Our green cover is our lungs in effect. By making holes in it in the name of progress, we are slowly killing ourselves. The North East is where this cover is the thickest. It’s a place where large tracts of virgin forests still lie undisturbed. But here too, unplanned development is taking place in the name of progress. This is one of the concerns of this multi-layered film which combines folklore and common sense to make a case for the conservation of the environment. It also talks about the alienation of the North East. It points out that people from the rest of India are by and large remain ignorant of the region, and practise racial prejudice against its citizens just because they have mongoloid features and can’t speak Hindi fluently. It is time to make greater efforts to assimilate them into the folds of mainstream India, before they are totally cut off. There is legend of Yapum deity in the North East, especially in the Arunachal Pradesh, who is said to be the protector of the forests. That’s the folktale Amar Kaushik has touched upon. When man crosses his limits over encroachment of the forest land, nature takes matter in its own hands and sends forth a vigilante who isn’t afraid of murder if need be, to right the wrongs.
Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan), is an unscrupulous small-time contractor based out of Delhi who gets the biggest contract of his life – that of constructing a road inside the dense forests of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. He knows that the project will play havoc with the environment and will upset nature’s balance. Also, it won’t be much beneficial to the regional populace as well. And yet he uses every means at his disposal to clinch the deal and grab the land of the tribals. He’s helped in this endeavour by his cousin Janardan (Abhishek Banerjee), friend Jomin (Paalin Kabak) and subcontractor Panda (Deepak Dobriyal). He’s bitten by a bhediya (wolf) while stranded in the jungle and is provided first aid by veterinary doctor Anika (Kriti Sanon). Unfortunately for him, he was bitten by a supernatural wolf, and starts turning into one himself. Even as Bhaskar is struggling to control his new-found superpowers, people associated with the controversial project start getting killed one after the other due to animal attacks, leading him to think it’s he who is doing the murders while in the wolf form.
But this isn’t just a gory werewolf vigilante movie. In fact, the horror elements are down to a minimum. What it has is a barrelful of gags, both verbal and physical, which will make you laugh for sure. The film takes potshots at everything. There are references galore to everyone from Himesh Reshamiyya, Shehnaz Gill, Mithun Chakraborty, to Gulzar’s Chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai song, which he had written for the Jungle Book serial. The dialogue, written by Niren Bhatt, is the real hero of the film. Wisecracks follow each other in quick succession from the first frame to the last and leave you smiling.
Abhishek Banerjee is given the best lines in the film, which he delivers with deadpan humour. His is clearly the standout performance in the film. Varun Dhawan has done films like Badlapur and October in the past, where the story and not him, took the paramount importance. He’s assimilated himself well into the project, which traces his growth from a selfish businessman to a concerned environmentalist. He knows the focus would be on creature effects and has given himself wholeheartedly to the role, acting very much like a man caught in unusual circumstances which aren’t to his liking. His redemption takes time, leaving room for much comedy. Things turn serious only towards the end, where the director literally goes for the jugular. Deepak Dobriyal, and North Eastern actor Paalin Kabak offer able support as well. Kriti Sanon has an important and mysterious role too, though there’s less of her in the film then we’d hoped for.
The film’s creature effects and computer generated imagery is excellent. Cinematography and the background score are good as well. The film is a tad long and could have been better at a crisp 140 minutes. It does keep you in the laughs throughout and has an important message to convey. If nothing else, it’ll make you want to explore the pristine beauty of the North East for sure…
Trailer : Bhediya
Dhaval Roy, November 25, 2022, 5:51 AM IST
Bhediya story: A road construction contractor, Bhaskar, goes to Arunachal Pradesh to build a highway through the dense jungle of Ziro. Besides opposition from the tribals, his companions cousin JD, friend Jomin and he, have a bigger challenge. A series of unexpected deaths take place soon after Bhaskar is bitten by a wild animal. Is it a figment of someone’s imagination, or a werewolf folklore come true?
Bhediya review: Horror and comedy are, on their own, tough genres to pull off. Unless one has a tight grip on storytelling and cinematic treatment, a film in either category can fall flat. And this is where Bhediya comes up aces. Director Amar Kaushik, who helmed the horror-comedy Stree by the same banner, handles both genres skillfully in his latest outing and strikes a fine balance to deliver a movie that’s spine chilling in some instances, ribtickling in almost all, and leaves you with something to think about. Mythology surrounding werewolves have always provided great meat to filmmakers for their stories, and here, Amar Kaushik digs into the deep pockets of Arunachal Pradesh to tell a mysterious tale.
First and foremost, the most remarkable part about the movie is its visual impact. While cinematographer Jishnu Bhattacharjee has created the dark and enigmatic world of werewolves with the backdrop of the full moon in the midnight sky, jungles of Ziro and mountains splendidly, the vfx are outstanding. Monsters and creatures in films can often turn more spoofy than spooky because of shoddy makeup and effects. But not in Bhediya. The lead’s transformation from human to werewolf is convincing and terrifying. The film has many jumpscares and the background score only makes things scarier.
Varun is top-notch as the shape-shifting wolf. His act (a huge part of which was the physical transformation with ripping muscles and a perfectly sculpted body) will hopefully shift gears in his career. He gives this part his all, and it shows. Whether it’s the dramatic and high-energy scene where he transforms into a bhediya for the first time, to the hilarious scene when he struggles to slip into the werewolf’s skin the in the second half — he excels. Abhishek Banerjee as Janardan, aka JD, is on point and does not miss a beat with his comic timing. Even in intense scenes, his comedy punches land, adding a certain lightness throughout this story that mostly unfolds in the darkness of the night. He also has the funniest lines in the film. Paalin Kabak as Bhaskar’s Northeastern friend Jomin completes the bhediya pack and has outstanding chemistry with both the actors, especially Abhishek. Deepak Dobriyal, as Panda, also delivers a notable performance. Kriti Sanon’s character as the vet, Dr Anika, could have been better fleshed out. But she adds her bit to the drama and comedy.
The narrative, very smartly, includes the mention of several movies that continue to remain in public memory for many reasons, including Jaani Dushman, Rahul Roy-starrer Junoon, the 90s animation show Jungle Book and its title track ‘Chaddi pehenke phool khila hai,’ which will have you guffawing, and even Shehnaz Gill’s ‘Toh main kya karu, marr jaun?’ There are some more such howlarious surprises, but let’s not give them away here all at once. Kudos to the writer Niren Bhatt for that.
The movie’s first half is extemely gripping. It perfectly sets the tone for what will unfold soon and also brings in a sense of intrigue. However, the second half seems stretched and loses momentum in parts. It could do with a tighter edit. While all the songs are catchy and pleasant to the ears, dropping a song or two would have tightened the narrative. Also, at times it seems the film is trying to achieve a bit much. While it focuses on conservation and man-animal conflict, a subject that needs much dwelling upon, alongside it briefly touches upon the stereotyping of the people of Northeast, and how they have to often live with the ‘outsider’ label.
On another level, the film reminds us of our animal instincts and how there could be a bhediya in all of us. But how we wish to unleash it, for better or worse, is up to us. Beauty and the beast are all in us, we only have to look deep within. The film leaves you with an experience and a thought, maybe deeper than the forests of Ziro. So, set out and watch this one. For a howling good time, this one’s worth a hike to the theatres. There’s also a delightful surprise at the end. The film that releases in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu is best viewed in 3D.