Duration: 1 Hr 34 Mins
Director: Anvita Dutt
Release Date: 24th June 2020
Streaming On: Netflix
Star Cast: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Rahul Bose, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Paoli Dam, Ruchi Mahajan, Varun Paras Buddhadev
Plot: Bulbbul - Set in Bengal is a period supernatural tale that centers on the folklore of ‘chudail’ (witches) - a woman who rises from the dead (with inverted legs) after an unnatural death.
The film opens with child marriage, as a young Bulbbul (Ruchi Mahajan) barely 5 years old, with the consent of the elders of her family is wedded off to a much older man, almost in his 30s Indranil Thakur (Rahul Bose) who lives in a big haveli, with his mentally challenged twin Mahendra (Bose again), Mahendra’s wife Binodini (Paoli Dam), and younger brother Satya.
Bulbbul’s young mind assumes she's marrying Satya, the groom’s younger brother as he is more of her age. On the way to her marital home, Satya tells her the story of a murderous, bloodthirsty ‘chudail’ (female demon).
Satya and Bulbbul spend most of their time together telling each other stories of witches and witchcraft. When both grew up, twenty years later, how this story of witches comes to them as reality is what the film Bulbbul unfolds.
Review: Anvita Dutt uses the supernatural horror genre to tell the story of a child bride - a striking debut feature that is set in the late 19th century Bengal. At a very basic level, Bulbbul resembles Devdas or can be tagged as a paranormal revisitation of that classic, as the film cleverly uses the fairy tale trope here to trap the audience.
The writing is skillful, stays on point and is a combination of folktale, superstition, mythology, history, feminism, and fable as even if the audience knows what's unfolding before them is a fantasy, it is just so fantastical that one cannot help but be mesmerised.
From the thick ‘alta’ on the feet of the women, the shaved heads and the all-white attire of the widows, the crisp dhutis-and-fabulous shawls of the men, to the ‘paalkis’ drawn by the men in service of the zamindar - the film has beautifully recreated a specific period.
When it comes to the actors' performances, Tripti's transformation from a coy girl to a confident woman is unparalleled. Paoli delivers a deliberate measured performance to portray a woman who has surrendered to the rules and regulations of the Thakur Bari. While Tripti conveys the shift in her personality, Paoli stands witness to all the manipulations she's had to endure aptly.
Even with relatively short screen time, Rahul Bose trumps you with his screen presence. Also, Parambrata, the one who wowed us in Pari and Kahaani, owns the space when the camera is on him. Tiwary as the ‘devar’ who is a constant companion to his as-young-as-himself lovely bhabhi also plays the role well. Though the character of Bulbbul’s brother-in-law, Satya could have been served in a better way.
And when it comes to the technical aspects, it is Amit Trivedi’s music in collaboration with DoP Siddharth Diwan’s low-lit color-saturated frames that creates the fabulous atmospherics in Bulbbul. Bulbbul bathes the screen in shades of red with flashes of gold and does not often venture into bright daylight.
Overall, Bulbbul is one of those rare contemporary Hindi films that Bollywood does not often visit these days. A brave commentary on patriarchy - a powerfully feminist, revisionist tale of a woman wronged, that is told with precision and feeling.