Directed by Amar Kaushik and written by Niren Bhatt, “Bhediya” opens with a young Anika’s father telling her the story of the titular creature before being attacked and killed by it. The narrative then cuts to the present day, where Bhaskar, a small-time contractor, has secured a project from his boss, Bagga, where he’ll make a highway through Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh. He’s assisted by his cousin brother and IAS aspirant, Janardhan and locals Jomin and Panda. After getting a surface-level idea of where the officials in charge of the construction (Sr. Engineer Neli, the Forest Officer, Local Head Prakash, and more) stand, Bhaskar moves ahead with the deforestation. But one night, he gets attacked by a red-eyed wolf, which then causes him to turn into a werewolf. This not only jeopardizes him and his friends but also the project as the townsfolk see the emergence of the “vishanu” (virus) as a bad omen.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Using A Werewolf’s Abilities To Comment On Forest And Wildlife Conservation
After getting bitten by a werewolf and getting some shifty medical treatment from veterinarian Anika, Bhaskar wakes up the next day smelling more, hearing more, and catching flies with his bare hands. This allows him to smell a dead rabbit from miles away and hear Neli’s ulterior motives for the project. His diet goes from fully vegan to meat-based (which includes human meat as well). It grants him healing powers, superhuman strength, the ability to move fast, understand what animals are saying, and the ability to transform into an actual wolf (or werewolf). But that means he ends up wounding Prakash, attacking Jomin and Panda, and killing Neli. As Prakash’s wounds start to heal, thereby indicating that he is gaining werewolf powers, the local administration cremates his body to avoid public panic. However, since Neli’s death is recorded on camera, showing a wolf wearing Bhaskar’s boxers, word gets out that a man-eater is on the prowl. That, in turn, causes the inevitable: the stalling of the highway construction project.
For ages, cinema has portrayed the werewolf for the sake of horror only or used it to show off some spectacular make-up, special effects, and visual effects. On rare occasions, films have used the werewolf to hint at a sense of othering, which “Bhediya” does too. But Kaushik and Bhatt take the metaphor to the next level by associating the werewolf’s inability to tolerate loud sounds and smell almost everything with the noise and stench of industrialization. It is such a simple concept, and yet this is probably the first time it has been pulled off so spectacularly. Bhaskar is the aggressor, so making him empathetic towards the environment and the animals who are going to suffer from the construction of the highway through his lycanthropic transformation is genius. Additionally, the werewolf spirit that’s inside Bhaskar’s body or mind uses Bhaskar’s people-pleasing skills to pinpoint the officials who are anti-environmental and then kills them at night as the wolf. In doing so, the conqueror becomes the protector because, realistically speaking, unless the oppressor understands what and who they are oppressing, the oppression isn’t going to stop.
The Complexities Of Development, Politics, And Identity In Ziro
“Bhediya” doesn’t reduce the outsiders versus locals narrative to its bare minimum by putting Bhaskar and Janardhan on one side (because they’re from Delhi) and everyone in Ziro on the other (because they are the locals). We see that there’s some animosity between Jomin and Panda because the former was born and brought up in Ziro, while the latter was born in Nainital and has been living in Ziro longer than Jomin. Panda and Jomin’s enmity is also based on development versus forest preservation. Jomin thinks the only way to counter the discrimination Arunachalis face from every other state is through development. But Panda thinks that the road to anti-discrimination sentiments can’t be at the cost of a forest (which is further echoed by Anika as well as Janardhan). When Bhaskar and company meet the elders of the town, they face immediate and low-key violent rejection of their proposal of deforestation and destruction of houses to make way for the highway. They face a lot less pushback from the youngsters as Bhaskar spins tall tales about how the highway is going to lead to the construction of cafes, malls, MNCs, etc., which in turn prompts the elders to change sides. After all that, and with the help of Jomin, the film critiques North Indians for popularizing discriminatory jokes and imposing Hindi on anyone whose mother tongue isn’t Hindi.
Yes, it’s definitely complicated. But Kaushik, Bhatt, and the rest of the team do a damn good job of unpacking it all. They empathize with the new generation’s eagerness to modernize themselves. They also empathize with the older generation’s need to prioritize their lifestyle and their ecology over everything else. Then they begin to find a way that appeases both without harming anyone. The local versus migrant issue is mostly resolved when Panda says that those who can feel the pain of the people are truer to their land than those who are there by birth but don’t feel for it. This point is furthered by Anika’s whole existence (as she’s the wolf who has been protecting the land for over 100 years despite being a migrant) and Bhaskar’s evocation of a certain politician (who claims to be the most Indian out of all Indians) to sell a future that doesn’t yet exist. The criticism of discrimination is quite unsubtle as Jomin points out how Janardhan keeps calling him “Chinese,” “Japanese,” and “Korean” because of his physical features and considers him “less Indian” because of his diet and mastery of Hindi. And this level of bashing of discrimination is very necessary and welcome. The aversion to bowing down to North Indian demands is also evident in the lack of subtitling of the elders’ speeches. Panda usually acts as the translator, thereby emphasizing the need to learn the language instead of having an easy way out.
