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Here’s an observation. The first day, first show of Gang Of Ghosts in one of Dubai’s multiplexes saw five moviegoers. But by intermission, that number had dwindled to three poor souls. Something tells me that the ones who remained were either foolishly optimistic that this Satish Kaushik-directed comedy will miraculously redeem itself in the second half (but their loud scoffing obliterated that theory) or they were reluctant to leave without finishing their bucket of caramel popcorn. In my case, it was the latter because in my eyes, it’s a sin to leave those overpriced, unhealthy corn kernels unfinished. Now, for the film: there’s hardly anything appetising about it.

It begins with a movie shoot at a dilapidated mansion in the heart of Mumbai. The cameras are rolling but an ageing actress shrieks at the sight of a ghost. A year later, a film crew led by Parambrata Chatterjee returns to the haunted villa for another shoot.

A struggling writer (Sharman Joshi) accosts him and forces him to listen to a story. He’s overenthusiastic and annoying and Joshi (who was brilliant as the underdog student in blockbuster 3 Idiots) hams his way through in his latest role. But to be fair, his role is more of an extended cameo. Joshi constantly reminds us that he is the champion of ghost rights. At one point, he even declares that human beings should be ashamed that their elected government doesn’t have schemes for rehabilitating ghosts.

The idea would be less ludicrous if these ghosts were as endearing as the friendly spirit Casper from the animated Hollywood hit. The paranormal beings in this one are just ghastly. If there are ghosts lurking around for real, then I fear they might take offence to such shoddy cinematic representation.

There’s veteran Anupam Kher, who plays the patriarch of the mansion. He opens the doors of his palatial palace to other ghosts and selects housemates based on skills such as cooking, arts and medicine. Here, Kher equates comedy with physical deformation. A note to Kher: having protruding teeth doesn’t bring a smile to anyone’s face anymore and is a trick that shouldn’t be repeated (In his 1989 hit Chaal Baaz, Kher had sported a similar facial feature to accentuate his evil streak).

Cheesy dialogues

Priyanka Chopra’s cousin Meera plays the pretty-young-ghost of a woman who commits suicide when her greedy boyfriend dumps her. As a ghost, she cavorts around the mansion wearing skimpy neon-coloured skirts. Then there are a few other ghosts (Rajpal Yadav, Chunkey Pandey, et al) whose prime purpose is to deliver cheesy, double entendre dialogues.

It is buffoonery at its worst and a comedy that pretends to carry a social message. Their guns are trained on the greedy real estate magnates that dominate Mumbai. In their process of building skyscrapers, they have forgotten about the dead, the ghosts claim. At one point, Kher even rolls out a plea about graveyards getting smaller and the dead suffocating in their own coffins. If that didn’t kill you, then you may just survive Gang Of Ghosts.