Official Bhootiyagiri Review: 50 Shades of Sumeet Vyas Bring This Horror Comedy Alive

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Official Bhootiyagiri Review: 50 Shades of Sumeet Vyas Bring This Horror Comedy Alive

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Having just stepped out of jail, Dilawar Rana is having a conversation with his mother. It dawns on him that he is now blacklisted, no bank will lend him money, and everyone thinks he’s a fraud. Forget starting a company, he’d even struggle to open a dukaan now. This is a man hitting rock bottom – but that man is played by Sumeet Vyas, the goodest of all the good men on screen. So you are immediately invested in how he is feeling, and want him to turn it around.

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? 

Set in the world of horror with a dash of comedy, Official Bhootiyagiri is the story of a comeback. This season takes off from where the previous one ended, with Dilawar being holed up in the ultimate lockdown – jail. The resourceful startup CEO makes the Prime Minister proud, being atmanirbhar even inside jail, channeling his skills to build a papad brand.

But it is after he’s released from jail, that the story really kicks off, as he’s emotionally manipulated by his family to revamp and bring back the glory days for the family owned Rana Heritage Hotel. It is at this moment that he confronts the dark pit he finds himself in, knowing he’s blacklisted and no bank will give him a loan. He gathers his OG team consisting of Kash (Pranay Manchanda) and Mallika (Eisha Chopra) as they head for an adventure.

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Set in the world of horror with a dash of comedy, Official Bhootiyagiri is the story of a comeback.

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In an interesting twist, the hotel they arrive at is possibly haunted. Instead of convincing people that there is nothing to be afraid of, Dilawar Rana realises that he can sell fear to those actively looking for it, and so he pitches the hotel as, “The world’s best haunting experience”.

The meat of the show lies in the group’s efforts to bring back the mansion to life, make it profitable, and challenge the only other competitive hotel in the area. The humour in the series is derived largely from the group trying to overcome all kinds of hurdles, like cleaning up the entire place on their own with a resource shortage, finding a quirky receptionist to run a bhootiya place, ensuring that customers have the best haunted experience and also confronting the business tactics of their competitor.

Sumeet Vyas brings the series to life, as we get to see the 50 shades of his character, from the CEO who lost it all and is helpless, to dealing with demons from his childhood, to adapting to the changing dynamics of his personal relationships with Mallika and Kash, to trying to hold the place together while also being lowkey scared that the hotel could be haunted. The series is also lifted by Vyas’ crisp narration, which draws astute insights from the world of startups as well as human insights of a guy with social anxiety disorder.

Pranay Manchanda as Kash is a breath of fresh air with his comic timing and goofy antics. As the character who “thinks out loud” and is never afraid to crack a lame joke, his bromance with Dilawar is adorable and constant arguments with Mallika, entertaining. Mallika plays the role of a companion who has been by Dilawar’s side through thick and thin, and their relationship progresses through the course of the season, as she gives him poignant advice through challenging moments. As the caretaker of the hotel, Prem Singh, played by Naveen Prabhakar of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge fame has a subtle mystery about him and does a brilliant job of scaring the daylights out of everyone with haunted stories and rumours about the place. But it is Naina (Udita Bhalla), a goth receptionist with savage straight-faced one-liners, who adds the unforeseen twist. She’s the only one excited about the haunting when everyone else just wants to run away from it.

While the comedy and absurdities shine through the script, it is the horror scenes that are funnier. The horror largely plays around with classic Bollywood tropes like moving paintings, bathtubs full of blood, and aatmas moving around in the haveli, thereby subverting them.

The horror-comedy series is worth a binge-watch in these times of a lockdown, for it is the story of a man down in the dumps, who makes a comeback. It is a relatable situation for all of us, as the coronavirus pandemic leaves us anxious and worried. Will we make it to the other side? The horror in our lives is already present – it is the comedy from the show will leave you with a smile, as you secretly root for Dilawar to succeed.

As the famous meme template goes, “Aao kabhi haveli pe.”

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