People turning into werewolves is such a common plot device that the thought of seeing yet another version didn’t make me jump. I’m happy to say that most of “Bhediya,” in which the main character turns into an “icchha-dhaari” wolf, is a lot of fun.
And incredibly scenic: the film was shot in Arunachal Pradesh, a stunning Northeast state that has yet to be overrun by visitors. Bhaskar Sharma (Varun Dhawan) is on a mission to build a road that cuts right through a lush forest when he transforms into a werewolf, you know, the creature that bays at the full moon howls echoing through the valley.
Guddu (Abhishek Banerjee) and Jomin (Paalin Kabak), Bhaskar’s companions, perform the stunned-horrified-now-what-to-do routine while a local veterinarian (Kriti Sanon) injects suspicious injections into Bhaskar’s rear, a body part that lends itself to an endless string of juvenile jokes.
In fact, juvenalia reigns supreme pretty much throughout the film. A lot of the humor is scatological, with jokes about people sitting on the toilet, poop, and the sights and smells of these things. Janardan, who plays the hero’s best friend or sidekick, is a good clown, and he is so sure that we will laugh at his antics that we do.
Dhawan does a good job of matching the tone of the film; horror is pretty much ‘naam-ke-vaaste,’ comedy is what it is interested in, and it gets several opportunities for a detailed transformation, from human to werewolf, even if the creature swings between looking scarily real and one that is constructed-by-graphics.
The CGI dudes are certainly having a wonderful time, as evidenced by their back flexing, hair spitting, tail sprouting, and teeth sharpening. So is Dhawan, who uses his propensity to not take himself seriously to his advantage in the picture.
The whole point of “Bhediya” is, of course, to show Bhaskar and his friends how cruel they are, and there are many speeches about “prakriti” and “progress” and how important it is to protect forests and nature.
But the characters who say these lines don’t come off as preachy. Part of this is because a local guy (Deepak Dobriyal, almost unrecognizable in a shaggy wig) acts as a bridge between these misguided city guys and the people of the region who care about their environment.
The movie also sneaks in a few lessons about racism. Ignorant people from North India will make fun of “outsiders” at least once before they learn their lesson.
The movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to do with its only female character, even though she doesn’t have much of a storyline. When Sanon is introduced as a bumbling “jaanwar ka doctor,” we’re supposed to laugh at her, and it takes the script a long time to make up for that.
It also goes too far when it says that the locals are superstitious, saying “yahaan toh aise hi hota hai.” An “ojha” shows up to explain the werewolf myth, and the shaman-like way that he is pictured is so close to being a caricature that it is scary.
At 2.36 hours long, “Bhediya” starts to wear out its welcome during the long-drawn-out ending. But when things are going well, this fight in the jungle is a lot of fun.