just has to be himself.

On the other hand, Vidya Balan has a much tougher task at hand. When I watched the original, I remember being absolutely blown away by Shobhana’s performance. Incidentally, she won the National Award for this one. Vidya Balan is no Shobhana, but thankfully, her performance doesn’t sink the movie. Some of the key moments in Manichithirathazhu depend on the same scene being shown from two different points of view, and what you see when the POV changes is quite startling. In this version, the framing of the shot is not quite the same. My guess is that this had to do with Vidya’s acting ability, and the director adapted the scene accordingly. She does manage to do a good job in some of the later scenes, though. This is not a career-defining performance, but she’ll probably get a fair share of plaudits for it.

Pretty much everything else about the movie is satisfactory. Priyadarshan faithfully adapts the original without adding too much baggage (like Chandramukhi did, much to my disgust), and still manages to bring in something of a local flavour to the proceedings. The performances of the supporting cast are uniformly good. Even Amisha Patel, who can be quite unbearable at times, manages to rein it in. Paresh Rawal is his usual funny self. Shiney Ahuja turns in a competent performance overall, although in some of the early scenes it feels like he could use some voice training. My favourite though was Manoj Joshi, a Priyan regular who usually gets more lightweight parts but proves here that he can do the heavy lifting quite well.

The music is mostly okay – the catchy title tune is clearly the best of the lot, but some of the others aren’t half bad. I quite liked Labon ko, for instance. The camerawork is quite decent, if a little conventional for the genre – if you’ve watched a few thrillers, you won’t find any surprises here.

On the whole, this is a good movie, whether you evaluate it on its own terms or as a remake. Worth a dekko.

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28 thoughts on “Bhool Bhulaiya

  1. Ramsu,
    Chandramukhi made the mistake of playing up Rajni’s image; understating his presence would have helped the movie a lot, but may be it was not possible (fans! please don’t tear up the screens – you’ll get the usual Rajni gimmicks..)

    I want to watch Manichithirathazhu but haven’t found the DVD yet.
    Giri

  2. True. It’s like they had to cross off items on a Rajni movie checklist as well as a Manichithirathazhu checklist. Strange pair of sub-genres to mix.

    Even if you take it on its own terms and don’t compare it with the original, Chandramukhi has its share of problems, thanks to all the baggage Rajni carries with him.

  3. Have not seen Manichitrathazu, but Chandramukhi frankly sucked. The intention seemed to project Rajni, and some of the scenes which needed to give the tension ended up as unintentional comedy.

  4. Have not seen Manichitrathazu, but Chandramukhi frankly sucked. The intention seemed to project Rajni, and some of the scenes which needed to give the tension ended up as unintentional comedy. And somehow dont understand why a usually good actor like Nazar, ended up hamming in a role that could be done by any 1.

    Hmm looks like Akki is creating his own niche slot. Ms Patel is tolerable, that is news, as my admiration for her looks, gets offset by her constant screeching and wheezing.

  5. Sagarika says:

    Ah, Manichitrathazu. Your recent posts have been triggering long-forgotten fond movie memories from my (our) BITS days.

    This one, I (we?) watched on a lazy Sunday afternoon in ’94 when the Mallu assoc screened a camera-print-like version of the Fazil thriller. (Ah, Fazil. I’m instantly reminded of his quirky musical comedy “Arangetravelai”).

    Despite the print sucking big time, I didn’t mind straining my eyes to watch Shobana’s mind-blowing performance, brilliantly supported by Mohanlal. Haven’t watched the Kannada version but yup, agree with everyone that Priyadarshan dropped the ball with Chandramukhi (mostly just by picking Rajni for the role, and thereby, as you say, mixing a strange pair of sub-genres).

    But if the Hindi remake has got Akshay in it, I’ll run to watch it in a heartbeat! Having had the good fortune to never lay my eyes on his “eminently forgettable B-movies like Hum Hai Bemisaal”, all I have are good memories of his singularly carrying many a weak movie on his muscular shoulders (which, btw, have very little to do with his screen presence and fantastic sense of humor).

  6. Yep, that Mallu assoc screening was when I watched the movie as well. I remember Mallu recommending it to me – he told me that this was a movie I shouldn’t miss. He was right.

    By the way, Priyan didn’t do the Tamil version – his list of sins in the remake category might run long, but Chandramukhi isn’t one of them. That one was helmed by P Vasu (of Chinna Thambi fame).

    True, Akshay’s become a very dependable star. In fact, it is his performance that holds up Bhool Bhulaiya, not Vidya Balan’s. And this is despite his role being roughly the same as Mohanlal’s. Vidya Balan unfortunately doesn’t seem to have the acting chops to steal the limelight

  7. Sagarika says:

    Ah, Mallu. One of those Bitsians whom I really wanted to run into but never did, outside of BITS (on Orkut or elsewhere). He seems to have strangely vanished… Maybe I should enlist the services of the CIA to track him down (or a certain Ramsu of “Freeze Frames” fame?).

    >>”I remember Mallu recommending it to me – he told me that this was a movie I shouldn’t miss. He was right.”

    That guy was right just about everything.

    Now, whenever I hear the word “remake” my brain goes “Priyan”. Can’t help it. 🙂 And P.Vasu should have simply stopped after Chinnathambi, his true masterpiece, IMO.

    About Vidya Balan, I loved her in Parineeta and had perhaps wrongly presumed that her acting would be that top-notch in just about everything else. Maybe she needs a-la-Saif to bring out the best in her.

  8. Ramsu

    Me thinks that Vidya is quite overrated. I mean she is a good actress, but quite a long way to go still. Yaah i mean she keeps doing roles which are not too glam, but i seriously doubt if just that makes her a good actress. Honestly i would say her look alike Divya Dutta, is a much better actress.

