Bhediya Movie Review: Varun Dhawan-Kriti Sanon’s Film Gets Its Furry Kicks From Competent VFX, Scene-Stealing Abhishek Banerjee and the Funniest Himesh Reshammiya Joke (LatestLY Exclusive)

Bhediya Movie Review: Varun Dhawan-Kriti Sanon's Film Gets Its Furry Kicks From Competent VFX, Scene-Stealing Abhishek Banerjee and the Funniest Himesh Reshammiya Joke (LatestLY Exclusive)

Bhediya Movie Review: Amar Kaushik’s Bhediya is mainstream Bollywood’s respectable effort to at least attempt in being different. Bhediya may not be one of the industry’s better horror-comedies, I can’t even say it excels upon Kaushik’s earlier horror-comedy Stree. Yet Bhediya leaves its furry mark, be it in its themes, the VFX and the amazing camaraderie of its lead cast, especially Varun Dhawan and Abhishek Banerjee, the latter being an absolute scene-stealer here. Bhediya may have its struggles, but it also works quite well for its genre. Bhediya: Natasha Dalal Photographed With Varun Dhawan at the Screening of His Film.

Bhaskar (Varun Dhawan) is an ambitious young man with the gift of a silver tongue, working for a unscrupulous tycoon (Saurabh Shukla) who assigns him a costly highway project. The said project brings him and his daft cousin Janardhan (Abhishek Banerjee) to Arunachal Pradesh, where he rendezvous with his old friend Jomin (Paalin Kabak).

With such a name for a North-East Indian character, does Bhediya resist making jokes on Jomin’s name misnaming it with a rhyming Chinese dish? Nope. Thanks to Janardhan’s errr… undiplomatic nature, the ‘chowmein’ and ‘kung fu’ jibes keep coming, till Jomin, and through him, the movie decides to take a stance once and for all, and begins to school Janardhan and Bhaskar on the othering of our North-Eastern brethren.

Now you may ask what’s the problem here. Didn’t the makers point out that such jokes are bad and racist? Sure, they do, but it comes after a buildup of some very awkward comic scenes made on this racist expense, which the movie could have surely  avoided. It leaves a sour taste in what is an otherwise much decent and pretty enjoyable and even funny film that boasts of perhaps the greatest Himesh Reshammiya gag ever done on the big screen.

Anyway, returning to the plot, Bhaskar tempts the local administrators and politicians to his side with promise of money, since the planned highway cuts through the forests and would leave many of the locals without a home. Panda (Deepak Dobriyal), the local liaison officer, is not a fan of the idea, and he warns Bhaskar that playing with nature can never be good and that the local forests are protected by a mythical being called Vishanshu.

The words do ring true, when the very same night, Bhaskar is bitten on the backside by a wolf. While his friends get him treated for his injured from the local vet Dr Anika (Kriti Sanon), Bhaskar shows no signs of sufferings from his injury the next day. In fact, he experiences unusual physical and sensory changes, and suffers from blackouts during the night, which often results in someone from his nefarious project being heavily mauled by a creature or killed by the same. It takes time, but soon Bhaskar and his friends realise that he is turning into a bhediya, a werewolf, though Bhaskar believes that the so-called vishu is still out there.

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The first half of Bhediya is decent in its setup and is particularly engrossing in the scenes where Bhaskar gets attacked by the wolf and later, how he comes to terms with what’s going on with him. The humour, while funny at times, struggles somewhat to maintain that consistency, unlike in Stree, where it was more free-flowing. Though Abhishek Banerjee, apart from those unsavoury racist jibes, does good work with the one-liners given to him.

