Onto the final release of the weekend and I have finished watching the new Hindi film Bhediya starring Varun Dhawan. In times of remakes and adaptations, Bhediya is an original film and something that I was waiting wholeheartedly. Firstly, its teaser was super impressive that definitely did tease the audience on what to expect. And usually, in such cases the trailers flatter to deceive in delivering the same kind of thrills as the teaser. Moreover, I usually do have a problem with the way the trailers are cut which these days reveal some of the major plot points as well. But the trailer here gave nothing away only to fuel the curiosity surrounding it.
Another USP about the film is that Bhediya is directed by Amar Kaushik, the man behind films like Bala and Stree. Talking about the latter, Stree was an iconic film in the horror comedy space, a genre that is slowly been misused and is often titled towards either of the two genres. There were even talks of Bhediya being in the Stree universe that did make the proposition all the more exciting. But above all, it was an original film that really needed to find its audience especially when the audience had lapped up Drishyam 2 last week(wherein I am implying that its success would pave way for more adaptations). So then does Bhediya live upto the expectations, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set in the same universe as Stree, Bhediya follows the story of a man bitten by a wolf only to turn himself into one and hunt down people. What is his motive and will this “curse” ever end? The story here is captivating balancing both the genres of horror and comedy perfectly. But moreover, the messaging here is relevant and brilliantly weaved in its narration. The screenplay standing at almost 155 minutes might seem daunting but it is one of the brilliantly written screenplays of the year. This section will contain mild spoilers!
There is so much to like here in the drama. Firstly, the setup is absolutely brilliant. The world building featuring the mountains and forests of Arunachal Pradesh add a fresh and new dimension to the drama. It is an overwhelming setup with the right mix of flavours from the region where it is set in. It also does give a glimpse into the culture of the land which made me all the more curious.
The opening scene involves a man telling a story to a little girl featuring a wolf. Notice the ambience of the scene that is filled with darkness and very little light. Soon a murmur in turn results in the man being attacked by a wolf, only for the wolf to jump onscreen that made for a shivering impact especially in 3D. There is an immediate match edit to a completely different setting, wherein the wolf is the previous scene is cut to a little dog in the next. This transition was a work of a genius that sets the ball rolling for the rest of the drama.
The messaging here is relevant and brilliant. Forests are the lungs for us and if you keep eliminating them, then it would spell doom for all of us. You do get a sense of this issue right from the beginning wherein the protagonist is sent to acquire the forest land in the name of development. But at no point did the messaging of the film get too preachy, it was so well integrated in the screenplay that its impact was ten fold by the end of it. Another strong point of the screenplay is its characterization and character dynamics, something that does fuel the comedy in the film. There is a method to all the madness that unfolds in the jungle and it does make for a compelling viewing.
The buildup in the first hour is terrific with only bouts of comedy and occasional horror integrated in the screenplay. This did remind me of the world building of a few of the Malayalam films that take their time to unfold. And I was so happy to see this in a Hindi film, honestly it did feel refreshing. There was a danger lurking at every given point, much like an undercurrent, but there were streaks of comedy to balance things out. The fun begins when the protagonist os bitten by the wolf and in turn leading to a chain of events that cause a state of confusion and chaos.
As the drama progresses, the writing too begins to mature with its jokes and the horror element. Speaking about the latter, there are plenty of jumpscares that are so well integrated in the screenplay with the right use of silence(something that I will mention in detail in my next section). The drama does remain predictable with even the one twist at the end being fairly predictable. But credit to the writers for playing with the atmospherics and keeping the audiences invested right throughout. There is a beautiful emotional track amidst the chaos, a byproduct of the romantic subplot, that will touch your heart and leave you in tears. It was just so well executed that you can only sit and admire its brilliance.
The second half does have a subtext featuring animals and their relationship with humans. In a beautiful climax scene, we see humans folding hands to animals, a metaphor for being sorry for capturing and destroying their home, only for the animals to calm down in a beautifully woven scene. That said, the small downside was the integration of the Stree-verse in the Bhediya-verse right at the end that did seem a little half-hearted. The screenplay overall is layered and one of the best pieces of writing that I have seen this year for a Hindi film!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are witty and I did find myself laughing hysterically at many places. The music is peppy and goes perfectly with the drama. The BGM is terrific but I was utmost impressed with the use of silence that in turn contributed to the jump scare really well. In horror films or in scenes featuring horror, it is often noticed that a blaring BGM does kill a scene and it gives an element of respite to the audience, instead of cashing in on the atmospherics. But first Stree and now Bhediya are two perfect examples on how to construct a scene with all the horror elements with the use of silence.
The cinematography is excellent and it captures some of the most beautiful frames in the film. Given its budget, the VFX is brilliant and definitely does make for a wholesome Big Screen experience(given its budget). The editing is outstanding. Director Amar Kaushik has always been a great director from his Stree days but the heartening bit is that he has been ever improving. First Bala and now Bhediya, he has immensely worked on his skills and it shows so brilliantly onscreen. I would even further stick my neck out and say that this piece of direction was the best that I have seen for a Hindi film, simply in terms of the skills on display along with consistently keeping the drama engaging and captivating!
The performances are outstanding in the film. This was my first brush with Paalin Jabak and his work and he is phenomenal in the film. Through his character, there are other issues of the North East(based on calling them certain names or commenting on their appearance) is so well explored in certain scenes. I really wish to watch more of his work going forward. Deepak Dobriyal as Panda is has an impeccable sense of comic timing and he is outstanding here with his comedy as well as some of the scenes that require some acting depth.
Abhishek Banerjee is in a way the life of the film. He nails some of the one-liners(which resulted in me laughing hystetically) and keeps throwing in a plethora of expressions that showcases the range that the man has. He is brilliant and no amount of my words can justify what a great performance this was. Kriti Sanon as Anika looks pretty and does a fine job here despite a slightly underwritten role. Varun Dhawan as Bhaskar is outstanding here and it is also a timely reminder that actors like Varun need good directors to extract the right kind of performance. This was a stunning act particularly also because it did require a certain sense of physicality to his character. All in all, an impressive outing by everyone.
Bhediya is probably the best horror comedy of the year that comes with my highest recommendation. Available in a theatre near you.