Much like Anubhav Sinha’s previous film ‘Anek’, 'Bheed' also got an important story to tell but suffers due to the muddled treatment.
Starting from 2018’s Mulk (Region or Country), Anubhav Sinha has repeatedly chosen issues that are important to society.
In Mulk, he successfully addressed the prejudices that Muslims are facing in our society, through the character of a respected Muslim patriarch played by the late Rishi Kapoor.
In Article 15 (2019), the topic was the horrors of caste discrimination. Ayushmann Khurrana played Ayan Ranjan, a police officer from society’s upper crust. He had no idea about the various caste divisions.
Article 15 was followed by an equally powerful Thappad (Slap) in 2020 which looked at the consequences of a slap by the husband in a momentary fit of anger.
Thappad made a powerful statement on how it isn’t okay for a husband to slap his wife.
All the above-mentioned films positioned Anubhav Sinha as a director with a strong progressive voice.
However, the director saw a downfall with Anek where he focused his lens on the strained relationship between the government and the separatist groups in the North East.
Despite the powerful subject, he floundered big time. Unfortunately, the same has happened with his latest – Bheed (Crowd).
There are passages in the film that keep the audiences completely hooked particularly the ones featuring Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Kapoor. But the film tries to address too many things at the same time. As a result, it never comes across as a comprehensive whole.
Bheed begins with the shocking scene of the real-life incident of 16 migrant workers who were run over by a train. This sets the mood for the drama that follows. The film has been shot in black and white by cinematographer Soumik Mukherjee.
After the horrific death scene, we move to Surya Kumar Singh Tikas (Rajkummar Rao). Surya, a young cop, is appointed as in in-charge of a check-post at one of the state borders. This check-post has been closed due to Covid.
Surya’s girlfriend is an upper-class girl Renu Sharma (Bhumi Pednekar). She is a doctor who treats patients who are stranded at the check-post.
Aditya Shrivastava plays Surya’s subordinate who doesn’t like the latter much but has no other option other than to take orders from him.
On the other side of the barricade, you have the characters played by Dia Mirza and Pankaj Kapoor, among others.
Dia Mirza comes from a privileged class. She is a desperate mother who wants to cross the border to take her daughter back home. Her need is such that she doesn’t mind offering money to the in-charge officer.
Pankaj Kapoor plays watchman Balram Trivedi who also wants to return home from the city, much like his fellow friends and workers.
They arrive at the Tejpur border which is 1200 km from Delhi. However, the border has been sealed now.
There is also a young girl carrying her alcoholic father on a bicycle. Amidst all this, Kritika Kamra plays a TV journalist named Vidhi Tripati. She is an idealistic journalist with a lot of passion.
Revealing anything more wouldn’t be right as this is a story that has many layers to it.
Bookings now open to witness the invisible story and one man’s courage to stand for humanity.
Get your tickets now for #Bheed, releasing in cinemas this Friday. @anubhavsinha @RajkummarRao #PankajKapur@bhumipednekar@virendrasaxena@deespeak @ranaashutosh10#AdityaSrivastava pic.twitter.com/N9IXF9JuIy
— Kritika Kamra (@Kritika_Kamra) March 23, 2023
Before getting into the shortcomings, it is necessary to highlight what works well for the movie.
It is successful in highlighting the plight of migrant workers. The scenes of families walking barefoot for miles, hungry kids crying for food and the inability of the mothers leaves a lump in your throat.
There are several other issues that the director tackles; chief among them is the issue of caste through Rajkummar Rao’s Surya Kumar Singh Tikas.
Surya is someone who hides his caste under the surname Singh because it is something that his father had done as well.
Surya Kumar feels happy to be the in-charge. But, at the same time, there is also a deep insecurity about his caste identity amidst the Sharmas and Tridevis.
Anubhav Sinha does a good job of fleshing out this character. Once again, Rajkummar Rao proves his versatility with his exceptional performance.
He is particularly good in a scene when he expresses his anguish and decides that he also wants to be a hero and not remain as part of the crowd (Bheed).
Another track worth mentioning in Bheed is that of Pankaj Kapoor’s Balram Trivedi. Though the character of Balram, Anubhav Sinha exposes the prejudices related to Muslims.
There is an important scene when Balram doesn’t allow his hungry companions to eat the food served by a Muslim man.
Balram is someone who is filled with bigotry. But fortunately, the character is not one-dimensional.
Pankaj Kapoor is a vastly experienced actor who has given many terrific performances. Here too, he packs a punch whenever he is on screen. His confrontation scenes with Rajkummar Rao deserve a particular mention.
When borders of disparity divide, the song of humanity becomes the #Bheed‘s uniting force.
— bhumi pednekar (@bhumipednekar) March 21, 2023
There are many issues that Anubhav Sinha tackles through Bheed. The intentions are worth applauding but the film tries to address/ highlight too many things at the same time. As a result, it feels cluttered.
The love track, for example, doesn’t make any sense. It feels more suited for a romantic drama than an issue-based film like this. It would have been far better if Surya and Renu Sharma were portrayed as strangers who meet in this difficult period.
There is also a forcefully inserted intimate scene between the duo. The conversations between Surya and Renu mostly don’t align with the genre of Bheed.
Bhumi is her usual feisty self but nothing is outstanding about her performance.
Kritika Kamra as an honest journalist has an impressive beginning. But, after a point, it is clear that the director has no idea about where to take the character.
The paradigm shift of journalism in those times is hardly touched upon.
Dia Mirza gets the most baked character in the ensemble. Her desperation to reach her daughter is painted in a rather insensitive manner.
A more nuanced characterisation was needed. Still, Dia does the best that she can do with this one-dimensional character.
Soumik Chatterjee’s black-and-white cinematography takes some time to get used to but it is an interesting experiment. There is no scope for songs in a film like Bheed but the composition of “Herali Ba” is quite powerful.
Bheed is a perfect example of how good intentions don’t always translate into powerful films.
(Views expressed are personal.)