A kiddie film can go either ways. Entertain and enlighten or fizzle out while trying too hard to entertain the kid in you.
Years ago, music composer Vishal Bharadwaj made a striking directorial debut with MAKDEE, with Shabana Azmi enacting the role of a witch. BHOOT UNKLE has a somewhat similar plot of a haunted lighthouse and a kid exploring the place. The only difference is, Shabana was a crooked witch in MAKDEE, while Jackie is the friendly ghost in BHOOT UNKLE. He's the Indian Casper!
For a film that relies on chills and thrills, besides moments that would appeal to kids, BHOOT UNKLE runs out of gas after a fairly interesting first half. There are two reasons for its downfall: One, the special effects are shoddy and tacky and two, the second half transforms into a masala flick that moviegoers have witnessed a million times before.
If the idea is to woo the kids, sorry, the execution of the subject ruins whatever chances it may have had!
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For 12-year-old orphan Shyam [Dev Kantawala], life had been nothing but a series of tragedies and hardships. He is ill treated by his aunt [Rasika Joshi], while his uncle [Anurag Prapanna] watches helplessly. One night, Shyam unexpectedly stumbles upon an idol of Lord Shiva in a haunted lighthouse.
The mystery of the missing Lord Shiva idol, which Shyam accidentally solves, makes him come face to face with a dead pirate aka Bhoot Unkle [Jackie Shroff], who had robbed the idol a hundred years ago and is now trapped in the lighthouse.
Shyam is now entrusted with the responsibility of saving the idol from the clutches of the corrupt MLA [Akhilendra Mishra] and installing it back in the temple.
For any kiddie film to leave a mark, it ought to be embellished with antics and frolics that would appeal to kids from 6 to 60. In BHOOT UNKLE, a series of watchable events happen in the first half, while the second half is devoid of moments that would make the kids clap with glee. In fact, the writing [screenplay: Rajiv Agrawal and Veeru Shahane] is the culprit here. It's slipshod, to put it bluntly!
The emergence of Jackie in the second half raises the expectations, but the animation that follows [it's a brilliant idea nonetheless] fails to appeal because the animation is poor. Let's face it, the kids today are exposed to highly skilled animation on the small screen and the quality of the 10-minute animation in BHOOT UNKLE is akin to the games kids generally play on their computers.
Besides, the visual effects are low-grade and the cinematography [C. Vignesh Rao] is also substandard. From the writing point of view too, not much happens in the second hour, with the kid forgetting all about the idol. Things fall into place in the climax, but it's too late by then.
Given the poor screenplay in the second hour, there's nothing the director can do to salvage the situation. The film has just one song [Baba Saigal], which is tuneful, but the effects in the song are inferior.
Jackie Shroff, the friendly ghost, doesn't work. Dev Kantawala, the child artist, is a complete natural. He's the scene stealer actually. The remaining kids are tolerable. Akhilendra Mishra, Rasika Joshi, Shehzad Khan and Anurag Prapanna are plain mediocre.
On the whole, BHOOT UNKLE lacks the power to satisfy its target audience -- kids. With not much going in its favor, its chances of survival at the ticket winow are bleak.