Bulbbul: An Unsettling Feminist Fairytale with Horror as the Catalyst
Very Rarely we come across stories told on celluloid, which are so impactful and thought provoking that they leave a void and a feeling of anguish within us. Anushka Sharma’s production Bulbbul streaming on Netflix compels you to question the deep-rooted patriarchy, which is an inseparable element of our ecosystem. By the end of it, I was emotionally stirred yet fell in love with this absolute masterpiece.
Anvita Dutt’s impressive directorial debut is set in 19th century Bengal presidency. It uses gothic horror to tell the story of a feisty child bride who is married into an aristocratic family to a husband 20 years older. What follows is an intriguing social horror genre, which compels you to think where we stood as a society before, and how we are still stuck when it comes to treating women as equals. The industry has discovered a sensitive storyteller in Anvita Dutt. If this is her first film, I cannot wait to see what she does next.
A big shout out to Anushka Sharma for investing in unconventional stories! NH10, Phillauri, Pari and now Bulbbul are all centered around strong, fierce women protagonists. Her fourth outing as a producer has indeed been a charm.
Beautifully written and executed Bulbbul is a fantasy horror wrapped in the grim reality of patriarchy. Watch out for a particularly heartbreaking scene where the character of choti bahu commendably played by Paoli Dam tells Bulbbul’s character, ”Badi haveliyon ke bade raaz hote hain, chup rehna”. In another gem of a scene when the young Bulbbul asks her pishima why she needs to wear bicchiyaas (toe rings), her aunt answers, ”Kyunki yaahan pe ek nas hoti hai, usse dabao nahin na, to ladki udd jaati hai” .Such scenes are a testament of the stinking thought process of our society about women.
There is no denying that Bulbbul is visually stunning and emotionally stirring. The way in which the classic pre renaissance period is shown is pure gold. The crimson red palette literally breathes life into the story. Red is the color of the movie. It feels like you have been secretly transported to this time. Cinematography by Siddharth Dewan is pitch perfect. The impeccable set design by Meenal Agarwal and the oh so soul satisfying music by Amit Trivedi creates the right mood for this feminist fairytale.
The stellar cast of Bulbbul deserves a thunderous applause. Tripti Dimri as Bulbbul steals the show. She is a Goddess. The confidence with which she has played the transformation in her character from a naïve, vulnerable young bahu to the powerful matriarch of the haveli is praiseworthy. Avinash Tiwary as Satya shows a lot of promise. Paoli Dam as Binodini is a revelation. She is the most layered character. Rahul Bose in the double role of Indrajit and Mahindra is in fine form as always. Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Dr. Sudip essays an underrated yet sincere performance.
What works tremendously for Bulbbul is its non-linear screenplay. It keeps you invested. If you can make your peace with just the predictability factor- the only downside according to me, you are in for a gripping tale of mystery, which sheds light on child marriage, gender inequality and patriarchy. For me what straightaway makes Bulbbul a winner is the fact that it never reminds you of the 2018 horror comedy ‘Stree’, even when both movies have similar plots. It’s very much its own film and a capable one. Also, a concept, which has so many layers, successfully being churned out into a crisp 90- minute movie is a smart move.
People associated with Bulbbul have put in their heart and soul. This movie is a result of great teamwork. I am glad it’s available on an OTT platform because it’s a stunning visual journey, which needs to be savored every now and then. It’s a story that grows on you. Every small little detail needs admiration, which you would have missed on the big screen. Hands down it is one of the best Indian content on Netflix.
P.S. : The shameless ingrained truth of the society will haunt you, not the Chudail!
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