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Bhediya movie review: This Varun Dhawan-Kriti Sanon rumble in the jungle is quite the romp

Bhediya movie cast: Varun Dhawan, Abhishek Banerjee, Paalin Kabak, Deepak Dobriyal, Kriti Sanon
Bhediya Film Director: Amar Kaushik
Bhediya Film Rating: 3 stars

People becoming werewolves is such a well-known trope that the thought of seeing yet another version didn’t faze me: I’m glad a lot of ‘Bhediya‘, in which a main character turns into an ‘icchha-dhaari’ wolf, is fun.

And that’s also a lot of fun: the film was shot in Arunachal Pradesh, the beautiful northeastern state that has not yet been trampled by tourists. On a mission to build a road that cuts through a lush forest, Bhaskar Sharma (Varun Dhawan) finds himself turning into a werewolf, you know, the creature that barks at the full moon, howling across the valley. Bhaskar’s companions, Guddu (Abhishek Banerjee) and Jomin (Paalin Kabak) do the stunned-shocked-now-what-to-do number even as a local vet (Criti Sanon) shoves suspicious injections into Bhaskar’s behind, a body part that indulges in an endless series of youthful pranks.

In fact, juvenalia pretty much rules the entire movie. Much of the humor follows the scatological route, literally finding its glee in people sitting on the pot, feces, and the sight and smells thereof. Guddu, who plays the hero’s BFF/sidekick, clowns well, and so determined is he that we’ll laugh at his antics, that we succumb.

Dhawan fits the tone of the movie well – the horror is kind of ‘naam-ke-vaaste’, comedy is what it’s interested in – and gets several opportunities for a detailed turnover, from human to werewolf, even if the creature swings back and forth between looking terrifyingly real and one made up of images. Bending the back, blowing out hair, sprouting tail, grinding teeth – the CGI guys are clearly having a good time. So does Dhawan, who uses his ability to not take himself seriously, which works to the film’s advantage.

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Of course, the whole point of ‘Bhediya’ is to show Bhaskar and his friends the error of their callous ways, and we get several underlined speeches about ‘prakriti’ and ‘progress’, and the importance of preserving forests and wildlife. But the characters who utter these lines manage not to sound preachy, and part of it has to do with a local dude (Deepak Dobriyal, almost unrecognizable in a shaggy wig) who acts as a bridge between these misguided town boys and the people in the region that care for their environment. The film also shows some lectures on racism: ignorant people from northern India call a local chowmein at least once and make fun of “outsiders” before learning their lesson.

The movie falters by never quite figuring out what he wants to do with his lone female character, even in her relatively meager arc: when Sanon is introduced, as a bumbling ‘jaanwar ka-doctor’, we’re encouraged to make fun of her, and the script takes its own sweet time to rectify that initial reaction. It is also going too far to call the locals superstitious by saying ‘yahaan toh aise hi hota hai’: an ‘ojha’ appears to explain the myth of the werewolf, and the shamanic image is so close to caricature.

Then again, the movie pulls back, right on time, with a deliberately potty line or two, and the characters stumble around like silly idiots on a few snappy numbers. This is where the film is most confident, and this is where director Amar Kaushik is most confident, given that he has given us similar characters in his earlier ‘Stree’ and ‘Bala’. And given that these guys are mostly on screen, the biggest foolish idiocy that’s run with certainty is pretty much what we get. A few touching moments, shared between Sanon and Dhawan, break up the ha-ha-hee-hee, and add a bit of depth. But the movie is so determined not to get “serious,” that those moments come and go that make you wish there were more.

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Clocking in at 2:36, ‘Bhediya’ begins to wear out its welcome around its elongated climax. But when things go right, this rumble in the jungle is quite a procession.

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