Bhoot Bungla, which Mehmood wrote with Ranjan Bose, was his first venture into direction and proved that he was as comfortable behind the camera as he was before it.
RD Burman and Mehmood in Bhoot Bungla
When someone mentions Hindi language horror comedies, only a handful of contemporary films come to my mind: I’m sure there are more, so pardon my ignorance. I have only been exposed to Go Goa Gone, Stree, Roohi and Bhool Bhulaiyaa so far. But a quick Google search led me to this Tanuja and Mehmood gem Bhoot Bungla. I knew I had to watch it.
The story includes all your basic horror film tropes – there’s an untimely death, a haunted house, a curse that looms over a family for over five decades, and ominous sound effects. But what makes it so different is Mehmood, and to my amazement, ace music composer RD Burman’s comical presence.
Bhoot Bungla opens to Kundalal mysteriously getting murdered in his mansion as his wife and young child flee to save themselves. Fifty years later, tragedy strikes again as Rekha’s (Tanuja) father Ramlal and his younger brother Ramu die under similar circumstances. The only logical solution for her and her surviving uncle Shyamlal is to move to an apartment and start anew. At least that’s what they hope for.
Enters the mischievous Mehmood in the picture as Mohan, the leader of a Youth Club, and his crew of friends/followers. His initial antics where he floors the entire audience with his performance at a singing competition does not sit well with Rekha. She eventually warms up to him after she tells him about the creepy anonymous calls that she had received. Mohan becomes the good samaritan to Rekha’s damsel in distress, and vows to solve this mystery, and know more about her haunted ancestral mansion.
The story unfolds like a suspense thriller, with all these aforementioned horror tropes in the mix and Mehmood’s mimicry and acting skills disrupting the tension at just the right time. Tanuja is impressive as well, playing an urbane young woman, who just returned from her studies abroad. While I haven’t watched any of her older films, I can understand why she was popular during her time, and not just cast for her being a pretty face.
For me, the horror scenes were not as scary, but I can believe that for moviegoers in the ‘60s they would have been something extraordinarily different and unique.
This film, which Mehmood wrote with Ranjan Bose, was his first venture into direction and proved that he was as comfortable behind the camera as he was before it. Every major and minor character has material that is aptly meaty and mostly memorable. Whether it's Mehmood himself or the supporting cast, they have all put forward their best performances, something I assume can only be extracted if the script and the direction are in sync. And Burman’s music cannot be compared with; I was surprised I didn’t know the evergreen ‘Aao Twist Karein’ song was from this film.
Bhoot Bungla is a worthy watch this spooky season. I'm glad Google led me to it, and I hope if you read this, it makes you want to watch it too.