It's quite difficult to watch a sequel in isolation and not draw comparisons with the original. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 definitely falls into this category as the first one--starring Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan--became a stupendous hit at the box office and has attained somewhat of a cult status over the years. Cut to 2022, with Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani trying to recreate the same magic and Tabu lending an able support. There are, of course, newer elements of thrill that director Anees Bazmee has instilled and introduced. It's Aakash Kaushik's story (he has also written the dialogues) that allows the actors a huge canvas to show different shades and perform.
Strangers At a hill station, Ruhan Randhawa (Kartik Aaryan) and Reet Thakur (Kiara Advani) meet, and there's an instant click followed by a song-and-dance sequence. Well, this is how most Bollywood love stories start. Things unfold in such a manner that Ruhan and Reet end up at the abandoned haveli where Manjulika's spirit is believed to be held captive for 18 years. And in no time, Ruhan turns into Rooh Baba and convinces people that he can talk to ghosts and dead people's spirits. What happens when he accidentally unleashes the spirit that's been locked there for years? Will Manjulika take her revenge? Will Rooh Baba handle the situation with his heroic acts?
While there's nothing common between this sequel and the first part--except Manjulika--the background score and the song Ami Je Tomar constantly take you back to the 2009 film and you again end up comparing. Nevertheless, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is a new story and it holds its ground. I'm glad that Anees Bazmee has not just resorted to jump scares to make it fit the horror genre, but there are actually moments of 'ghostly encounters' that take you by surprise. Given that the director has a strong hold on the comedy genre too, having helmed films such as No Entry, Welcome, Singh is King, there's no dearth of comedy in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. The best part here was that, for the first time in a long time, I got to see audiences laugh out loud at clean jokes that mostly enjoyed smooth landings. People were clapping, hooting, and screaming their hearts out during most parts of the film. Here, I must mention the unmatched craze and cheering at the entry of Chota Pandit (Rajpal Yadav), who is perhaps the only (living) character that the makers have carried forward from the original. Rajpal brings a different level of comedy with his dialogues and expressions.
Kartik, in this funny and uncanny role, delivers a performance that doesn't disappoint. He gets ample scope to show his acting chops, dancing skills, and comic timing and does trigger some genuine laughter. Kiara is as sweet and simple as Reet and looks gorgeous in each frame. Not that it's some drastically different role that she hasn't done in the past, yet Kiara doesn't look stuck anywhere and keeps up her charm. Sadly, her chemistry with Kartik doesn't do any magic. Despite a lot of flirting and one kiss, too, you never sense any sparks onscreen. Then there's Tabu, who stands tall from the word go. She is the restrained, well-behaved, and loving bahu of the Thakur family, and it's the experience that shows in every scene she appears in.
While we see very little of her in the first half, Tabu takes over the majority of the post-interval scenes, and she's terrific with those curls, those kohl eyes, and her screen presence. Is she as good as Vidya Balan? I'd leave that up to you. However, one thing I just can't wrap my head around is the make-up our ghosts and spirits get in Bollywood. What's with this cakey white face with cracks? I noticed that in Stree, then Roohi, and now ditto in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. Come on, ghosts looked way better in the 80s and 90s and were actually scary without the zombie-like makeover. I wish Bazmee had paid a little more attention to that department and brought some novelty.
Among the other supporting cast, Sanjay Mishra, Ashwini Kalsekar, and Rajesh Sharma bring some hilarious moments. Milind Gunanji and Amar Upadhyay too have essential parts, but in a very limited screen time, we don't see them bring much to the table. Chola actor Siddhant Ghegadmal as Potlu is quite a refreshing addition and lifts up a few dull scenes.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 doesn't bore you. It doesn't leave you in absolute awe of it either. It cracks you up quite often. Sometimes it makes you question the logic of it all. But in the end, it's a family entertainer that doesn't walk on the crutches of slapstick comedy to make you laugh.