Atithi Bhooto Bhava (The Guest is a Ghost) begins in Mathura in 1975. An elderly Sikh man is giving the young Sikh Makhan Singh advice to follow his heart. Makhan’s heart leads to Manju, but this inter-faith romance will have to be realised in another lifetime.

In 2021, the elderly gent has been reincarnated as Shrikant (Pratik Gandhi), a stand-up comedian who bases his act on his frequent squabbles with his live-in girlfriend Netra (Sharmin Segal). Wary of marriage, inconsiderate towards Netra and unwilling to own up to his errors, Shrikant has a life-altering encounter with Makhan’s ghost, who is still hanging around waiting to be re-united with Manju.

The ZEE5 release invokes the tradition of friendly ghosts who come to the aid of humans in such films as Ek Daav Bhutacha, Chamatkar and Phillauri. Among Atithi Bhooto Bhava’s strengths is the easy-going and sweet-natured script by Shreyas Anil Lowlekar, Pradeep Srivastava and Aniket Wakchaure. Packed with banter and homilies on relationships, the writing, along with Hardik Gajjar’s efficient direction and some lovely tunes by Aanand Shandilya, sets up a love story with spirit (and a spirit).

Gajjar’s rapport with Pratik Gandhi, whom he previously directed in Bhavai (2021), comes out strongly in Shrikant’s initial encounters with Maakhan and his dealings with Netra and his comedian friend Sucharita (Divinaa Thackur). The comedy benefits from another smart casting decision.

Jackie Shroff, patron saint of fun times, is a good choice as the ghost whose heartache hasn’t reached the twinkle in his eyes. You do wonder how Maakhan lost his facial hair and turban during his time travel, and why Maakhan sounds like a Mumbai layabout than a Punjabi seeker, but Shroff’s palpable enthusiasm helps overcome doubt.

Atithi Bhooto Bhava (2022).