'Bhediya' Review: Jungle Book Meets Wolverine in Film Held Together by Its Cast
'Bhediya', starring Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon, is directed by Amar Kaushik.
Bhediya, directed by Amar Kaushik, is the third installment of Dinesh Vijan’s horror universe; of horror comedies with a message.
After Stree and Roohi, Vijan now pulls focus to the age-old nature vs development debate, set in the town of Ziro (Lower Subansiri district) in Arunachal Pradesh.
Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan) moves to Ziro with his cousin JD (Abhishek Banerjee) for an office project and is joined by his friend Jomin (Paalin Kabak).
The project in question involves building a road in Ziro and Bhaskar proposes they construct the road through the forest – he sells this idea as the more cost effective option (read: the one that lines their pockets).
His proposal is met with opposition from Dr. Anika (Kriti Sanon), a local Raju (Deepak Dobriyal), and the tribal elders – all of them warn Bhaskar against destroying nature for the sake of his project.
Amidst all this, Bhaskar is attacked by a wolf which gives him werewolf-esque abilities (though, his powers more accurately match that of a Lycan).
In its messaging, Bhediya follows the Dinesh Vijan template – the ‘entity’ that the protagonists spent more than half the film battling or searching for isn’t the real evil.
Above all, the film deals with the idea of the ‘outsider’. Bhaskar wonders why a snake is ‘in their way’ while they drive through a forest. In the same way, he wonders why the tribal elders refuse to give his company access to their land even though they’ll be chopping down a forest they consider vital and sacred.
In Ziro, Bhaskar and JD are also ‘outsiders’. They treat people around them with an entitlement derived from…nothing. JD considers himself superior to Jomin because the former’s Hindi is more refined and often commits several racist microaggressions against the latter.
Thankfully, the film does address JD and Bhaskar’s behaviour, making a commentary on the racism residents of North-East India face (with a specific reference to how they were affected by the rampant xenophobia across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic).
Despite all its messaging, Bhediya is still a smorgasbord of tropes. There are several references in the film, many of which you might catch if you’re constantly online.
His transformation is reminiscent of Hugh Jackman’s in Wolverine (perhaps imitation is the strongest form of flattery) and there’s also a Breaking Bad dialogue thrown in the mix.
Bhediya boasts of a strong cast though. Varun Dhawan as an entitled-prick-turned-reluctant-werewolf is a delight to watch and his performance is bolstered by the presence of Banerjee and Kabak, a hilarious comic duo.
Even with the little Kriti Sanon is given to work with, she delivers an impressive performance that does justice to her character and Deepak Dobriyal’s comedic timing remains unmatched. All major characters also have an easy chemistry together that makes the film better.
Fitting segue: there’s the issue of the token female character. I can barely critique the female representation in the film without spoiling the movie for you because there is only one woman of substance in the entire film. Instead, let's discuss the ‘The World's Expert on Getting Killed’ trope. Bhediya is not a film that is teeming with logic but that still fails to explain why the film gets rid of a character who has been around for decades in the most embarrassing of ways.
In the attempt to give the self-proclaimed ‘not a hero’, a hero’s journey, logic is left on the sidelines with every character becoming dispensable once they’ve fulfilled their arc in the hero’s story.
How is Bhaskar’s lycan suddenly stronger than the forest’s protector? In a story that spent a while explaining the people’s relationship with their forest, how did nobody put up more of a fight when their protector was in danger?
To come to the topic that’s been on Bollywood’s mind recently, VFX. The visual effects for Bhediya are stunning. For a film that aims to put nature at its forefront, the visual effects help them achieve that. It is almost impossible to not be mesmerised by the opulence of trees, grass, dirt, and vines that the VFX studio MPC has created.
It’s not surprising of course, since this is the same studio responsible for the Academy award-winning film The Jungle Book, influences from which are evident in Bhediya including the nostalgia ridden ‘jungle jungle baat chali hai, pata chala hai’.
Jishu Bhattacharjee as the DOP does a commendable job and editor Sanyukta Kaza uses his well-shot scenes to their maximum potential to tell a story. The music by Sachin-Jigar with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya is catchy but for some might be an acquired taste.
When it comes to comedy, Bhediya treads the line of funny and disgusting, often stumbling on to either side (perhaps I am just not a fan of toilet humour).
Some of the jokes do land and maybe a film like Bhediya hopes to be entertaining if not revolutionary. On that mission, it succeeds. Bhediya, despite its flaws, clearly entertains.
Would the film have been better if they had truly focused on the idea of the forest and its mysterious protector being the actual heroes? Yes. Did it? No.
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