Bhool Bhulaiyaa – The Death of Murder Mysteries

– spoilers ahead –

Some Philosophy
Bhoolbhulaiyaa.jpgMurder, in all its glorious mystery, can not be the story (mark the word – story, not subject) of a movie any more. The focus must lie elsewhere, in the lives of the characters, their interactions, their crisis, their interpretation of the world around them, so that when a clue is quietly slipped into a scene, the viewers’ll either miss it, or interpret it differently (reminds me of Ram Gopal Verma’s Kaun), like we all have done in the best of Agatha Christie novels. This is how Bhool Bhulaiyaa fails. It has no story. Its characters have no life (except Akshay Kumar, may be). That is also why in the end, when the mystery is over, one fails to sympathise with the emotional difficulties of the characters.

I think the time for such movies is over. You can’t just make a “straight whodunit movie” any more. The cinematic language is dead, stale, and little innovation has been seen over the years. One could experiment with the narration, the pace, the atmosphere, but little is going to get any better. No matter how subtle your composition of a shot is, the average audience will know what it means, and they will know how to interpret it. Because, frankly, it is all there, everything that could have been done has been done. The end has come for closed room mysteries.

The Movie
The principal reason why Bhool Bhulaiyaa doesn’t work, after one succeeds in ignoring the production glitches, the emotive incoherency and the many cinematic liberties taken by the Director, is that the cinematic language all cliche, and the story too thin.

I dismissed the movie as soon as all the mysteries of the movie were formally introduced, because by then I had everything figured out. Amisha Patel couldn’t be the culprit, because she was being victimised. The meek brother and the mute sister were obviously dummies, because the director invested no amount of screen time or focus on them.

Now that Amisha is out of the equation, you suddenly remember that terrible Agatha Christie novel you read years back, and something similar comes back. Now why was Amisha under suspicion? Because she pushed the clock on Vidya Balan, right? Because she set Vidya’s saree to fire? But, if she didn’t do them, who did? Who could?

Exactly. The answer is Vidya Balan! And I start to get depressed about the coming two hours of the movie.

Bhool_Bhulaiyaa.jpgAnd then, presto! Akshay Kumar enters the screen. His character, while it is caught in the story of the movie, isn’t really a part of it, and therein lies its appeal. His histrionics kept the comic refuges coming, and I didn’t want to miss any of his scenes (except for the ones towards the end). I came out with a favourable impression, because the movie was not a tedious self-indulgent exercise of a director wanting to make his mark, it was a commercialised piece of junk without any pretence at integrity, and it doesn’t fail to entertain.

Music and Background Score
There are very few songs, and they are catchy, short, and mostly take the story forward, contributing towards the pace of the movie. Akshay looks cool in the title track.

The background score is also competent, but sadly misused, to the point of ruining the thrill of the movie.

Consider the scene where Vidya enters the much advertised mysterious locked chamber for the first time with a stolen duplicate. The sequences are good enough, and tension builds up as we start to fear for her physical safety, wondering what is going to happen next. But just before the tension could reach its peak, the ill timed exuberant background score pops up and we instinctively know that nothing is going to happen to Vidya, and all the laboriously built up panic dissolves away. We let the long held breaths out, ease ourselves into our seats, and go back to snoring.

Aesthetics
The most interesting sequence of the movie is towards the end, where Vidya Balan, finally having surrendered to the ghost (of her mind), produces a captivating dance, which was almost the best thing about the movie, along with Akshay Kumar. I wish I could see more of that haunting look, I wouldn’t mind going to the theatre just for that performance.

Apart from that, the movie seems to have a poor sense of Aesthetics. The atmosphere, which is supposed to be spooky, if not scary, is badly constructed. The attempts at interspersing shadows with light doesn’t quite work, and sometimes it sends wrong signals.

Actors
Akshay Kumar, as usual, has an energetic and entertaining appearance/mannerisms, and his performance is competent throughout. Paresh Rawal does deliver his lines, but he is underused. Amisha Patel is okay, and Vidya’s performance is raised from okay to good through some key scenes, some of which have more to do with her appearance rather than her acting. All the veterans (whose names I can’t remember) have turned in competent performances.

The odd one out is Shiney Ahuja, who disappoints. He alternates between wooden stereotypes and screaming fits, and expects us to take him seriously. I would blame the director though, how could he let him get away with those terrible performances? His character could easily have been emotionally consistent and normal if he had only stood there and let the scenes take their course. Instead, he tries to act and we have this high-strung guy who frequently overreacts (by screaming) and whose sense of loyalty towards his father-figure is simply incomprehensible. I like this guy. It’s sad to see him grow complacent like this. He has some serious self-contemplation to do.

