Gang of Ghosts

Gang of Ghosts is the comedy which revolves around ghosts. It has been directed by Satish Kaushik who pulled off an impressive cast that includes Sharman Joshi, Parambrata Chatterjee, Mahie Gill, Anupam Kher, Saurabh Shukla, Rajpal Yadav and Jackie Shroff. It has got a lukewarm response at the box office. The film is about a haunted house, which is being pulled down and will be replaced by a glitzy shopping mall. Ghosts belonging to different eras, social spheres and different parts of India reside in this house. The ghosts decide to fight their own battle against rampant development and win it.

As a storyteller, Satish Kaushik has never stuck to any particular genre. In addition, he has made several remakes over the years, achieving varying degrees of success. His latest outing GANG OF GHOSTS is a remake of a Successful Bengali film BHOOTER BHABISHYAT [2012].

Bhoot Bhobisyat, the original Bengali Satire was funny and rooted in a context all too familiar the crumbling edifices of older times , Physically in the havelis of the Bengal and metaphorically in the cultural value systems that are disappearing faster than you can spell the word disappear. Gang of Ghosts transports this story into Mumbai – a broken haveli to be precise and adds a completely unasked for layer of messy cheap excess typical of bollywood to spoil what was genuinely poignant film

A bunch of ghosts are hauled up in an old haveli in Mumbai since their original homes are not exactly hospitable. From different eras and backgrounds, they form a motley bunch always sparring and longing for material possessions they so craved for when alive. Telling their story to a producer is a script writer, who aims to shoot his very story in the same haveli as them. What happens next is the crux of this farcical mess that shuns nuanced comedy for crass in your face nonsense.
Royal Mansion is one such heritage property, which is rented out for film shoots to facilitate its maintenance. A heroine called Ragini faints during a film shoot, allegedly spreading rumour that she might have seen a ghost in the mirror. A Year later A film-maker [Parambrata], visits the same mansion to shoot for the film again and he bumbs into the struggling writer Raju ( Sharman Joshi) who tells spooky tale revolving around the house. But is it just a tall tale or is there a twist to it?
Picking up the fact that the house his haunted by the spirit of its owner Rai Bahadur Gendamal (Anupam Kher), the film tells the story of how excessive commercialization is creating a crisis for the ghosts in Mumbai who have nowhere to go because all the haunted houses are fast depleting and being converted into high rises and multiplexes. How is the crisis of ghosts a canvas for a Bollywood potboiler, is what Raju’s story is all about.

While films involving ghosts/spirits fall into the horror genre, with spooky and blood-curdling episodes out to scare the living daylights out of you, GANG OF GHOSTS does a somersault. This one’s a comedy with an imaginative premise and wacky characters. While the original [Bengali] film could’ve veered into the outrageous zone, its director [Anik Dutta] made sure the humor was subtle, the ghosts — from diverse strata and era [projected as ‘endangered species’] — were lovable and the film successfully exposed the greedy real-estate sharks who’d raze structures to make way for shopping malls and multiplexes. The onus, therefore, falls upon Satish Kaushik to deliver ample laughs in the Hindi remake, besides punctuating the screenplay with a subtle message for the pan-India audience. Does Satish Kaushik remain faithful to BHOOTER BHABISHYAT, which skillfully passed on a vital message, yet eyed the commercial cinema-loving spectator? Does GANG OF GHOSTS deliver as a stand-alone film?

Comedy is serious business and the storyteller ought to ensure that the audience reacts to the comic lines/punches as they unfurl on screen. Much like the original, GANG OF GHOSTS highlights the gluttony of the land-sharks to multiply their money, but, sadly, much is lost in translation. Reason being, Satish Kaushik is unable to retain the qualities that made the original film work. Sure, the cinematic sensibilities are different, but the film ought to keep you transfixed from commencement to conclusion. GANG OF GHOSTS is funny in parts and the zany moments do make you smile occasionally [except for the jokes on flatulence], but, alas, the genuinely funny sequences are few and far between, while the grip loosens at periodic intervals. The film turns captivating towards the closing stages — the penultimate 15 odd minutes hold your attention — but it’s too late for damage control.

Let’s enlighten you about the premise of GANG OF GHOSTS. The grand old mansions and mills of South Mumbai are being razed to make way for swanky condominiums, malls and multiplexes. Some of these dilapidated buildings were haunted by ghosts. They were evicted and are homeless today. There is no rehabilitation package on offer. Politicians, media, intellectuals, the common man — no one gives a damn to them. After all, ghosts can’t vote.

Anupam Kher dominates the show with a super act, more so towards the finale, when he delivers a poignant speech. Sharman Joshi, synonymous with natural performances, gets his act spot-on. Parambrata, who gets to portray the same part in the Hindi version as well, is in fine form. Saurabh Shukla is great in his role of the deceased Bengali compounder. He woos with flair, fights with gusto and is quite charmining in his little affair. Mahie Gill brings back memories of the bygone era with her accomplished act. She’s simply excellent and manages to hold on to her role. Playing an actress of the 50’s her expressions are rightly etched and she had little space to flaunt her prowess. But she easily is the best thing to look at when on screen! Meera Chopra looks unrehearsed to get her act right. Vijay Verma looks his part, but doesn’t get ample scope. Jackie Shroff is typecast as a ‘Bhai’ for the umpteenth time. In his tiny cameo role woos you away.

Chunkey Pandey, Yashpal Sharma, Asrani, Rajpal Yadav, Rajesh Khattar and J. Brandon Hill are adequate in their respective characters.

Additionally, what weighs down GANG OF GHOSTS is its soundtrack. Actually, there’s an overdose of songs — in the second half specifically — and what adds to the woes is that the tunes are lackluster. Since the Jains, who have produced the film [with Satish], have a music label and a knack for choosing melodies, the tracks should’ve been easy on the ears.

The DoP brings to fore the bygone era effectively, while the dialogue are smart, witty and amusing at most times.

On the whole, GANG OF GHOSTS offers laughs, but only in bits and spurts. It’s disheartening to watch a wonderful concept go awry!. It would be preferable if people do not tarnish the name of Bhooter Bhobishyot by calling this outlandish a remake of it. It is a mere copy, scene-by-scene, dialogue by dialogue but misses the spirit of the film overall.