This Bhediya will give you a howling good time!

Bhediya story: A road construction contractor, Bhaskar, goes to Arunachal Pradesh to build a highway through the dense jungle of Ziro. Besides opposition from the tribals, his companions cousin JD, friend Jomin and he, have a bigger challenge. A series of unexpected deaths take place soon after Bhaskar is bitten by a wild animal. Is it a figment of someone’s imagination, or a werewolf folklore come true?

Bhediya review: Horror and comedy are, on their own, tough genres to pull off. Unless one has a tight grip on storytelling and cinematic treatment, a film in either category can fall flat. And this is where Bhediya comes up aces. Director Amar Kaushik, who helmed the horror-comedy Stree by the same banner, handles both genres skillfully in his latest outing and strikes a fine balance to deliver a movie that’s spine chilling in some instances, ribtickling in almost all, and leaves you with something to think about. Mythology surrounding werewolves have always provided great meat to filmmakers for their stories, and here, Amar Kaushik digs into the deep pockets of Arunachal Pradesh to tell a mysterious tale.

First and foremost, the most remarkable part about the movie is its visual impact. While cinematographer Jishnu Bhattacharjee has created the dark and enigmatic world of werewolves with the backdrop of the full moon in the midnight sky, jungles of Ziro and mountains splendidly, the vfx are outstanding. Monsters and creatures in films can often turn more spoofy than spooky because of shoddy makeup and effects. But not in Bhediya. The lead’s transformation from human to werewolf is convincing and terrifying. The film has many jumpscares and the background score only makes things scarier.

Varun is top-notch as the shape-shifting wolf. His act (a huge part of which was the physical transformation with ripping muscles and a perfectly sculpted body) will hopefully shift gears in his career. He gives this part his all, and it shows. Whether it’s the dramatic and high-energy scene where he transforms into a bhediya for the first time, to the hilarious scene when he struggles to slip into the werewolf’s skin the in the second half — he excels. Abhishek Banerjee as Janardan, aka JD, is on point and does not miss a beat with his comic timing. Even in intense scenes, his comedy punches land, adding a certain lightness throughout this story that mostly unfolds in the darkness of the night. He also has the funniest lines in the film. Paalin Kabak as Bhaskar’s Northeastern friend Jomin completes the bhediya pack and has outstanding chemistry with both the actors, especially Abhishek. Deepak Dobriyal, as Panda, also delivers a notable performance. Kriti Sanon’s character as the vet, Dr Anika, could have been better fleshed out. But she adds her bit to the drama and comedy.

The narrative, very smartly, includes the mention of several movies that continue to remain in public memory for many reasons, including Jaani Dushman, Rahul Roy-starrer Junoon, the 90s animation show Jungle Book and its title track ‘Chaddi pehenke phool khila hai,’ which will have you guffawing, and even Shehnaz Gill’s ‘Toh main kya karu, marr jaun?’ There are some more such howlarious surprises, but let’s not give them away here all at once. Kudos to the writer Niren Bhatt for that.

The movie’s first half is extemely gripping. It perfectly sets the tone for what will unfold soon and also brings in a sense of intrigue. However, the second half seems stretched and loses momentum in parts. It could do with a tighter edit. While all the songs are catchy and pleasant to the ears, dropping a song or two would have tightened the narrative. Also, at times it seems the film is trying to achieve a bit much. While it focuses on conservation and man-animal conflict, a subject that needs much dwelling upon, alongside it briefly touches upon the stereotyping of the people of Northeast, and how they have to often live with the ‘outsider’ label.

On another level, the film reminds us of our animal instincts and how there could be a bhediya in all of us. But how we wish to unleash it, for better or worse, is up to us. Beauty and the beast are all in us, we only have to look deep within. The film leaves you with an experience and a thought, maybe deeper than the forests of Ziro. So, set out and watch this one. For a howling good time, this one’s worth a hike to the theatres. There’s also a delightful surprise at the end. The film that releases in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu is best viewed in 3D.

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