Cast of Bhediya Movie: Varun Dhawan, Abhishek Banerjee, Paalin Kabak, Deepak Dobriyal, and Kriti Sanon
Bhediya Film Director: Amar Kauschik
Bhediya Film Rating: 3 stars
Humans who transform into werewolves are so familiar that the thought of seeing yet another version didn’t frighten me: I’m happy to see so much of ‘Bhediya‘, in which a main character transforms into an ‘icchha-dhaari’ wolf, is fun.
And for some scenic fun, the film was shot in Arunachal Pradesh, the beautiful north-eastern state that has not yet been trampled underfoot by tourists. On a mission to build a road that leads right through a lush forest, Bhaskar Sharma (Varun Dhawan) turns into a werewolf, you know, the creature that barks at the full moon and echoes through the valley. Bhaskar’s companions Guddu (Abhishek Banerjee) and Jomin (Paalin Kabak) do the stunned-terrified-now-what-to-do act, even as a local vet (Kriti Sanon) pushes suspicious injections into Bhaskar’s rear end, a body part that’s giving out into an endless series of youthful jokes.
In fact, youthfulness reigns supreme throughout most of the film. Much of the humor takes the scatological route, literally finding its joy in people sitting on the pot, excrement, and the sights and smells of it. Guddu, who portrays the hero’s BFF/sidekick, is a good clown and so determined that we’ll laugh at his antics to the point of succumbing.
Dhawan manages to adapt well to the tone of the film – the horror is pretty much naam-ke-vaaste, comedy is what he’s interested in – and gets several opportunities for detailed switching, even human to werewolf though the creature alternates between a frighteningly real appearance and a graphically constructed one. Back bends, sprouting hair, sprouting tails, sharpening teeth – the CGI boys are clearly having a good time. So does Dhawan, who uses his ability not to take himself seriously to the film’s advantage.
Of course, the whole point of ‘Bhediya’ is to show Bhaskar and his cronies the fault of their callous ways, and we get several underlined speeches about ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Progress’ and the importance of protecting forests and nature. But the characters crafting these lines manage to avoid sounding preachy, and part of that has to do with a local (Deepak Dobriyal, almost unrecognizable in a shaggy wig) acting as a bridge between these misguided townspeople and the people of the region who take care of their environment. The film also inserts a few lectures on racism: ignoramuses from North India will call a local Chowmein at least once and poke fun at “outsiders” before learning their lesson.
The film falters by never quite figuring out what it intends to do with its only female character, even in her relatively lean arc: when Sanon is introduced as a fumbling “Jaanwar ka-doctor”, we are encouraged to laugh at her , and the script takes its own sweet time to correct that initial reaction. It also goes overboard when it comes to labeling the locals as superstitious, saying “yahaan toh aise hi hota hai”: an “ojha” pops up to unpack the werewolf myth, and the shamanic illustration comes so close to a cartoon.
But again, the film backs off in time, with a well-considered potty line or two, and its characters scurrying like dumb idiots to some nimble tracks. This is where the film is safest, and this is where director Amar Kaushik is most confident, having given us similar characters in his earlier “Stree” and “Bala”. And given that these guys are on screen most of the time, that’s pretty much what we get. A few touching moments shared by Sanon and Dhawan break up the ha-ha-hee-hee and add some depth. But the film is so determined not to get “serious” that those moments come and go, making you wish there were more.
At 2:36 hours, “Bhediya” begins to wear out its reception around its extended climax. But when things go well, that rumble in the jungle is going to be pretty awesome.