Atithi Bhooto Bhava Is A Multiverse Of Mediocrity, With Nothing New To Offer – NewzBeta

Director: Hardik Gajjar
Writers: Shreyes Anil Lowlekar, Pradeep Srivastava, Aniket Wakchaure
Cast: Pratik Gandhi, Jackie Shroff, Sharmin Segal, and Divinaa Thackur
Rating: 2.5/5

Srikant Shirodkar (Pratik Gandhi) is in a live-in relationship for four years with Netra (Sharmin Segal).
They love each other, IF they are not fighting. One night, an inebriated Srikant gets an old man (Jackie
Shroff), a stranger from the streets, home. And his life and the movie take a bizarre turn. The man,
Makhan Singh, turns out to be the ghost of his grandson. Yes, Srikant is the reincarnation of
Makhan’s grandfather (hence Makhan calls Srikant Daarji), who had promised young (and alive)
Makhan to help him get his girlfriend. So, after death, Makhan was waiting all this while for his
grandfather’s next stint as a human on this planet.

Having finally found him, he now wants his daarji to fulfill his promise and find his long-lost girlfriend.
However, he is not even sure if she is alive (Bro, how about checking your side of the world and
asking your ghost friends and family first before bugging your stand-up comedian grandfather who is
already struggling with his own love life?). Anyway, the trio plan a road trip to Mathura (because of
course if you can’t take your story to the Hindi heartland, you are not doing ‘content-driven cinema’
right) and Srikant convinces his friend to not only lend them her car but also be the driver.

Rest is an uneventful journey punctuated with Makhan giving gyan on the power of love (while
reminiscing about his own love story…yes, two love stories unfold in two timelines giving major Love
Aaj Kal
vibes) and loo breaks (maybe it is a homage to Piku or maybe it is a simple case of all the
characters having diabetes). Once they reach Mathura, Srikant suddenly remembers his past life and
the route to his old house in a classic Sonar Kella way. Now, young Srikant is the old granddad, and
old and dead Makhan is the teenage grandson. Together they find the woman to complete Makhan’s
love story. Srikant in turn finds himself and completes his own.

The Movie

This is a quirky movie where Bheja Fry meets Love Aaj Kal meets Piku meets Bhootnath. It is a movie
that might have looked good as an idea, but it needed much more experienced and nuanced
handling. There are some great ingredients but with the lack of a good cook, what we are served
reminds us of Rachel Greens’ infamous meat trifle.

It tries to be many things all at once—a tale of a live-in relationship drama, a road-trip movie, a
supernatural comedy, a ‘friendly ghost’ story, a reincarnation drama —and fails at all remarkably.
The movie has the same vibe of an impatient kid running amok and ransacking a candy shop. It just keeps jumping from one mood/scene to the other. Yes, there are some funny scenes that seem too
desperate to justify the ‘comedy’ genre that the movie is bracketed as. But mostly, the film leaves the
audience flabbergasted at the goings on.

The movie has Pratik Gandhi and Jackie Shroff in almost every frame, but comedy is not their forte.
Also, they lack the chemistry that was required to get the audience invested in their beyond-death
bond. Also, ‘…how old is Makhan’s girlfriend now’ should be a math question.

The Cast

This is Pratik Gandhi’s second outing as a Bollywood leading man and second collaboration with the
director– his first, Bhavai, was also helmed by Gajjar. But unlike his two collaborations with Hansal
Mehta, Scam 1992 (the series that made him an OTT star overnight), and Baai (one of the segments
in Amazon Prime anthology, Modern Love Mumbai where Gandhi stuns with his nuanced
performance as a gay man), neither of his big-screen outings with Gajjar are that impressive. But
then, he has set the standards too high for himself.

