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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Bhediya: A film about the lore and allure of werewolves and shape-shifters in India, directed by Varun Dhawan





As Bhediya gears up to release, indianexpress.com delved profound into why this mythical character has not tracked down many takers throughout the long term in India.


It is 12 PM and the full moon casts its shadow on a man sitting by the stream. As the wind blows softly, the man stands up, looking apparently in pain. And then in a flash, he develops two times his size — muscles potruding out of his clothes, his face currently elongated like a canine's, and the body covered in fur. The man is presently a wolf, or as legend tells us, a werewolf.


We have seen this scene play out in cinema on different occasions across the world, yet scarcely in India. Notwithstanding our affection for icchadhari naagins, shape-shifters have rarely appeared in Indian movies and shows. Presently, Varun Dhawan is all set to get into the skin of a werewolf in the about-to-release Bhediya; the Amar Kaushik directorial that calls itself 'India's most memorable creature comedy'. Varun plays a werewolf on a mission, while Kriti Sanon will essay the job of his sweetheart cum-doctor.


In a nation that's obsessed with mythological and mystical stories, it comes as a shock that very few tales about werewolves have been told previously. While on television we have had Pyaar Ki Yeh Ek Kahani and Fanaah (both however focussed majorly on vampires), and a rich tradition of vengeance seeking naagins, werewolves and other shape-shifters have been missing from Indian screens.


As addressed industry stalwarts to zero upon the cause, most mentioned the 'risk factor' being the great reason. Khaali Peeli director Maqbool Khan shared that there was when such shapeshifting creatures were either the villain or their weapon, however never the central character. "It isn't so much that Bollywood hasn't toyed with the idea previously. In the event that you go into the ghastliness zone, there was Jaani Dushman and Dharmendra's Katilon Ke Kaatil, which had a character called Reecha. They weren't exactly werewolves however had similar physical features with fur and fangs, almost 'daanav' like. The werewolves are only their refined version," he shared.


The filmmaker further added, "The lack of undertakings regarding these matters was definitely because mainstream actors wouldn't be quick to do this. The last task that I can think of was Mahesh Bhatt's Junoon where Rahul Roy shifted shape into a tiger. In any case, hats off to Varun Dhawan for choosing to do this. He has a more extensive reach and I think it will definitely start a recent fad in the industry."


Maqbool has also directed the initial episodes of Star One's Pyaar Kii Yeh Ek Kahaani, which was a take on The Dusk Saga. While Vivian Dsena played the vampire, Rithvik Dhanjani was the werewolf in the popular show. Its essayist Sonali Jaffer, who is also now a maker, shared that there are not many shape-shifting stories because of the scarcity of uniqueness factor. She shared that given the achievement their show garnered, very few Television programs attempted a similar story. Also, the relatability factor makes it a tightrope to walk on.


"These stories cannot cater to everyone. It has an alternate kind of storytelling. Also, I think that's the reason why makers have shied from it for such a long time. Notwithstanding, presently the audiences have explored such a lot of content that they are really accepting," she added.


Many in the industry also accept VFX holds an important part when one is telling a shapeshifting story. During the Bhediya promotions, Varun Dhawan too had addressed the same and claimed that the team has paid close attention to giving the audience the best visual experience.


"On television, it's difficult to work on the special consequences for a daily basis and subsequently most tasks become an end of the week offering. Notwithstanding, films have an advantage, and they have the freedom to check and improve assuming there's something amiss before the release. The spending plan in the two cases has to be colossal, and hence relatively few want to give their hands a shot it. Everyone wants a secure plan these days," an industry insider also shared.


Echoing their considerations, Maqbool Khan too agreed that such stories have to visually appeal. He shared that while because of the lack of financial plans, Network programs may at some point falter, audiences actually love watching them because it keeps them hooked. Referring to the progress of shows like Naagin, Brahmarakshas (a take on Jaani Dushman) and other supernatural dramas, the filmmaker said that in any event, when audiences call it cringy, they appreciate watching it.


"With regards to films, only one out of every odd story will work. However, on the off chance that it has great VFX and a tight content, individuals will get it," he shared. Lauding Bhediya's trailer, Khan said that the film seems to be a finished package, which is the need of great importance.


"Very much like Stree, there is a balance of loathsomeness, song, dance, and comedy. Each component is there and I'm certain a great deal of audiences are looking forward to watching it. It's so encouraging to see that individuals, especially mainstream actors are taking up the challenges. It takes a ton. Earlier, actors wouldn't actually gamble with changing their hairstyles however presently actors are going all out experimenting, and in any event, using prosthetics. It's so needed now given how Bollywood has seen a rut. I think we need to push the envelope in all aspects. I trust Bhediya in all actuality does really well and we return to entertaining audiences in the theater."


History of werewolves in the Indian context

Sundown gave the generation probably its undeniable story on vampires and werewolves. The main instance of a menacing wolf would be in the fairy tale "Minimal Red Riding Hood", where they seem to be a manipulative executioner. Indians, notwithstanding, have grown up listening to stories of wolves picking up kids from outside their homes during full moon evenings.


Several online reports recommend that in 1878, English officials had recorded in excess of 600 death because of wolf attack in a village in Uttar Pradesh. Years later, in 1996, many similar deaths happened in the same locality. Locals claimed that the executioners were half-man and half-wolf. the police officials never tracked down a substance in the claims.


While reporting the wrongdoing, New York Times, in its news story expressed, "A furor of tales has put the blame for the killings not on wolves but rather on werewolves, the half-man, half-wolf creatures that have stalked their way through legends for about as long as human social orders have existed."


As it should be, in Hindu folklore, Master Krishna created wolves from his own hair to convince individuals of Brij to migrate to Vrindavana. Given individuals were not sharp, he created these menacing creatures to scare them into moving into another camp, which was also designed in the shape of a half-moon.


Many other fables have the character of Yakshas, who are nearest to werewolves. The guardians of Kuber and his wealth were half-human and half-creature. Maqbool Khan accepts that while a ton of international societies have werewolf references, the 'bhediya' has always been part of Indian grandmother's bedtime stories. Calling werewolves a western concept, the filmmaker said, "We have all heard stories of wolves attacking individuals. There were such countless variants, one that I recollect is the Jharak, who made commotion while walking. Bhediya and wolves have always been part of our stories, the werewolves are only the a classy version of this legends. Indeed, even Betaal's canine looked like a bhediya."


Sonali Jaffer, on the other hand, feels that all shape-shifting creatures have evolved from Indian society stories. "It's wrong to say that they are westernized stories. I feel Naagin is a manifestation of our way of life and individuals. Most shapeshifting stories have got such a lot of progress because one can relate to the history behind it. And this is the reason when you are making such stories, keeping in consideration the Indian roots is important. You cannot have an unfamiliar reference while making it. There has to be a local connect, otherwise, it won't work."

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