Horror films in Hindi cinema have been presented in a routine fashion over the years. The sound of the door, the owl on a tree, the pitch-dark night, the blowing of the wind, the soft movement of curtains, the lights going off Flashback 1970s The Ramsays redefine the genre. The skull in the verandah, the dead body being buried in the backyard, the aatma resurfacing to avenge the murder, the scar-faced ghost Nothing of the sort happens in BHOOT, directed by Ram Gopal Varma. BHOOT is atmospheric, spooky, bloodless and carried by strong acting and fleshed out characters. The USP of this 1 hour, 59 minutes' film is that the story is set in the middle of the city. There's tremendous identification with the goings-on, with every character looking believable. Thakfully, there are no gore effects or rupturing organs or diseased vomiting. If you expect the 'action' to begin after the customary song and dance between the hero and heroine marooned on a forsaken island, you're terribly mistaken. There are no songs in BHOOT [you don't miss them either!] and the spirit the bhoot makes an appearance in the first ten minutes of the film itself. RGV breaks several tried-and-tested 'rules' this time around, yet the outcome is brilliant. The first time the ghost appears, you get a shock of your life. You most likely will find yourself on the edge of your seat or huddled in a ball, anxiously awaiting the next scene. And then the ghost comes face to face with Urmila Matondkar. The impact is eerie. So strong is the impact that the sequence stays with you even after the show has ended and you've retired to bed. The murder at the interval point raises the expectations from the second half. Post-interval, more characters are introduced Nana Patekar [who comes a scene before the intermission!], Rekha, Tanuja, Fardeen Khan, Victor Banerjee and the reasons that prompted the ghost to haunt the house are unveiled. The sequences thereafter, right till the climax, have a nail-biting effect. It keeps you on the edge all the while. RGV is in complete form this time around. Undoubtedly one of the best makers in India today, RGV proves yet again that he has the guts to take the untrodden path and come up with awe-inspiringly different stuff. The director's contribution looms large in every frame. The performances are of a high order. Ajay Devgan enacts a role that is in sharp contrast to his action image he plays a helpless husband remarkably. Nana Patekar is extremely competent as the tough-talking cop. Rekha is superb in her role [it would be unfair to reveal her role at this stage!], while Fardeen Khan [neighbour] registers an impact in a small but significant role. Tanuja [mother] proves yet again that she's a dependable performer. Victor Banerjee [psychiatrist] is first-rate. Ditto for Seema Biswas [house maid], whose performance adds to the mystery. But the film clearly belongs to Urmila Matondkar all the way. To state that she is excellent would be doing gross injustice to her work. Sequences when she is possessed are simply astounding. If this performance doesn't deserve an award, no other performance should. It beats all competition hollow. Two more aces of the film are Dwarak Warrier's sound effects and Salim-Sulaiman's background score. Both are of international quality. Overall, BHOOT is a richly rewarding experience for the discerning horror fan. A must-see! The writer witnessed a special screening of BHOOT last week. A detailed review of the film will appear when the film releases worldwide in June 2003.
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