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Bhoothnath Reviews

Writer-director Vivek Sharma's variation on Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost is a kid-friendly supernatural tale in which a family unwittingly moves into a haunted house. The Sharma family is often separated: Cruise ship engineer Aditya (Shahrukh Khan) spends months on end at sea, leaving his wife, Adjani (Juhi Chawla), to cope with their mischievous seven year old, Aman (Aman Siddiqui), known to friends and family as "Banku." Aditya's employer rents them a spacious home in Goa, the Villa Nath, a handsome but neglected place locals believe is haunted. Adjani scoffs – she's sure the various odd sounds and goings-on can be laid at the feet of comic drunk Anthony (Rajpal Yadav), who used to camp out in the empty house -- and assures Banku there are no ghosts, just angels like his late grandpa. As it happens, she's dead wrong: Villa Nath is haunted, by the restless spirit of Kailash Nath (Amitabh Bachchan), whose US-based son, Vijay (Priyanshu Chatterjee), now owns the house. Only Banku can see Nath, and Nath's efforts to frighten him fail dismally: Emboldened by his mother's reassuring words, Banku treats Nath like a naughty puppy. Banku's relentlessly bossy high spirits eventually wear Nath down, and he begins to find the child's antics charming. As Nath gradually assumes the role of Banku's guardian angel, his appearance and demeanor become less frightening than reassuringly patrician. The film takes an abrupt turn for the melodramatic when Adjani finally realizes her son's chatter about the angel in the house is more than just childish make-believe. Once she learns why Nash is haunting his home, the stage is set for tragic revelations and tearful lessons about the importance of family. BHOOTHNATH never finds a comfortable balance between broad comedy – most of which revolves around Adjani's lackadaisical housekeeping, Anthony's drunken antics and the buffoonish principal (Satish Shah) of Banku's new school, who steals his students' lunches (Banku's are, of course, substandard) – and the bittersweet relationship between Nath and Banku, each of whom fills a void in the other's existence. The musical sequences are largely forgettable, with the exception of a schoolyard-standoff number in which Banku and his classmates imagine themselves as ghetto gangstas: The sign of little Indian girls dressed as ghetto hootchie mamas is nothing short of bizarre. (In subtitled Hindi)