Bollywood superstar Varun Dhawan has taken on a never-seen-before avatar, a werewolf. Yes, the 35-year-old actor, who is celebrating 10 years in the industry this year, transforms into the four-legged beast in his latest horror-comedy Bhediya, out in UAE cinemas on November 24.
The film, directed by Amar Kaushik (Stree), and backed by Dinesh Vijan, also stars Kriti Sanon in the lead role.
The last time we recall a Bollywood character turning into a four-legged creature, quite literally, was back in 1992 in the film Junoon. Rahul Roy's Vikram transforms into a tiger during full moon nights, and gains superhuman strength. He hunts, and hunts, until he's eventually killed, bringing the film to an end.
Renowned director S.S. Rajamouli also gave us Makkhi (originally Eega), a 2012 film which sees Nani taking on the form of a fly after he's killed by a jealous Sudeep, who lusts over Nani's onscreen love Bindhu.
Bhediya, meanwhile, is set in the wildlands of Arunachal Pradesh, India, and follows the story of Bhaskar (Varun), who transforms into a werewolf every full moon night after he is bitten by a mythical wolf. Anika, played by Kriti, is a local veterinarian, who's tasked with treating Bhaskar's mysterious ailment. The two, joined by the characters of Deepak Dobriyal and Abhishek Banerjee, take the audience on a thrilling, and horror-filled journey with loads of comic elements.
The film's main appeal, according to Dinesh, is that it doesn't have a "reference point."
"It is new," he said when we caught up with him in Dubai during Bhediya's promotional tour last week. He was joined by Varun and Kriti. "There isn't a film like this in India, the wolf that we have built, filled with comedy, has not come anywhere. So I think its most interesting selling point is how unique it is."
Shooting for Bhediya was a memorable experience for the cast. Some of the shooting took place during Holi, the Indian festival of colours, and Varun and others would go to everyone's rooms and dump colours and water on them. That was Varun's first-ever Holi experience with a film's cast.
For Varun, however, that one thing he will remember the most was when he saw the film's wolf for the first time. "While shooting for the film, there was no real wolf near us," he said. "And then to see this creature, in all its glory, beautifully done with the sunlight falling on it, was the best moment."
Kriti, on the other hand, says it felt very "liberating" to shoot in Arunachal Pradesh. "We had a great time," she said. "I remember the night I landed there for the first time, we were partying and it was a good vibe."
Dinesh hints that a pre-interval three-minute sequence is the film's most memorable piece for him. "I think that for the next, at least, 5-10 years, it would be my go to piece," he said. "We've done something very special..."
Bhediya brings back Varun's bearded look, which is similar to his Badlapur and Jugjugg Jeeyo looks. This time, though, he's gone the extra mile with his physicality; chiselled abs and body hair that provides the perfect get-up for a man who turns into a werewolf.
"It has been special," says Varun of his character preparation. "It has been important to put in all this work in your craft. But more than anything, it is just the essence of the film, the kind of execution and direction that the director has done. I just surrendered myself - from the look, to the walk and the talk..."
It will be the second time Varun and Kriti will star together, their first dating back to 2015's Dilwale. "It's electrifying," says Varun. "What I am excited about is that people are so hyped about this pair, more than we thought they would be."
"If this is a thing, then we are going to make a big thing out of it," Varun chuckles, then adds, "We'll be doing a lot more movies."
It wouldn't be surprising to see #VaRiti (that's what the duo is called by fans) in a sequel or a film in the same universe as Bhediya.
Bhediya also features a special appearance by a popular character. Shraddha Kapoor, who played the titular role in 2018's Stree, is slated to mark an appearance in the comedy-thriller. This could possibly result in the creation of a film universe.
But Bhediya is the "gateway," says Dinesh, "it has to work to go into that universe."
What followed was some banter between the three as Varun demanded credit for the whole 'horror-universe' idea. "I want you to give me credit," Varun told Dinesh. "When you were thinking that we should join Stree and this (Bhediya) together, I encouraged you."
A jolly Varun promised a great watching experience for everyone in the UAE where Bhediya is distributed by FunAsia Films. "You all have always given me love, whether it was for Dishoom, Dilwale, or Judwaa. This is the one which I feel everyone in the UAE will love and enjoy."
Kriti added, "Bhediya is a very entertaining film, and it going to be in 3D. It is something that can be watched with all age groups, from kids to youngsters and adults, everyone can have a great time."
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