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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Oh My Ghost, Review: The suicidal man and the four selfish ghosts who want him to live

Oh My Ghost, Review: The suicidal man and the four selfish ghosts who want him to live

Different in many ways from the usual horror ghost dramas, both international and Indian, and even dissimilar to Casper, the Friendly Ghost, Oh My Ghost is a Marathi language film that is interesting in parts, but does not have enough to leave a lasting impression. It uses not one but four ghosts, two each from either gender and with vast differences in ages. At its heart is the tragi-comedy of a luckless, hopeless young man, so the ghost track only serves as an add-on, but assumes greater importance as the film progresses. Several components of narrative are served in the script in measured doses, not adding up to a wholesome whole. And yet, it appears largely innocuous, and might appeal for its unpretentious packaging to small sections of the Marathi speaking cinema-going viewers.

At his wit’s end, orphan Jaggu, who has no source of income and is about to be evicted from his home by his landlord having not paid rent for the last six months, tries various means of committing suicide, but miraculously survives every time. He has no desire to live, and though an attractive girl named Kajal is attracted to this uncouth simpleton, he distances himself from her. When he is recovering in hospital from his latest attempt at killing himself by swallowing poison, he sees a ghost, in the shape of a young girl, crying near his bed. This is followed by three more apparitions, in almost human form, who appear from nowhere. Scared stiff, he runs away from the hospital to his home, only to be confronted by his Gujarati landlord, who has been demanding payment of his dues, day after day.

As if his all his woes earthly were not enough, he is now confronted with the four ghosts at home: An old man, a man in his late 30s, a woman in her early 30s and a girl in her pre-teens. But the ghosts are not out to terrorise him. Instead, they decorate his decrepit home and his modest dwelling and turn it into a highly liveable flat. They tell him that he was in the ‘beyond’ for a moment after swallowing poison, and that he saw them, as they saw him. But his time had not come, so he was sent back into the material world. By virtue of this encounter, he is the only person who can see him. But what do they want? Why have they come to visit him? They want him to fulfil one each of their unfulfilled desires, desires that were not realised due to untimely deaths. For Jaggu, this is rubbing salt into his wounds, for he is penniless and suicidal. How can such a man help four ghosts obtain anything from their mundane sojourn, through him?

Total suspension of disbelief is the first step one must take to be receptive to the plot of Oh My Ghost, credited to Mohsin Chavada. It is a borderline ghost story, which has been granted an UA certificate mainly because of its theme, not due to any adult-oriented scares and shocks. There are loopholes galore, in the entire ghost track, and logic goes for a toss. Comedy surfaces time and again. There is a certain sincerity of intent in the narrative. The idea of a Gujarati landlord, who speaks mainly Gujarati, but a kitsch of Hindi and Marathi as well, is welcome and well-integrated, not the usual caricature. That description befits the shaman (taantrik) who is brought in to drive away the ghosts. The reasons for the strikingly beautiful Kajal falling for the unkempt loser are not very clear and the liaison seems improbable. Dialogue by Nikhil Lohe is easily comprehensible, even to non-native Marathi speakers, barring a handful of words. The Hindi film hangover surfaces on a few occasions, although the catch phrase, “Kya baat hae!”, coming from Kajal, for Jaggu, is spontaneous.

Director-cinematographer Wasim Khan is in control of the proceedings, but is burdened with a largely incredible scenario. His casting is most apt, what with sharp contrast between the physical and age attributes of the players, central or fringe. The film needed to better establish the basis of the Jaggu-Kajal relationship, the selective appearances of the ghosts and their worldly wants and indulgences. Khan takes the audience too much for granted. One must commend him, though, for sticking to the subject and avoiding any stock, masala ingredients, except for a ghost-driven brawl, where he batters a gang of hoodlums. Cinematography is on par.

Your heart beats for Prathmesh Parab, who acts as Jaggu, in a performance that rises above the script. He looks the part as well, being really short and not possessing a dapper persona. As Kajal, the North Indian looking Kajal Sharma, with a North Indian name to boot, is easy on the eye. Her acting is apparently rehearsed and some gestures, though in context, are forced. She speaks fluent Marathi. If that is a dubbed voice, full marks to the ghost vocals. She needed a better defined role to make a better impression. Of the four ghosts, I could only identify only Kurush Deboo, the grandpa, and his voice is certainly his own. Amazingly, this gifted Parsee actor is apparently at ease in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi. Pankaj Vishnu, Prem Ghadvi (shouldn’t that be Gadhvi?) and Dipali Patil are, probably, the other three ghosts. Of them, the father is a bit stagey, while the mother speaks too fast. The girl ghost is endearing and bubbly, as most actor kids are, a quality for which they are cast, in the first place. Mention must be made of the actor who plays the landlord. Though a bit over the top, as the script demands, he never gets out of character.

Prachi Pathare’s editing has a few jumps. Haneef Sheikh’s limited action scenes are routine. Khushboo Kumari does a decent job of art direction. Rohit Raut’s music and singing is unobtrusive and effective. Length, at just less than two hours, is appropriate, though the English title, a take on the successful Hindi film, Oh My God, could have been avoided, to make it more accessible to rural audiences. Oh My Ghost had only a handful of audience at the Citylight cinema, Mahim, Mumbai, on Sunday evening, which does not augur well. The film, shot in Aurangabad, deserves better. It is not an outstanding film, but not too bad an option to pass time, if you are getting fed-up of too much vulgarity, war, super-heroes, boy-meets-girl and item song laden products.

Rating: **



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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