IWMBuzz reviews and rates ALTBalaji new series Booo Sabki Phategi

Once upon a time in the eighties, there was a pubescent adolescent, with raging testosterone, wayward hormones and wet dreams crowding his rapidly growing mind and body. And then, wham! He discovered Police Academy, Caddyshack, and Meatballs. Even as he delightedly partook in their unabashedly low-brow humour, the impressionable adolescent made another interesting discovery – Dada Kondke and the art of the ‘Double Entendre’, Indian-style.

He grew up idolizing Kondke and his inimitable style of film-making, which was replete with double meaning dialogues, crass humour and sex-drenched comedy. He dreamt of writing content that would make his idol proud, the kind of content that would shock, stun and stir his audiences into wild laughter and disbelief at the audacity of his jokes.

But alas, the Indian censor board was not ready to play the benevolent big daddy to his plans. Poor budding writer had to make do with writing Bollywood-ishtyle slapstick comedy with a distinct Rohit Shetty-ish feel to it.

Then glory of glories, the digital revolution happened in India. And our budding double entendre apprentice was back to dreaming; and planning; and writing – the kind of content he always wanted to. And thus came into being a web series brimming with smutty innuendos, suggestive dialogues and sexual puns.

Whoa, hold it! Before you start wondering, “what the….”, let us enlighten you in quick time. We’re talking about ALTBalaji’s latest web series, Booo Sab Ki Phategi, a show masquerading as a horror comedy but which pays homage to well-loved double entendre flicks of both Hollywood and Bollywood. The show has been written and directed by Farhad Samji, and yes, any resemblance to the aforementioned tale is purely intentional.

Booo Sabki Phategi has been produced by Paritosh Painter in association with ALTBalaji. Painter is also credited with the story, while Tasha Bhambra and Sparsh Khetarpal are the co-writers of the screenplay and dialogues, along with Samji.

Touted to be the first horror comedy of the web world, we expected Booo to be something along the lines of Stree. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that Booo is less horror and more horrex, a new-fangled portmanteau of horror and sex. To be more precise, Booo is not so much sexual comedy as it is double entendre humour, the kind that makes hormonal adolescents cackle like geese at the not-so-subtle play of words.

The story goes thus – a bunch of friends land up at their childhood friend Manav’s (Tusshar Kapoor) sumptuous resort for a vacation to celebrate the wedding of a mutual friend and allow him to enjoy his maiden sexual encounter with his new bride. The only hitch in the fun plan is that the resort is haunted. And guess what? There are multiple ghosts that want a slice of the haunting pie. To top it all, there’s something fishy about Manav. He is not what he seems to be.

Krushna Abhishek, Kiku Sharda, Anil Charanjeet and Vipul Roy are the guys in the group, while Shefali Zariwala, Sakshi Pradhan, Saba Saudagar and Shweta Gulati are the girls. There’s also a blind caretaker of the resort, ironically called Nainsukh (Sanjay Mishra). Mallika Sherawat plays Haseena, the spirit that haunts the resort. Ashwini Kalsekar and Mukesh Tiwari complete the comic ensemble cast.

Notwithstanding the overtly sexual innuendos and double entendre undercurrents, the narrative is peppered with outrageous twists and turns at crucial moments. A zombie apocalypse hits the palatial resort-mansion, sweeping the bunch of friends in its wake. Just as the dust settles over that part of the plot, audiences are dazed by another spine-tingling reveal, and then another, and another. The thrills, chills and spills of the tale are enough to keep us glued to our seats.

The double entendre is quite juvenile, if we may. Kiku Sharda has a speech defect that makes him start every word with a ‘ch’. And you can imagine where that goes. Almost every sentence he utters is deliberately filled with words that will become the inevitable *udne, *od, and more of the kind.

Tusshar Kapoor and Mallika Sherawat have given impressive performances, as has the rest of the ensemble cast. Tusshar even lapses into his ‘Oooeee Aaaeee’ avatar in one of the scenes, a nod to the Golmaal franchise, a Farhad Samji creation.

Krushna Abhishek is quite funny, as is Anil Charanjeet. The girls, barring Mallika and Ashwini Kalsekar, have relatively lesser to do than the guys, and are only there to add the mandatory glamour element to the narrative. Their short dresses and shorter character arcs only reinforce the misogynist premise of the plot –a bane of the Indian content space in general and horrex comedies in particular.

The one character to watch out for in the series is Sanjay Mishra and his hilarious turn as Nainsukh, aka Deewana. Mishra carries the entire series through singlehandedly, and steals the show in every frame he features in. His bizarre mannerisms and offbeat delivery of dialogue is unforgettably punchy.

The one scene that had us rolling on the floor with laughter was where Sanjay Mishra does the perfect imitation of the iconic Marilyn Monroe shot. His fluttering sherwani, as he shimmies suggestively over a makeshift grate, was hilarious AF. Heck, that one scene makes up for all the banal humour that this series overflows with. Even now, while writing this piece, the memory of that scene makes us dissolve into involuntary laughter.

To sum it up succinctly, Booo Sabki Phategi obviously lacks the cerebral wit and classy sophistication of say a Dipankar Banerjee or Zoya Akhtar movie. Neither does it have the power to make you ponder, a la an Anubhav Sinha flick (the flavour of the season).

However, it is fun to indulge in light-hearted comedy and undemanding humour once in a while. It insulates you from the deeper gravities of life, albeit temporarily, and imbues an ebullient joie de vivre into the moment, setting you free for the time being. Booo is a fun comic caper with all the ingredients to do just that.

So, pop yourself a humongous bowl of popcorn, plop yourself before your gadget of choice and binge-watch Booo Sabki Phategi. It’s the perfect panacea for infusing vivaciousness into this gloomy, rainy weather.

In the meanwhile, 2.5/5 is our rating for Booo Sabki Phategi, where a whole 1 star is dedicated for Sanjay Mishra unleashing his inner Monroe.

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