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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bhediya Review: The Howl of Horror, Humour & Humanity

In 2018, Stree gave a breath of fresh air to the horror-comedy genre in Hindi cinema. Uniting two of the toughest cinema styles together, the movie impressed viewers with its novelty and whacky humour. Four years later, Maddock Films and Jio Studios present another venture in the supernatural-comedic series, Bhediya.

The picture is set in Arunachal Pradesh. Begins with Sharad Kelkar narrating a folklore about a wolf to his daughter. Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan) is a Delhi-based contractor who gets the major task of cutting a road through the jungle in Ziro. He is with his cousin Janardan (Abhishek Banerjee) and meets his local friend Jobin (Paalin Kabaak).

With the help of Jobin and another local, Panda Ji (Deepak Dobriyal), Bhaskar tries to convince locals to let him cut the forest. But as soon as they mess with nature, Bhaskar’s bottom gets bitten by a wolf (‘Bhediya’ in Hindi). They visit a vet, Dr Anika (Kriti Sanon), as a case of fighting animals would not go down well with the inhabitants. Things slowly spiral out of control from there-on.

The movie does not waste time in setting the scene and developing the spooky(ish) and rib-tickling. Writer Niren Bhatt, has some whacky one-liners and situational comedy sequences. Even certain scenes which could have been interpreted as cringe, he writes it in a palatable manner. Director Amar Kaushik too is in his element. He is effortless in both horror and humour quotients. The subtle pop culture references of movies like Jaani Dushman and Junoon are quite nostalgic.

Initially, there are several discriminatory jokes made regarding ignorant attitudes towards North-Eastern people. This gets repetitive and quite preachy. However, when it comes to the second-half, it all makes sense. It is praiseworthy how this is a werewolf story with an environmentalist voice. The film presents relevant perspectives of how nature is oppressed by forceful developments.

Bhediya offers cosmic justice as the war between humans and nature intensifies. I like how the wolves act as a catalyst in exposing the jungle of mankind. Furthermore, it also empowers indigenous cultures and communities. This is relevant and fresh for ‘commercial’ Bollywood. Oh, there are a few surprises which will excite audiences in this one. So stay back once the credits roll.

Perhaps where the picture falters slightly is the inconsistent screenplay. The pace seems to pick up and drop. At times it comes across as slow, then fast the next minute. But thankfully, the action and impressive VFX elevate the viewing. In fact, the technical aspects are quite well executed. So coming to the performances. Dhawan’s Bhaskar seems to be a culmination of his career thus far. From his street-smart comedy in Main Tera Hero to Badlapur’s emotional intensity, this role seems to encompass and elevate all his skills thus far. He does a good job.

Sanon has a solid screen presence. She is effervescent in soft and gentle scenes. But equally strong in other portions. The show-stealer here, however, is Banerjee. His dorky comedic prowess is very entertaining to watch. One cannot help but laugh and applaud his craft. A true artist. Dobriyal is equally engaging. He is so natural at humour but yet stern when it comes to explaining the intensity of the story. Besides, I am intrigued by how many of Amar Kaushik’s strong supporting characters have long hair. In this it’s Dobriyal and in Bala, it was Jaaved Jaaferi. Generally, a wonderful cast selection.

It is a breath of fresh air to see another enjoyable product to emerge from Hindi cinema. Bhediya is not just another horror-comedy from Dinesh Vijan’s universe. There is a solid pro-humanity voice, which does translate sincerely. It’s unfortunate that the screenplay is not up to the mark. Of course, this would’ve enriched the overall viewing. But this certainly does not become a big bad wolf for me. I left the cinema howling in satisfaction.

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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