The Hindi film Bheed is now playing in cinemas across the UAE. It’s directed by Anubhav Sinha and stars Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Kapur, Bhumi Pednekar, Ashutosh Rana, Dia Mirza, Virendra Saxena, Kritika Kamra
Hindi film Bheed review
Caste and religion as they unspool in the Indian context, we understand, is director Anubhav Sinha’s pet concern. We saw that in his previous films like Mulk and Article 15. The latter was much talked about and criticized because it approached the caste dynamics in a village and the police force where an upper caste man comes to the rescue of the so-called lower caste people in a classic case of saviour syndrome.
Perhaps stung by the criticism, Anubhav Sinha in Bheed – which also deals with caste issues in the backdrop of the pandemic-driven lockdown and the subsequent trek back to their homes by the lakhs of nameless workers across the country – makes his protagonist cop hail from lower caste.
The problems are the same and continue to remain. It is just that this minor tweak may make the film more politically correct. But what is the point of changing the fine print when the bigger picture remains the same?
Bheed, without any preface, gets to the point. It takes off from one of the biggest footslogs of workers and their families back to their homes in the face of hurriedly announced lockdown three years back as Covid loomed large everywhere.
What transpired then was human agony in its rawest form. People could not find food or water and holed up in open spaces, with death a persistent threat. Set in the fictional place of Tejpur, the story unfolds at a border outside a city as people, who had trudged long distances braving enormous physical, mental and financial odds, are trying to get in but the police don’t allow them as a curfew lockdown is in place.
Among the cops is Surya Kumar Singh Tikas (Rajkummar Rao). As we said, he is from a lower caste, but he gets by the camouflage of being called Singh — a generic name that doesn’t betray caste origins. This in itself is telling of many things.
There are many characters on whom the film focuses. There’s a young woman who wants to get her alcoholic dad across on a cycle. There’s a high-strung watchman Balram Trivedi (Pankaj Kapur), who doesn’t hide his biases even in such times of extreme strife. Then there’s Surya’s senior in the police (Ashutosh Rana) understands the caste minutiae sharply. And a TV reporter (Kritika Kamra), the voice of armchair liberals, a rich woman (Dia Mirza) who enjoys privileges that help her cut corners rather felicitously. And finally, Renu Sharma (Bhumi Pednekar), the doctor with whom Surya is in love.
The survival tale of this gaggle and countless faceless workers is told in a rather grim way — the black-and-white screen presentation adds an extra layer of poignancy to the events. The film just holds a mirror to real sordid events as they unfolded three years back.
While the human tragedy is a drama in its own way, the narrative sometimes comes across more as a documentary and less as a film. It doesn’t help that the film detours, the love angle between Surya and Renu, doesn’t organically fit.
But what saves the film (from slipping into a dark docu territory) is the actors’ performances. Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi, as ever, ace their performances. Veterans Pankaj Kapur and Ashutosh Rana bring a rare understanding to their roles that have casteist overtones. There is nuance in their performance even though their characterisation as such doesn’t.
Anubha Sinha’s film, on the whole, is needed and belongs to the ‘lest we forget’ category. The writing team (Anubhav Sinha, Saumya Tiwari and Sonali Jain) does not allow the film to be politicized (as that would have brought trouble). The constraints of the director and his team can be appreciated. But the film ends up merely telling the tale that was already there.
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Date Created: 2023-04-24 21:51
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.