His role as Srikant Shirodkar is relatable but toxic. He is anti-anything that is considered remotely
romantic. As a standup comic, his staple content is bashing and making fun of his girlfriend and their
relationship. He (and the people who wrote him) lacks empathy but since it is a man’s world–told by
a man, of a man, and from a man’s perspective—we get to laugh at the woman and Srikant casually
gets off the hook for being toxic. Sample this, she points out that she is allergic to green chilies but
Srikant finds it funny and projects her as an annoying girlfriend. He even plays out the incident at his
show for gags. Toxic men need not be macho, toxic men can also be your cute, lanky, next-door
neighbor as well.

But Gandhi imbues the Srikant with genial humor, honesty, and a dash of innocence, and tries to
make this rather problematic character likable. He is sincere but falls short. Comedy might not be
one of his strengths. Also, he fails to imbibe the Marathi accent and mannerisms; instead, he sounds
Gujarati even while mouthing Marathi dialogues. It reminds one of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Dibakar
Banerjee’s stunning short film, Star, in the 2013 anthology Bombay Talkies, where even though the
actor had given a powerhouse performance (especially in that poignant last scene) he had completely
failed to make the character Marathi. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see such brilliant actors
taking the ethnicity of the characters casually.

Jackie Shroff, as Makhan Singh, hardly comes across as a smooth operator in the movie. It doesn’t
help that he doesn’t have the impeccable comic timing of Vinay Pathak, the genial charm of Rishi
Kapoor, or the acting chops of Amitabh Bachchan but is made to play a character that demands him
to be all of them together and more. Also, it is nothing short of blasphemy to turn the sexy, suave,
and stylish sunglassed Shroff into an old haggard ghost. Some people are born to be the Bollywood
‘Hero’, let’s spare them the ‘realism’ (and shabby wardrobes) of ‘content-driven’ cinema. Let apna
remain Apna Bhidu.

Sharmin Segal as Netra is wasted. The Malaal actor tries to bring in a balance and put into
perspective Srikant’s character flaws, but the material she is given to work with is too flimsy and
hardly helps the cause.

In a movie about a ghost trying to find his long-lost girlfriend with the help of his reincarnated
grandfather, it is foolish to look for logic. But the director keeps testing the willing suspension of
disbelief of the audience. The ghost needs a vehicle to travel and is not up for a train ride or a flight.
He wants a road trip because he used to be a truck driver and misses the roads. Fair enough. But
during the trip, he just sits smugly never even once offering to drive. Srikant makes his friend
(Divinaa Thackur) drive the entire 140O km stretch from Mumbai to Mathura, and they have the
audacity to instruct her to speed up every once in a while. Talk about taking your friend for a ride
and making her drive as well. Srikant is toxic and manipulative. But then, Makhan, who comes back
as a dead person and convinces his reincarnated grandfather to find his girlfriend, takes the cake
when it comes to being manipulative. Maybe it’s in the genes.

Divinaa’s character doesn’t have much but to be the driver. The other characters hardly even talk to
her. When they do, she suddenly and randomly opens up about her own love story—a story that
appears from nowhere and goes nowhere. Her track seems to have been incorporated as an
afterthought. However, nothing beats the randomness of the absolutely unnecessary racist and
cringe dialogue: “Galiyaan bhi Chinese ho gai hai, sab ek si dikhti hai”.

And The Multiverse Of Mediocrity

The songs (and there are too many of them) are soothing to the ears. But somehow they don’t stay
with you. It seems like you have heard melodies similar to these too many times. Madhu Vannier’s
cinematography has very brief sparks of cool. Aniket Wakchaure’s writing is mediocre at best and
fails to add any spunk to the story.

A quirky attempt like this needs charm and wit and of course, breezy dialogues to successfully take
off. And without these, it just drags itself on making it a tedious watch. Like the ghost, the movie also
overstays its welcome. Sharper editing by Kanu Prajapati and Satya Sharma might have helped.

It is a movie that is consistent in its mediocrity. Nothing really shines. But it is not a cringefest either.
You can watch the film on Zee5.

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