Legacy makes the back stoop and the shoulders ache. Nobody knows this better than the heroes of Pavan Kirpalani’s Bhoot Police. Vibhooti (Saif Ali Khan) and Chiraunji (Arjun Kapoor) are ghostbusting brothers whose father was celebrated for smoking out spirits and banishing them to the afterworld where they belonged.

Vibhooti has decided that dad was a conman, while Chiraunji is a firm believer in the occult. They have managed to earn a living by playing on superstition, gullibility and their father’s reputation, but meet their match with their latest case.

The new employers complement this at-odds pair. Like Vibhooti, Kanika (Jacqueline Fernandez) believes that all talk of a malevolent creature lurking on the family-owned tea estate is hocus-pocus. Like Chiraunji, Kanika’s sister Maya (Yami Gautam Dhar) is convinced that the woman with long and silky hair, red-hot eyes and a tendency to walk up to people but leave them unharmed is no figment of the imagination.

The movie’s characters are up for the adventure, and its makers occasionally rise to the occasion too. There are flashes of cynical humour, most of it delivered by the blackhearted Vibhooti and the streetsmart Kanika. There are a few jump scares, nearly always forewarned by sound effects and background music. However, much of the 128-minute Bhoot Police is a slog.

Pavan Kirpalani has previously directed three horror-themed movies, including the scary and smart Phobia. But you might never guess that from Bhoot Police, the kind of film that appears to have been dashed off by somebody without too much experience in or a love for scarefests.

Perhaps it’s the mix of comedy and horror that leaves Bhoot Police neither here nor there. Or maybe it’s the uneven writing and pacing. Or does the problem lie in the story itself, too sparse to create an enduring mood of either dread or mockery?

Written by Kirpalani, Pooja Ladha Surti and Sumit Batheja, the movie is occasionally enlivened by its enthusiastic actors. Saif Ali Khan and Arjun Kapoor have a sparky rhythm as siblings who love to hate each other. Although Vibhooti’s kohl-laden eyes light up at his first sighting of the glam Kanika and Chiraunji appears to have feelings for Maya, the film’s real romance is a bromance between brothers.

The cameos include Jaaved Jaaferi as a police officer out to expose the siblings and Amit Mistry as the estate manager. A handsome dog named Shonku plays a crucial role in advancing the plot and then simply disappears into the black hole of ideas that the movie is too distracted to accommodate.

Bhoot Police (2021).