I never took Amar Kaushik’s Bhediya too seriously. I was intrigued by the trailer, and given Kaushik’s last two films (Stree and Bala) I thought this is something that will be interesting, if nothing. But I lost the little interest I had in this film by intermission, when we see Varun Dhawan’s icchadhari bhediya eating pigs but not cows. I get the reason behind this “diet choice” but do these reasons matter in a mythology? I think not.
Set in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhediya is a film about a Delhi based contractor who has come to this forgotten land to construct a road through the forest. He calls it development for the people of Ziro, but they know better. A couple of days into his trip, Varun Dhawan’s Bhaskar is bit by a wolf, and somehow he becomes one himself. The rest of the film if him dealing with this mythological phenomena, while commenting on social issues.
But the problem with Bhediya is that it only comments. It just tells us, in our faces, “hey, this is an issue, you deal with it.” Solution isn’t the cause for this film. The causes that the film does comment on are corporate greed and the gaze of Indians for the North-East. But all of it remains just at the surface. The biggest joke a North Indian character makes about a North-East Indian character is that he should know kung-fu, or that “yeh log har cheez mein bamboo daalte hain”. In Abhishek Banerjee’s introduction scene, we see him memorising something for his upcoming IAS exams, and in the next scene, he cannot tell what the capital of Arunachal Pradesh is. Banerjee is a scene stealer in Bhediya. He plays an IAS aspirant, but we know he doesn’t have the brains to be that. The script and the hero also never really allow him to be that. He has excellent comic timing, but most of his dialogues are derogatory. And I, in ways more than one, mean it as a compliment.
Let me explain. Every single time Janardan (Banerjee) makes a joke about the North-East, the audience laughs with him. If you are a reader of situations, you’ll notice the normalisation of this very laughter. There’s nothing funny about calling out someone for listening to Korean songs. But as an audience, you laugh with him, not realising that you too are a large part of this discrimination. Yes, the writing of his jokes could’ve been better, newer. But even with the old jokes, we’re all laughing without really realising what it is that we’re laughing at. The treatment of the writing of the other social issue (corporate greed) is the same, as is the treatment of women. It’s normal for a leading lady like Kriti Sanon to have a 7-10 minutes role, isn’t it?
I really appreciate Varun Dhawan pushing himself over and over again to be a part of films that disassociate himself from being a ‘commercial’ actor. In his previous non-commercial films, Badlapur and October, we’ve seen him perform and how! But now that I think of it, those performances were taken out from him by Sriram Raghavan and Shoojit Sircar. Because in Bhediya, even though Varun Dhawan really tries, his performance ends at trying. You see in limitations when the script falters. There are no particular scenes in which he stands out. Banerjee is always a cut above him. I was more excited to see another actor appear at the end of the film to announce the sequel of one of his films than I was ever about Dhawan throughout. I really do like him as an actor, and I tried to immerse myself in Bhaskar’s story, but I just couldn’t.
Even with the best VFX I have seen in recent times, Bhediya doesn’t make the cut for me. Beneath the fur and flesh, this film is a lot what it could’ve been, but the commercialisation of this film is where it falters the most. Imagine shooting for a film in the stunning landscapes of Arunachal Pradesh and using CGI and placing artificial flowers all around.
While watching Bhediya it’s almost difficult to not draw parallels between this film and Amit Masurkar’s fascinating Sherni starring Vidya Balan. A dialogue in Sherni goes, “tiger hai toh jungle hai, jungle hai, toh baarish hai, aur baarish hai toh dharti hai,” explaining how coexistence is the only way ahead for humans. Kaushik translates that into “prakrati hai toh pragati hai,” but fails to translate the conversation that Sherni had tried to give way to. Years later we will be discussing Sherni, the impact it leaves behind but Bhediya will go down in history as a forgotten film, a lost cause.
Bhediya, starring Varun Dhawan, Abhishek Banerjee, Deepak Dobriyal, Paalin Kabak and Kriti Sanon (in a special appearance) is now playing in theatres near you.
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