At times, here, I felt somewhat of a drag. Thanks to its trailer and the general idea of the premise, I know that Bhaskar will turn into a werewolf and was eagerly waiting for the film to get done with it away. John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London has already played around with the teasing wait to see its protagonist disturbingly transform into a man-eating wolf, so the idea ain’t that new. While that happens during the interval, there could have some slack cut around in between. The transformation itself is well done, though it made me more in awe of the fantastic manner Landis pulled off the same way with out any  CGI way back in 1981! Interestingly, while Bhediya doesn’t refer to this film, in what is a weak attempt to be meta, it has characters refer to Mahesh Bhatt’s Junoon that features a were-tiger and ripped of the John Landis movie, along with both the versions of Jaani Dushman.

There are also certain scenes where Bhediya fails to commit to what it intends to show. Like the scene where Bhaskar goes shirtless after his wolf bite and begins to appreciate his new physique. This would have worked far better with me as a viewer had I been privy of the fact that his body lacked the same stunning muscles earlier. Look back at how Sam Raimi pulled a similar trick with Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man to understand what I am trying to say here. There is a another scene – Bhediya‘s attempt to pull toilet humour, literally at that – where Janardhan wipes his face and Jomin’s with what is to be a towel that was used to wash someone’s bum – only the movie avoids the brown stuff there, so why was the gag even needed?

Kriti Sanon, fitted with a weird wig (that also spoiled the surprise around her character, at least for me) but looking cute otherwise, has little to do in these scenes.

Bhediya, however, redeemed for me in the second half, where the narrative gets stronger, the jokes felt funnier (also bringing the aforementioned Himesh joke), and the themes feel more cogent. Have to give kudos to the VFX team here for creating some really good creature effects that don’t feel outlandish or amateurish unlike a certain upcoming Rs 600 crore film that was laughed right out from its trailer. I am not saying there is a lack of flaws here – I still wish Kriti’s arc as Anika was fleshed better to make her involvement in the final act more errr… ‘involving’ and her equation with Bhaskar more emotional. The movie also faces a problem of having no strong antagonist, just some disposable hunters who are merely doing their jobs here. Imagine if the ship attack scene in Morbius is made into its climax where the hero disposes off nameless goons. Oh, wait, wrong example, that was a whole dumb movie! Bhediya Song Baaki Sab Theek: Varun Dhawan, Abhishek Banerjee and Paalin Kabak’s Friendship Is the Highlight of This Fun Track.

Still, there is a charm when Bhediya tries to be conscientious about nature conservation, when it argues about how development should not come at the cost of our ecology, but should be worked around it. Or in the coming-of-age journey of its flawed protagonist as someone who scoffs at nature, to him changing his tune when facing nature at its (artificial) beauty, to him and Nature being one. Definitely didn’t expect such nuances from a film that begins with racist jokes.

As for the performances, Varun and Abhishek run the show. Varun Dhawan gets a bad rap from some of the humour-less, no-brainer comedies he had done in the past. But he is an actor who has been very earnest, one who tries hard to balance mass with material (even if they often don’t land together in the same movie), and contrary to popular opinion, he does attempt at different stuff. Bhediya may not have Varun’s finest performance – that belongs, in my opinion, in October and the underrated Sui Dhaaga – but he does full justice to the role, be it with its physical demand, or in venting out his frustrations of not able to push his highway project ahead or that he may have eaten a human the previous night.

Being a enjoyable foil to him is Abhishek Banerjee, who is a riot from start to the end, and who could be the key to what is a bigger cinematic universe at work (watch out for the mid-credit scene that features two cameos). Deepak Dobriyal competes with Abhishek when it comes to stealing the show, playing the ‘outsider’ who is an ‘insider’.  Debutant Paalin Kabak, the third wheel in the main bromance, is pretty good.

Final Thoughts

Bhediya is no ground-breaking stuff, but it does a neat job when it comes to being an entertaining horror-comedy, with pretty good creature effects. It is funny, occasionally jump-scary and surprisingly poignant towards the finale, with enjoyable performances from its lead cast. A tighter editing in the first half could have done wonders, but Bhediya scores eventually in its better-paced and executed second half.

(The above story first appeared on Fresh Headline on Nov 25, 2022 09:44 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website freshheadline.com).