‘Bhediya’ Ending Explained: What Does Bhaskar’s Eventual Transformation Signify?
After nearly killing Jomin and Janardhan, Bhaskar realizes that he needs to get rid of the werewolf spirit so that he can go back home. Anika does show him how beautiful Ziro is by taking him to her favorite place, and Bhaskar does say that he wishes to become an animal and stay there forever. But his need to “get cured” prompts him to get bitten by the werewolf (Anika) that originally bit him, and that too on a new moon night. That plan nearly works. However, the hunters attack Anika and later entrap her with the intention of killing her in full public view. Bhaskar realizes that he has to voluntarily turn into a werewolf and save Anika. Janardhan and Jomin try the worst methods imaginable to get him to transform. However, Panda explains that Bhaskar needs to feel the life and energy coursing through the forest because the same energy also resides in him. He does it gloriously and fights off the hunters. The old “ojha” frees Anika and subsequently bows down to them as if to thank them for defeating the aggressors. The duo then travels back to Anika’s favorite place, where she succumbs to her injuries. Bhaskar’s eyes turn red, just like Anika’s did when she turned into a wolf, and he mourns her loss with his signature howl.
Before getting into the meaning of it all, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the VFX, SFX, CGI, editing, cinematography, direction, writing, and acting during the entirety of this third act. I can’t even imagine the kind of courage it must’ve taken to convince the producers that the concluding moments of the film are going to feature two entirely (photorealistic) CGI wolves emoting to each other. And it’s one thing to pitch it and a completely different thing to execute it. So, a big round of applause to the team of “Bhediya” for such a brilliant and unique third act. The message behind it is quite simple, actually. Bhaskar represents every North Indian who looks down upon every human being that doesn’t belong to his community. He is cynical and money minded. He obviously doesn’t care about the environment or animals. So, his conversion (also signified by his costume as he goes from a jacket with animal fur on it to something more appropriate) into a representative of nature is as important as giving the proverbial microphone to someone who has always been sensible about the same. That’s the metaphorical reading, though. The literal reading is that, after unintentionally turning Bhaskar into a werewolf, Anika was looking to appoint him as the protector of Ziro so that she could move on. I also think she might have been looking for a romantic partner. But since she was on the brink of dying, she gave Bhaskar his role and welcomed death. That also answers how Anika became the werewolf protector. The werewolf from the opening probably killed Anika’s father because he was clearly a hunter. However, after sensing Anika’s empathy for nature, it gave her the power to preserve and protect the forests.
‘Bhediya’ Mid-Credits Explained: So, Janardhan Was Janna From ‘Stree’ All This Time?
If you walked out as soon as the credits started to roll, well, then you missed out on a very interesting mid-credits scene. There’s a time jump of six months. We see that Bhaskar and his team have planned to not make the highway through the forests of Ziro but around them. He had apparently gone all the way to Delhi to eat Bagga because he was the one in charge of all the anti-environment construction projects. He and Janardhan have constructed or repurposed a tin shed/hut behind their residence in Ziro to act as Bhaskar’s kennel when he turns into a werewolf. One night when Janardhan is helping Bhaskar settle in, the duo hears someone knocking at the door. Janardhan opens it to find his old friends Vicky and Bittu waiting to be invited in. They say that they’ve been searching for Janardhan for a long time because he’s the one who can recapture “Stree.” But before Janardhan can explain why he can’t join them on their supernatural quest, the sounds of Bhaskar’s transformation beckon Vicky and Bittu to the hut. Janardhan does try to stop them from going in. When they enter, they see Bhaskar in his werewolf form. Janardhan tries to calm him down by saying they are his friends. However, Bhaskar lunges at them, probably with the intention of killing at least one of them.
This confirms that “Bhediya” exists in the same cinematic universe as “Stree,” which is the 2018 movie also directed by Amar Kaushik. In that film, the town of Chanderi was haunted by the spirit of an angry woman who stalked men and abducted them. Janardhan (who went by his nickname Jana in that film) was one of the abductees. He did come back after Vicky and the “Girl With No Name” tackled the spirit. But he suffered from occasional violent fits of rage. In order to remove her hold on him, Vicky pulled off a pretty complicated task that involved luring the spirit and then cutting off her braids. That did help Janardhan with his fits. However, his mother apparently kept him at a distance from Chanderi by sending him away to Bhaskar to study for the IAS exams. The conclusion of “Stree” showed the “Girl With No Name” integrating the braids of the spirit with her own, thereby probably becoming as powerful as her. A spirit did return to Chanderi to see a signboard seeking her protection. And it’s quite possible she has disappeared, leaving the town vulnerable to some other supernatural entity. This is why Vicky and Bittu need Janardhan to return home and search for the “Stree.” Producer Dinesh Vijan has said that “Stree,” “Roohi,” “Bhediya,” and the planned prequel, “Munjha,” all exist in the same universe. So, if you like these films so far, their eventual crossover is something to look forward to.
“Bhediya” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Amar Kaushik.