Out on Netflix, Bheed doesn't know how to connect intention with execution | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Out on Netflix, Bheed doesn't know how to connect the dots between intention and execution

May 29, 2023 02:49 PM IST

Out now on Netflix, Anubhav Sinha's Bheed suffers from a heavy-handedness that doesn't quite match the energy and disorder of the mass-migration crisis.

Anubhav Sinha's Bheed, now out on Netflix, revisits the horrors of the early months of the pandemic, when India went into lockdown. It was a time marked with chaos and upheaval, fear and distress. It also saw an unprecedented rise in mass-migration of labourers following the first few months of the lockdown. Bheed insists on focusing on the crisis, interweaving multiple threads to carve a fictional tale. (Also read: Citadel wants us to believe it is important, but suffers from the worst kind of cultural amnesia)

Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Pankaj Kapur and Dia Mirza form the ensemble cast of Bheed, now out on Netflix.
Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Pankaj Kapur and Dia Mirza form the ensemble cast of Bheed, now out on Netflix.

Fictional microcosm of the situation

Yet, as much as Bheed foregrounds itself on the virtue of its courage and determination to understand this tragedy, there are fault lines of its own that are not avoidable. Bheed is somehow unkind to its own understanding of what the circumstances were at that point of time, serving a microcosm of the situation but also interlinking several characters into the narrative. This contrast, which is hammered into the narrative by Anubhav and co-writers Saumya Tiwari and Sonali Jain, diffuses the film's impact.

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The multiple storylines in Bheed

There are multiple storylines- one with Rajkummar Rao's cop Surya Kumar Singh and his girlfriend Renu Sharma (Bhumi Pednekar); another with Pankaj Kapur's anxious Trivedi who is stuck with a bus full of security guards and their families; another with a news reporter Vidhi (Kritika Kamra) who is inclined to cover the situation. Then there are smaller supporting characters - the one with Dia Mirza's privileged, anxious mother stuck in her car who wants to get her daughter from hostel (one that feels vehemently underwritten), contrasted with the arc of a destitute young girl who is determined to find a way out with her alcoholic father on the cycle.

There's a certain restlessness with Bheed, that wants to amalgamate all these characters and their choices into the narrative pastiche. As much as Bheed wants its viewers to stay inside its crisis, it suffers from a heavy-handedness that doesn't quite match the energy and disorder of the chaos. It seems as if Sinha didn't want to leave out any conflict out of the margin- with layers of caste, class and religion thrown into the investigation. The screenplay feels hurried and burdensome to a point when it begins to feel increasingly staged and tonally baffling. The scene where Vidhi requests Surya for an interview about the 'Muslim bus' stranded on the road is key to understand the position of Bheed-- he asks if that's the only story she sees, and then goes on to elaborate on the unfairness of showing only one angle of the crisis. There's no denial intended. But the interest lies in equalizing the several folds of injustice here.

Needed a clearer perspective

An early scene with Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar where they make out feels stretched and conspicuously out of place- only to flesh out how Surya is a thinker, one who is struggling to do as he is told. Another scene taking place inside the vacant mall where Trivedi and Surya have a face-off feels forced and infuriatingly overlong- and the succeeding scenes where he speeds off is also overdone to a point where it feels like Bheed doesn't know how to navigate these stories together into one line. It suggests there is no such way to do so. One must include everything or nothing. Bheed prides itself with this charged sense of watchfulness, pitting its characters with themselves, fighting for space in a film that doesn't know how to navigate it.

Is Bheed important as a film? Yes. Is Bheed as good as it is important? The answer is no. Bheed is the classic case of a film where the intention doesn't match with the execution. For a film that attempts to look back at the not-so-far-ago tragedy brought upon the migrant workers, it needed a clear, more fleshed-out set of characters to revaluate the uncomfortable truth. Most importantly, it needed a sufficient amount of perspective. Not a bundle of them pushed into one. The virtue signaling gets tiring after a point. One wonders how much more Bheed could have worked in an organic fashion if it had just focused on one of the smaller characters- perhaps the one with the young girl and her alcoholic father. Most certainly more than what meets the eye with Surya and his sense of righteousness claiming the multidimensional perspective.

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