Like the supernatural, Bollywood has rarely explored the subject of mental illness with sincerity. Usually part of a subplot or an interlude of light relief, mischievous ghosts and village idiots have been the common way of portraying such on screen. However, Priyadarshan tackles both topics head on in his latest offering, Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Pitting superstition against psychology, Akshay Kumar plays a psychiatrist who is called to an ancient Indian palace to help a family being troubled by an evil spirit. A strange mix of comedy and ghost story, this is more politically incorrect entertainment than serious introspection.
Despite stories of his royal ancestral mansion being haunted, US-based Siddharth (Shiney Ahuja) brings his new bride Avni (Vidya Balan) to stay there on honeymoon, much to his family's disgust. Ignoring the warning of his uncle (Manoj Joshi) and caretaker (Paresh Rawal), things begin to go bump in the night when Avni unlocks a bedroom that is thought to barricade a centuries old spirit. Not one to believe in the paranormal, Siddharth calls in ghost-busting pal and psychiatrist Aditya (Kuman) who begins to sort fact from fiction. But will he be able to diagnose the real cause of horror before tragedy strikes?
While an interesting premise for a story, Priyadarshan's trademark comic touch ensures Bhool Bhulaiyaa is little more than a superficial look at how deep rooted Indian superstitions can be explained away by science and logic. But the comically gifted Kumar is far from the right choice to play the wise doctor. His form of psychiatry is more foolish than Freudian and only serves to charm the audience away from serious examination towards laughter. While visually stunning, and with the right amount of eerie suspense, this spooky comedy should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa is out in the UK on 12th October 2007.