BHEDIYA (2022)

Kriti Sanon and Varun Dhawan in a still
  • Release Date: 25/11/2022
  • Cast: Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, Abhishek Banerjee, Palin Kabak, Deepak Dobriyal
  • Director: Amar Kaushik

Ziro’s wilderness fights back corporate takeover and an unlikely hero is born in the mystical forests of Arunachal

— Ambar Chatterjee

Bhediya is directed by Amar Kaushik who previously directed Stree and is desperately trying to intertwine the two worlds and create a “horror-comedy heavy on social message” universe of his own. This time around, he sets out to deal with two primary issues. Step-motherly treatment of the northeastern states by mainland India and corporate takeover of nature and its resulting disastrous impacts. Peppered throughout the narrative is also comedy, VFX-heavy action, and subtle horror elements that feel picked right out of the much better Stree and are not nearly as well done or with enough conviction.

Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan) ends up in Ziro to execute a subcontract for building a road that moves right through a dense forest. Bhaskar is attacked and bitten by a wolf and starts transforming into a marauding beast himself every night killing someone important associated with his project. He is bewildered by what was happening to him and sets out to find answers. Meanwhile more people die and the locales start believing it all to be the handiwork of an evil entity.

Stunning visual effects and action: –

The visual effects and its execution are something that has been in the news and Bollywood has been lambasted for its poor execution over the last few months (Ram Setu, Adipurush). Interestingly, the visual effects of this film are terrific. I say this because there are Bollywood films that are made with 10 times Bhediya’s budget that have done far worse. The VFX of this film is an integral part of it as there are numerous and prolonged VFX shots here. Not only that, the CGI animals have to interact with real characters, express emotions, hold their own in prolonged action sequences against humans and most importantly leave an impact with their presence at the end of the film. All this was possible only because of how well the VFX was done in the film.

The transformation scenes in every werewolf film are of paramount importance and I was glad to note that these scenes in Bhediya were pulled off with subtility and elan. I loved the little nudges that the VFX artists were able to infuse like the scratching and stretching of the animal after the transformation was complete. This added a lot to the sequences and made them a lot more believable. There are multiple transformation sequences and they are all great.

Varun Dhawan in a still

Poorly written and cringeworthy physical comedy: –

The comedy of Stree was one of its high points and it was so because the characters never tried to be funny. They just were because of the predicaments that they found themselves in and how they went about dealing with them. The comedy of Bhediya is a lot more forced and some sequences like the one involving Varun Dhawan and his friends attempting to get his stool examined will make you feel like regurgitating. The comedy only works in parts where Abhishek Banerjee takes it upon himself to catapult inane and unfunny lines with his charisma, comic timing, and pitch-perfect dialogue delivery. This film would not have been funny if it was not for Abhishek Banerjee and his hilarious essay.

Beautiful cinematography and rousing background score: –

There is an overwhelming trend in Bollywood to use green screens for forests. Thankfully the makers of Bhediya use the lush green forests and gorgeous locales of Arunachal Pradesh to serve as the backdrop of their story. The cinematography is consistently brilliant. I have traveled extensively through Arunachal Pradesh and can vouch for the fact that the cinematographer didn’t have to toil too hard to find beauty in his compositions. It is a state so ripe with natural beauty and organic colors and splendor that you can practically aim your camera and click and chances are the resulting pictures will be beautiful enough to hang as wallpapers. Nevertheless, the DOP has to be credited for capturing the vibrance, beauty, and splendor of Arunachal Pradesh in its organic realism and earthen spirit.

The background score of the film is consistently brilliant. It is particularly so in the transformation sequences, action sequences, and key moments when something extraordinary involving the protagonist happens. Sadly, that cannot be said about the songs that do nothing but unnecessarily elongate and already dragged runtime of the film.

Kriti Sanon is wasted: –

I don’t know what made Kriti Sanon do this film. If this is not an insult to her beauty and acting prowess, I don’t know what is. I fail to understand why the director chose to hide her behind those hideous clothes and an obnoxiously apparent wig when he could have very well depicted her as a pristine and delicate beauty serving animals and nature while also enamoring the others around her. This would have made the revelation about her towards the end of the film a lot more effective and would also justify Sanon’s presence in the film. She has so little to do in the film that her essay can be called a glorified cameo.

Kriti Sanon and Varun Dhawan in a still

Unnecessary, poorly placed, forced social messaging: –

Yes! mistreating and misunderstanding the people of North East is a problem all across India. Thankfully there is a much greater awareness regarding the same these days than there was before. However, it still needs to be addressed but the same needs to be done in a manner that is impactful, intelligent, and believable. Imagine being attacked by your friend after he turns into a werewolf. The next day when you are trying to run away from ever being in a similar situation, the same friend comes up to you and asks why you are leaving. What will be your reaction? Will you throw tantrums for being mistreated for being a Northeasterner or just tell him that you are running away to stay alive? That’s how forceful and stupid the messaging of this film is and that is why it doesn’t work here. It feels as if Niren Bhatt and Amar Kaushik got their data on Northeasterner abuse and prejudice from WhatsApp and they write almost every stereotypical joke that one can imagine involving the northeast in the film.

Varun Dhawan is good but the rest of the ensemble cast is wasted: –

I have always liked Varun Dhawan’s performances. I feel that his father should stop directing him in his remakes and the lad will be fine. Here too, he does a good job. He knows that he has stupid lines to mouth but he mouths them with conviction and a straight face resulting in a semblance of credibility being added to the character and the proceedings. I have already mentioned how wonderful Abhishek Banerjee is in the film. Sadly, the rest of the cast is hardly utilized when there were people like Deepak Dobriyal, Baharul Islam, and Palin Kabak who could have added so much more to the experience.

Final Words: –

The majority of the issues plaguing Bhediya stem from poor writing. Stree was written by Raj and DK and we know how snappy, intriguing and thrilling their style of writing is. Unfortunately, Niren Bhatt could neither replicate Raj and DK’s style nor could bring his own sensibility to this tale that would make it special. This results in a film showing flashes of brilliance in terms of storytelling but those flashes are too few and too far apart resulting in an ultimately underwhelming film.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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