November 20, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Gurmmeet Singh
Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in India and Pakistan, the comedy film “Phone Bhoot” features an all-Indian cast representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: Two housemates/best friends start a paranormal investigation business, they meet a seductive ghost who offers to help them if they help her, and a series of ghostly misadventures ensue.
Culture Audience: “Phone Bhoot” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s stars and don’t mind watching mindless horror comedies that are not scary at not very amusing.
“Phone Bhoot” is an intentionally silly “Ghostbusters” ripoff that isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. This mindless movie needlessly drags out to 130 minutes, which is excruciatingly too long for its flimsy plot. “Phone Bhoot” is nothing but a bunch of scenes where two bungling paranormal investigators find themselves in dumb predicaments (usually of their own making) while they are at the beck and call of a very seductive female ghost.
Directed by Gurmmeet Singh and written by Ravi Shankaran and Jasvinder Singh Bath, “Phone Bhoot” (which takes place mostly in India and partially in Lahore, Pakitsan) begins by introducing the two dimwitted clowns who decide to launch a paranormal investigation business. Galileo “Gullu” Parthasarthy (played by Ishaan Khatter) and Sherdil “Major” Shergill (played by Siddhant Chaturvedi) are unemployed best friends in their late 20s who share a one-bedroom rental house in an unnamed city in India. Gullu and Major are big fans of horror entertainment. They also pray to a fictional god named Raka and have a life-sized statue of Raka in their home.
One night, Gullu has a nightmare that Major is taking a shower in blood. It’s an example of one of many scenes in “Phone Bhoot” that have no real purpose and are just there to fill up time. Gullu has started a paranormal channel on YouTube called BhootTube (“bhoot” means “ghost” in Hindi), but the channel is not a success because of its low number of subscribers and viewership. Most of BhootTube’s subscribers are fake accounts created by Major. Gullu and Major pray to Raka to help them out of their bleak financial situation.
One night, Gullu and Major get electrocuted when they try to reignite the statue of Raka. The two pals fall into state of unconsciousness. When they appear to wake up, they go to a Fright Night party at an abandoned warehouse. It’s an event similar to a Halloween party, where people dress up in costumes.
At this party, Gullu and Major meet a mysterious woman who’s about 10 years older than they are. They are immediately attracted to her beauty. Gullu and Major both have instant crushes on her, but Gullu eventually becomes much more infatuated. Before the two pals even find out this woman’s name, all of the people at the party suddenly disappear, except for Gullu and Major.
And it happens right at the same time that police officers show up to tell Gullu and Major that this party was illegally held on public property, so Gullu and Major are arrested. This arrest is an unnecessary plot development because the consequences of this arrest are never mentioned for the rest of the movie. Gullu and Major try to explain to the arresting officers that they weren’t responsible for the party and that there were a lot of other people there, but the cops don’t believe them.
The sudden disappearance of all the othe party attendees except for Gullu and Major should be a big-enough clue to Gullu and Major that something ghostly or supernatural happened. Long after viewers of “Phone Bhoot” will have it figured out, Gullu and Major will have no idea that they can see ghosts, until these two buffoons literally have to be told this information by a ghost. Until then, “Phone Bhoot” wastes some time showing Gullu and Major involved in more stupid shenanigans.
The movie then abruptly shifts to a scene of Major driving himself and Gullu in a car on a fairly deserted road, when Gullu irresponsibly decides to give Major a pill of an unnamed psychedelic drug. Gullu takes the same drug at the same time. They both hallucinate that the car has turned into an airborne plane.
Their minds quickly leave the hallucination when the car accidentally hits a middle-aged woman on the road. Viewers later find out that her name is Lady Diana (played by Nidhi Bisht, wearing ghoulish makeup) and should not be surprised that she is a ghost who can manifest herself in a physical human body. The woman flies off into the air and into a nearby tunnel. (The visual effects in “Phone Bhoot” are very tacky and unrealistic.)
And then, the movie wastes time with a not-very-funny sequence of Gullu and Major thinking that the woman is dead and planning to bury her body. Major and Gullu begin twisting the feet of the woman to make her body easier to bury, but she’s screams out in pain. This slapstick scene has low-quality sound effects.
Major says as a joke when he hears the woman screaming in pain: “She must have polio.” This is the type of garbage comedy that “Phone Bhoot” wants viewers to think is hilarious. Lady Diana then crawls away and hides. She shows up again later in the film to get revenge.
The mystery woman from the Fright Night party then shows up at the house where Gullu and Major live. Her name is Ragini (played by Katrina Kaif), and she tells Gullu and Major that she’s a ghost. Major says, “Ghosts aren’t sexy.” To get back at Major for this insult, Ragini temporarily invades his body and makes himself hit his groin repeatedly with a paddle. He’s suitably humbled.
Ragini explains that she’s a “wandering spirit” who doesn’t have full control over all of her movements. She wants Gullu and Major to help her with something that only living humans can do. Ragini says she will tell them all the details later, but they have to promise to help her, no matter what she asks of them.
In exchange, Ragini says that if Gullu and Major start a paranormal business where the two pals charge money to do exorcisms of people and haunted places, she will help make the business a success. The business will also include Gullu and Major claiming that they can contact people from the dead and can pass on messages to the dead people’s loved ones. To make up for the business being a money scam, Ragini makes Gullu and Major promise to donate any proceeds they earn from the business to charity.
Gullu and Major name their business Phone Bhoot. They set up a phone hotline and launch an app, so potential customers can contact them. With Ragini’s help, Gullu and Major are able to convince people that they have special powers to control demons and contact ghosts. The business becomes a success, but the scenarios presented in the movie are mostly dull and unimaginative.
A scene were Gullu and Major are called to perform an exorcism on a girl named Dolly (played by Shreya Lodhia), who’s about 7 or 8 years old, relies heavily on showing Dolly levitating and hitting Gullu and Major with a stick. It’s not nearly as comedic as it could have been, mainly because this move is polluted with bad acting and terrible dialogue.
The last half of this long-winded dud of a movie involves Gullu and Major having to keep their end of the bargain to Ragini. It has to do with Ragini wanting to reunite with her boyfriend, a prince named Dushyant Singh (played by Armaan Ralhan), who became suicidal after Ragini died in a car accident caused by Dushyant. Ragini was the passenger in a car that Dushyant was driving, when he momentarily took his eyes off of the road to propose marriage to her. Dushyant feels responsible for her death. He plans to kill himself at the site of the accident on the two-year anniversary of Ragini’s death.
This subplot becomes jumbled up in another subplot where a demonic underworld lord named Atmaram (played by Jackie Shroff), who rules over other evil ghosts, becomes jealous of Gullu and Major because the Phone Bhoot business is ruining Atmaram’s business. Lady Diana is one of Atmaram’s minions. And what a coincidence: Atmaram also has a grudge against Dushyant and wants Dushyant to die. It all just leads to the inevitable showdown of good versus evil, with a lot of badly staged fights and even more stupidity.
The movie wastes considerable time in yet another subplot of Gullu and Major feuding over Ragini’s affections. “Phone Bhoot” has some joke gags that might bring a few chuckles, in the way that people laugh at small-minded and cheesy jokes. But “Phone Bhoot” overloads on this moronic comedy without the foundation of an interesting story. The end result is a completely obnoxious and boring movie.
Viacom18 Studios released “Phone Bhoot” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on November 4, 2022.