Bhediya is a classic blend of magnificence and message

Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon in Bhediya. Photo: Universal Communications

A horror comedy, as I recently mentioned when reviewing Phone Bhoot, must balance the two elements well, and this was best done in Stree (2018), produced by Dinesh Vijan with the same director, Go Goa Gone (2013) also produced by Dinesh, and in Golmaal Again (2017). While in Phone Bhoot, the comedy was overwhelming, over here, the horror element overrides the comic situations and one-liners. Niren Bhatt, whose concept and execution is otherwise immaculate, should have fine-tuned the balance a bit.

As in Stree, the idea to deliver a powerful social message (in this case, environmental conservation) is laudable. The pre-climactic twist for a key character is excellently conceived, though it was easily predictable to me for certain logical reasons, mentioning which would be spoilers here. But somewhere, some needless brutality, avoidable violence and graphic gore could have been curtailed as the film was meant for U/A certification and is touted as a horror comedy.

Mounted on what the producer rightly termed is an “international scale” (with brilliant 3D, VFX, sound effects and camerawork), the film is otherwise a perfect hat-trick of excellence for Amar Kaushik after Stree and Bala, and I rank him among the top names among directors who have debuted in the millennium.

As a hark-back, two key characters from Stree come in as cameos, a third one plays one of the main characters here, while the Stree herself, Shraddha Kapoor, makes a song dance cameo in Thumkeshwari (Goddess of Dance Moves) that was edited out of the movie I watched.

Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan) is one of the typical ‘today’ young men whose ambitions are purely materialistic, and he aims at a ‘good’ life. He promises Bagga (Saurabh Shukla) that he will go to Arunachal Pradesh’s remote area and help him build roads there. This is the first step towards the lush green forest’s ‘modernization’, never mind if it is at the expense of the environment. The innocent Janardhan from Stree (Abhishek Banerjee) is convinced to give him company.

They are joined by a local friend, Jomin (Paalin Kabak), while another influential local, Panda (Deepak Dobriyal) also agrees to help them, though for some seemingly valid reasons, Bhaskar distrusts him.

Once in place, Bhaskar’s job is to manipulate the locals to cooperate by selling their lands. Meanwhile, Bhaskar and Janardhan hear local scary legends, and at one point, Bhaskar is chased by a wolf and bitten in his rear. As no doctor will entertain them (because of the scary legends abounding), he has no choice but to visit a vet, Dr. Anika (Kriti Sanon), who is as confused and nervous as any layman about his treatment—these sequences are truly the funniest part of the film.

But Dr. Anika is shocked to see how rapidly Bhaskar’s wounds heal. Bhaskar, however, is appalled as he finds himself turning into a wolf and going on a marauding spree during a phase of the moon. The cops investigate the murders. Bhaskar finds the cops getting uncomfortably close on his trail and consults Dr. Anika, who suggests an unconventional way out. What happens next?

The message is rightly ominous and makes a strong case for the preservation of wildlife and greenery. It is driven home with big-screen mounting but, like I said, the gore should have been much less. Sachin-Jigar’s background music is impressive but the songs are routine. At a fun level, the conversational Baaki sab theek, works, reminiscent of their Babaji ki booti from Go Goa Gone, Dinesh’s first and superb foray into horror comedy.

The 3D, VFX, make-up and prosthetics as well as Jishnu Bhattacharjee’s cinematography are all magnificent—arguably this is the best use of 3D in Hindi cinema in the way it is employed. The rest of the technical side is also brilliant, though Sanyukta Kaza could have been more incisive in the film’s edit—156 minutes could have been easily reduced to minus 140.

Varun Dhawan gets to sink his teeth (pun intended!) into a challenging character, and the way he is shown changing into a wolf is stupendous as a technical feat. Kriti Sanon does well in the limited footage she has. Abhishek Banerjee is howlarious (pun intended again!!) indeed—this is probably his career-best turn so far. Paalin Kabak is excellent, as is Deepak Dobriyal as Panda.

Magnificence with a message: that is Bhediya. And mind you, the message is not just what is written above. There is also another, intense directive—about Indians looking down on this part of their own nation, branding the people there as “Chinese” or other aliens, and often making fun of them. For the sequences and lines that highlight this lack of integration (as in the 2013 sports biopic, Mary Kom), full marks to the team.

Rating: ****

Maddock Films & Jio Studios present Bhediya Produced by: Dinesh Vijan & Jyoti Deshpande Directed by: Amar Kaushik Written by: Niren Bhatt Music: Sachin-Jigar Starring: Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, Abhishek Banerjee, Deepak Dobriyal, Saurabh Shukla, Sharad Kelkar, Paalin Kabak, Dosam Beyong, Madang Pai Sp. Appearance: Shraddha Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao & Aparshakti Khurana






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