Final Verdict
Given the standard of Bollywood movies, I would rate this movie 3 stars out of 5. One for the pace (the movie is not self indulgent, and keeps you mildly preoccupied from boredom), one for not digressing from the theme meaninglessly (like most of the other movies do, no item numbers), and one for Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan.

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Incorrigible Introvert

I wouldn't pretend I have a worthy tale to tell, I have only the ramifications of a twisted mind to sell.
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12 Responses to Bhool Bhulaiyaa – The Death of Murder Mysteries

  1. mememe says:

    Don’t insult Agatha Christie :P
    There’s a scene with two people in it, and it has to be one of them. It’s not the first one, because she’s the love interest of the “hero”, and this is an Indian film. (and everyone suspects her anyway — in the film I mean, not in the audience.) So it’s the other one. And they plod on for hours after that, dropping over-the-top “clues”. That too would be have been tolerable too if the grand “revelation” later was a bit less… grand.
    (I haven’t actually seen the Hindi version BTW.)

    And this stupid movie with a transparent plot made lots of money, first in Malayalam (or so I’ve heard), then both in Kannada (Apthamitra) and Tamil (Chandramukhi), and probably will in Hindi too. Sigh…
    I must admit Soundarya’s exaggerated acting was perfect and beautiful. And Vidya Balan’s probably is too :)

  2. Agatha Christie wrote some of the best and some of the worst books I have ever read :D

    And yes, it would have been more tolerable if the grand “revealation” was a bit less grand.

    Anyway, people in south have a better sense of Aesthetics (at least as reflected in their movies), so I don’t wonder about the original movie being a hit.

  3. Fighter Jet says:

    A very keen and pert postmortem of the movie….thank God you havent disclosed the whole story!was just planning to go to theater,but after reading your ‘rave review’..umm..little contemplative :(

  4. Anshul says:

    This has got to be the most scathing review of a movie I have seen you give 3 stars on 5!

    So, I finally saw this movie and then read your post. Hadn’t read it earlier for the spoiler warning but I as well might have ignored the warning. The plot was, as mememe said, transparent. Though, there indeed are people who seem to disagree. As far as mainstream is concerned, this might not hail the death of murder mysteries as much as we all might wish it.

    As usual, your critique of the movie is quite accurate.

    The movie is ok – a see it once thing.

  5. Anshul says:

    Oh and I totally dig the fact that this is perhaps the first Bollywood movie to show wikipedia on screen. Could do with a lot more of that. ;)

  6. Neeraja says:

    3 out of 5!
    In my opinion, doesn’t deserve more that 1.5.
    Priyadarshan and Ramgopal Varma should seriously consider retirement.

  7. @Anshul
    Yeah, the wikipedia bit was cool.

    You see, when I write about a movie, I write about just that movie. But when I finally rate it, I rate it in comparison to all other Bollywood movies, and hence the leniency. :D

    @Neeraja
    I don’t know about Priyadarshan, but RGV hasn’t lost his creativity (as a director, that is).

    A lot can be criticised about Ramu’s AAG, but it was technically brilliant. If I were planning to be a movie-maker, I would certainly sit down and watch that movie to take notes (though I’ll probably be brain-dead by the end of it).

    I did walk out of the theatre shortly after the interval, though (you see, his placement and movement of cameras, though interesting, are too exotic for me to try out in my amateur experiments in movie-making).

  8. mememe says:

    I had another post here (about the Malayalam version, this blog’s look, live preview placement, and OpenID, IIRC); did it go into spam? Test

  9. Anshul says:

    Nopes. There is nothing of that sort in either my moderation queue or the spam queue. I have no idea what could have happened to it. I would very much like to hear what you had said. Can you please post it again?

    If this happens again or you have any ideas why it might have happened, do let me know.

  10. mememe says:

    It had a link to a Wikipedia page, so I thought maybe it went into spam/moderation because of external links.

    The post, IIRC, only said:
    * Site and design look good :-)
    * The Malayalam version was first, but much older than I thought. (Almost 15 years old.)
    * Comment live preview would be more useful (more noticeable, more usable) if it were *above* the comment textarea.
    * OpenID would be cool :)
    That’s it, I think.

  11. preksha says:

    Superb movie. Akshay Kumar is to good. I have watch this movie 3 times.

  12. deepak bista says:

    I love U akshay i have seen your 106 films till now and all the films about 3 times each.
    You are a real hero in hindi cinema.

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