Bheed movie review: Anubhav Sinha's lockdown tale is a difficult watch that hits you hard

Mar 24, 2023 08:52 AM IST

Bheed movie review: Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar headline Anubhav Sinha's latest social drama on the exodus of migrant workers during first lockdown.

‘Ghar se nikal kar gaye the, ghar se hi aa rahe hain aur ghar hi jaa rahe hain’. This line in Bheed said by a migrant worker just stayed with me. Narrating the horrific unfolding of events during the unprecedented mass migration amid the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, Anubhav Sinha’s Bheed is brutally honest. High on shock value, it makes your heart ache seeing the hardships and humiliation that thousands of migrants went through during the pandemic. (Also read: All That Breathes review: This Oscar nominee from India is visually stunning doc on need to co-exist)

Bheed movie review: Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar in Bheed.
Bheed movie review: Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar in Bheed.

On March 24, 2020, when a nationwide lockdown was announced and state borders were closed to prevent the outbreak of the coronavirus, several migrants who had shifted to cities in search of work, were forced to go back to their native villages. Bheed is an account of what exactly these migrant families suffered.

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Sinha has not only chosen a difficult story to tell but he ensures he makes it an equally difficult watch. Shot in stark black and white, Bheed doesn’t let you breathe. If anything, it chokes you, leaving a lump in your throat at several gut-wrenching scenes. Sinha shows no restrain when it comes to showing the pain and plight of these workers. The shocking visuals of migrants sleeping on the railway tracks and being run over by a train, families walking barefoot for miles with bleeding toenails and wounded soles, hungry kids crying and being thrashed by their helpless mums, a watchman trying to arrange food, people hiding in cement mixers, Muslims feeding their own and everyone around, but still being cornered and called names. Even though Sinha doesn’t resort to blood or gore in the shocking scenes, you still feel the impact of his story. Bheed highlights, and fights more inner demons and societal biases, than only the struggles of migrant workers who walked for days and nights wishing to reach their homes in times of crisis. Some did make it, while others did not.

Bheed talks to us through the story of Surya Kumar Singh Tikas (Rajkummar Rao), a young cop who is made the incharge of the checkpost at one of the state borders that’s now closed. He is in love with Renu Sharma (Bhumi Pednekar) who is a doctor and is currently taking care of symptomatic patients stuck at the check-post. There’s Singh saab (Aditya Shrivastava) who is Rao’s subordinate but clearly doesn’t want to obey orders. Among the migrants on the other side of the barricading, there’s Dia Mirza from the privileged class in her Fortuner, who doesn’t flinch an eyelid when the driver Kanaiya (Sushil Pandey) offers to bribe the cops to let them cross the border. Then, there’s Trivedi Babu (Pankaj Kapur) who only wants to save his ailing brother and help the fellow passengers in the bus get some food from the nearby closed mall. He insists he won’t steal but would pay for it. There’s also a young girl carrying her alcoholic father on a bicycle. Amid all this, Vidhi Tripathi (Kritika Kamra) as a TV journalist is covering all this from angles that she can see, or at times, through her cameraman Nasir Munir’s lens.

At 114 minutes, Bheed neither wastes time building the premise nor its core characters. I must credit the director here for so convincingly introducing each character to us without delving too much into their back stories yet telling enough. The story that Sinha has co-written Saumya Tiwari and Sonali Jain manages to keep you intrigued. It’s the writing, I feel, that’s a true winner. There are dialogues cleverly peppered with an underlined sarcasm that you can’t miss. ‘Hamara nyaay hamari aukaat se bohot bahar hai’ or ‘Gareeb aadmi ke liye kabhi intezaam nahi hota’ are some lines that hit you hard.

There’s a scene with Kritika Kamra draws an analogy with an overloaded straw-truck with that of society and the fear that it may end up getting scattered and turn into a divided crowd, is extremely well-written. Another well shot moment is when Kapur ridicules the healthcare staff dressed in PPE kits and calls them ‘nautanki’ while they are testing his brother for Covid symptoms. These all remind us of how actually millions of people behaved when first wave of Covid hit our shores.

However, some portions did appear excessive. For instance, I didn’t understand the context of ingesting a lovemaking scene between Rao and Pednekar. Yes, it was important to distinctly underline the class divide in their relationship, but there were ample strong scenes later in the film through which the point could be well conveyed. The sex scene was surely avoidable. Then, you sense the constant hammering on the caste bias in our society with Rao’s character being targeted by everyone. That, to me, appeared a bit too much. I wouldn’t say it takes away from the core focus on the pain of migrants, but it does bring a shift of emotions when Rao’s story takes precedence over the main issue. And why weren’t the cops wearing mask? I mean you preach only what you follow.

Pankaj Kapur in a still from the movie,
Pankaj Kapur in a still from the movie,

Story aside, some really nuanced performances additionally make Bheed a great watch. I won’t be exaggerating if I term is as one of the finest ensemble casting in recent times. Rao and Pednekar are in top form with their dialect, body language, confidence and the way they emote on screen. Their strength and vulnerability both touch you. Mirza looked flawless playing a flawed character of a rich woman whose patience is tested in trying times and she lets her circumstances dictate her choice of actions and words. Kapur is exceptional and wins you over with his brilliance in each frame. He displays calm while politely asking cops for an outcome of a political meeting about the opening of borders, and shows aggression when it comes to fighting for his own people. Rana and Shrivastava add gravitas to the narrative with some heavyweight dialogues, and their expressions. Kamra’s track started off as a narrator and had pivotal pieces to join initially, but eventually doesn’t get much scope to shine or leave an impact.

Overall, Bheed states the facts as is and doesn’t try to lace them with them anything fancy or unreal. A few cinematic liberties definitely would have been taken and understandably so, but never to an extent that it completely washes out the truth. Sinha keeps the tussle between the class, power, caste and religion on till the very last minute. And the end credits aptly sum up the migrant crisis and their unforgettable pain with Herail Ba. Watch it if you truly care to know the truth and what happened with those thousand of migrants who were rendered homeless due to the pandemic without any fault of theirs.

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