  9. You’re right. She gets roles that are somewhat disproportionate to her talent. I think it has to do with her debut role.

    Her performance in this movie isn’t that great either. If you take it on its own terms, and not benchmark it against what Shobana (or even Jyothika) did, it’s not intolerable. Just not the sort of startling performance that can take a good movie and bring it up a couple more notches. In the Mallu version, Shobana’s performance was the best reason to watch the movie. In this, it’s Akshay Kumar’s.

    Divya Dutta did a lot of crappy stuff, but she was also quite good in a couple of movies. Train to Pakistan comes to mind immediately.

  10. BTW i recently watched a Korean movie-My Sassy Girl. It is a typical rom com, but quite well made, i believe it was one of the biggest hits in the Asian region. And currently Hollywood is comming up with a remake. Have been watching some of the Korean movies of late, and they do have a thriving movie industry. And influences range from Hollywood to Hong Kong action movies to European non linear narrative.

  11. Interesting. I should start watching more Korean stuff. I keep hearing about all these great Korean directors but haven’t actually gotten around to watching any of their work. I watched a little Chinese cinema and much of it seemed similar to what we make back here.

  12. Chandramukhi was a terrible remake . The intrinsic problem is that a movie with Rajini cannot have great actors around, its a little difficult. The director is literally forced to introduce Rajini from the get-go (unlike the original where mohanlal comes in much later) simply because the others cannot be banked upon to hold the audience’s attention. I mean, prabhu is WAY past his expiry date , and he honestly looked completely ridiculous in the movie (As he did in vasool raja too).

    Will try to catch BB.

  13. farandfunk>> Yeah, Chandramukhi was basically a Rajni movie that collided with a Malayalam psychological thriller. It’s a little like having a Hummer collide with a Maruti 800.

    Ligin>> Thanks for the link. I’ve seen Manichithirathazhu before. Shobana’s National Award for that performance was quite well-deserved. Can’t say the same for the second time she won, though (for Mitr: My Friend).

  14. You mean the one that plays Nandini? Her name is Tarina Patel, and she’s from Durban, SA. She was also in a movie called Just Married where she played one of the couples at the Honeymoon resort.

  15. blasfemer Ramsu! Take back forthwith your criticism of chandramukhi, or we place order for 100 nos of your effigy to be burnt in teynampet. How come you ignore the highlights – the dynamic between the somber soober* and the eternally buoyant pirabhu- reliving their guru sisyan days (alas, sadly unaided by v.chakaraworthy’s subtly comic cameos), or the deeply meaningful intonation of the ‘laka laka lakas’ ..unfair, i say.

  16. @dingchak

    On a side note, i think Guru Shishyan was pure popcorn fun, there was great chemistry between Rajni and Prabhu, and Rajni’s English was truly hilarious.

    Again Prabhu and Kamal in Vetri Vizha was not too great, the movie itself was a mixture of Bourne Identity, F/X Murder by Illusion.

  17. Ramsu, reminds me of a very early Priyan movie in the 1990’s, in Telugu called Nirnayam, it starrred Nag and Amala.

    In those times whenever we watched a movie, we would more often than not end up playing “Guess the Hollywood inspiration” game, and so it was with Nirnayam.

    The plot was taken from Stakeout, and so were some of the scenes. The final scene was a straight lift from One Minute Warning, and the last scene where Nag and Amla reunite was straight out of Crocodile Dundee.

    Even Kaala Paani had many shades of Papillion, so I guess Priyan’s remake fetish goes quite long back.

  18. True. I remember Nirnayam. Didn’t know about the lift from One Minute Warning, though.

    That Crocodile Dundee scene has been lifted more than once in Indian cinema. I know of at least one more – it’s in a Mahesh Bhatt movie starring Mithun and Pooja Bhatt. Loosely inspired by Roman Holiday, if I remember correctly. Tadipaar or something. Do you remember this?

  19. Ramsu, the scene in the stadium, where the audience runs out in panic, after they hear a bomb is about to go off is taken from One Minute Warning.

    Yeah had seen Tadipaar in bits and pieces. And there was this Rishi Kapoor-Tabu starrer Pehla Pehla Pyaar. But then i guess Roman Holiday is an easy lift, simple story, but i dont think most of our guys would stick to the original climax.

  20. sitaji >> Thanks! Loved the clips as well. Doing a comparative analysis was useful 🙂

    Ratnakar >> One of the things I loved about Roman Holiday was the fact that Gregory Peck kept walking and Audrey Hepburn did not come running after him. Most Hollywood movies don’t have the courage to do that either. I think one reason why movies like The Third Man, Casablanca and this one are so well loved even after so many years is because they had the courage to let the guy and the girl go their own separate ways.

    Of course, with Casablanca there’s also the possibility that Rick preferred Captain Renault over Ilsa Lund…

  21. That is a very objective review. I have seen all three versions and my evaluation of BB matches yours. We all know that Shobhana is a class apart. But did you notice the absence of a haunting background track?.. the original used to give me goosebumps. ( Esp in the scene where she transforms in front of Suresh Gopi) the background music and scene composition just takes you to a different plane all together,,,

  22. Thanks!

    You’re right about the background score. Bhool Bhulaiya pretty much follows thriller/horror movie conventions, both with the background score and composition. There are moments where people get startled by things they should be able to see clearly well in advance – they see it only when the camera does, with the background score going BANG.

    I think one thing that worked for Manichithirathazhu was that it came across as mostly low-key, so spectable didn’t replace substance. Chandramukhi nearly swung to the other extreme, while BB ended up somewhere in the middle.

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