Bhediya Movie Review: Varun Dhawan’s werewolf movie has layers of interpretation, making for an engrossing watch (Pic: Twitter)
Varun Dhawan’s Bhediya takes the audience to the forests of Arunachal Pradesh, where Bhaskar Sharma (Varun), an aspiring entrepreneur, has been tasked with digging a highway, right in the middle of the forest – which incidentally has a significance social, religious and cultural for the locals. Despite warnings from the locals, Bhaskar, who accompanies him, his cousin Guddu (Abhishek Banerjee) and his friend Joe (Paalin Kabak), goes ahead with his plans, only to be bitten by a wolf on a moonlit night.
The bite gives him the abilities of a lycan and soon enough the Delhi boy develops a keen sense of smell, hearing, strong abs and the ability to transform into a werewolf. But underneath all the fun of a horror-comedy, the director tackles issues that have bigger implications.
Bhediya is an unusual film in many ways. The film, while forging its way into India’s Lycan tradition through the adventures and misadventures of Varun Dhawan’s Bhaskar Sharma, also effectively and evocatively integrates the culture and lens through which the rest of the country views the northeast – as well as prejudice, alienation, occasional discrimination, and the trials and tribulations they go through.
On a more cinematic level, what Bhediya manages to do in the Indian entertainment industry is what John Landis’ 1981 horror comedy An American Werewolf in London did for world cinema. The critically and commercially successful film brought mainstream media a celebration of shock value, dressed in humor, as well as a muted allegorical portrayal of societal issues.
Would I consider anyone else in the role of Bhaskar other than Varun Dhawan? Probably not. Varun has carved out a niche for himself in Bollywood, where he can actually come across as heroic, even making the audience’s bellies rumble with laughter. The actor’s innate ability to use humor to his advantage is unparalleled in contemporary times, a feat he manages to achieve even in his latest venture. Also, being able to completely immerse yourself in a character that is overshadowed by the CGI depiction of a fictional creature while still managing to make it their own is probably something that the contemporary generation of artists except of Varun, would be difficult to achieve.
Abhishek Banerjee and Paalin Kaban offer commendable foils to Varun’s Bhaskar and the dialogues between the three are some of the highlights of the film. Kriti Sanon as Dr. Anika, who gets caught up in the tirades of the Three Musketeers is delightful in her uncertainty, and in a film largely dominated by male characters, delivers a subtlety that stands out sharply. Needless to say, she has a bigger role to play in the scheme of things – something that will leave audiences shocked – but no spoilers here.
THE SOUL OF BHEDIYA
In all honesty, where Amar Kaushik really excelled was in his portrayals of canines in film. Varun Dhawan’s transformation from a human to a furry lycanthrope offers delightful viewing, hitherto unseen in Indian cinema. Not once does their appearance in the film feel animated, and the CGI beings fit right into the narrative, propelling the plot to an effective denouement.
Bhediya is not without problems. The first half, except for a very energetic Baaki Sab Theek number sung by Sachin Sanghvi, Jigar Saraiya and Amitabh Bhattacharya, feels incongruous and the action does not resume until after the interval. Where Bhediya really falters, however, is the marked absence of an antihero or villain. In trying to subvert the hero-trope, the director failed to provide the film with an evil catalyst that could have really elevated the plot.
What works for Bhediya is her soul. Amidst the narrative of a werewolf film, the director artfully etched the issues of identity, representation (or misrepresentation), the significance of nature, and most importantly, the general understanding of balance, to promote progress. To say the least, this carnivorous Bhediya is not devoid of heart.