Bulbbul Movie Review | Bulbbul Netflix Movie Review Ratings
BOTTOM LINE: A Gripping Supernatural Drama, Marred By The Tame Ending
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Horror|
SkinNSwear: No skin show; blood, gore, graphic murders and supernatural elements
What Is the Story About?
The story of Bulbbul is set in 1881 and 1901, when Bengal was Bengal Presidency under the British Raj. It weaves a supernatural drama out of the orthodox customs and rituals prevalent in the India of those times, more specifically, in the Thakur system of ancient Bengal. Bulbbul is a sweet little child bride, married to the grownup Thakur Indraneel (Rahul Bose). Her only saviour in the Thakur household is young Satya, the kid brother of the Thakur, and Bulbbul’s comrade in arms. The two develop a close bond of friendship, and Bulbbul looks forward to spending time in Satya’s company. Satya (Avinash Tiwari) leaves for London for higher education, and Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri) is left alone to face the trials and tribulations of living in the deeply patriarchal household. When Satya returns home after five years, he realises that nothing is the same any more – Indraneel has deserted Bulbbul to set up home in Calcutta, and the naïve young Bulbbul has matured into a cynical, though caring, ‘Thakurain’. The peace of the province has been shattered by a series of murders — all the victims are men — and the village is rife with rumours that the murders are the work of a chudail with inverted feet, who haunts the surrounding jungles.
All the actors in Bulbbul have been well cast. Each actor seems to have been carefully chosen for the part they play. Rahul Bose makes a comeback to our screens after a long time, and immediately works his magic. He is a joy to watch. Avinash Tiwari is good in the limited scope of his role. Parambrata Chattopadhyay lends his assured touch to the narrative. He is a talented actor who deserves better roles in Hindi cinema. Not doing so is a loss that is more ours than his. Tripti Dimri looks divinely beautiful in the Bengali ‘badi bahu’ role. There’s something to be said about the Bengali getup – it enhances the beauty of the Indian woman, giving her an almost ethereal look. Tripti Dimri’s acting is above par too. Her performance as Bulbbul is a commendable addition to her repertoire. Paoli Dam, as Binodini, is suitably good. The two child actors are perfectly cast, especially little Ruchi Mahajan, who has played the child Bulbbul. The girl performs superbly. Also, she is a spitting image of Tripti Dimri, lending credence to the superb casting skills of Casting Bay.
The first thing that immediately catches the eye when one begins to watch Bulbbul is the intensely evocative imagery conjured up by the crew of the period drama. The film begins with a horse carriage travelling through spooky mysterious forests. The haunted jungles are perpetually shrouded in a pink-hued haze that adds to the mystical aura of the narrative. The jungles also form the defining element of the narrative – everything of consequence takes place in these jungles – it is here that the chudail is said to reside, and it is here that the killings take place. The killer jungles form the crux of the narrative in the present, which is twenty years after Bulbbul first enters the Thakur household as a tiny child bride. Most of the background story takes place in flashback.
As the film oscillates between the past and the present, the narrative gives glimpses of Bulbbul’s past in the Thakur mansion. It gradually pieces together the fervent fragments of the story, and we realise the extent of the anguish that resides beneath Bulbbul’s cynical exterior and sarcastic comments.
At its heart, Bulbbul is a supernatural drama about a chudail and her mysterious killings. But scratch beneath the surface, and the story of Bulbbul, like many other features before it, is about the repression of females in a patriarchal society – a man regularly beats his wife to a pulp; another brings home a second younger wife, driving the first wife to suicide; a third is a child molester – you get the drift. And these are the men that get killed – the chudail is on a justice-dispensing mission, getting rid of the scum of society – all men, of course.
The story of Bulbbul also takes to task – in a covert way – the age-old customs of society – all meant to keep women in ‘control’, symbolised right at the beginning of the story by the toe-rings that little Bulbbul is made to wear. The toe-rings, called ‘bichhua’ in Hindi, supposedly press a nerve in the toes, which keeps women in check — that is, in the male’s ‘vash’. Unbeknownst of the traumatising life awaiting her, the little Bulbbul asks her Pishi Ma innocently, ‘Vash kya hota hai?” The feet, in a similar vein, define control over the women. The inverted feet of the chudail are a powerful symbolism of the control exerted by men over women in the deeply patriarchal society of old India. Thankfully, viewers are spared outright graphic scenes of the savagery meted out to the innocent Bulbbul — most of it is implied. And that is why it repulses even more. Several sequences make one recoil in horror at the imagery presented – more so, if the viewer is a female.
A running story between Bulbbul and Satya, from childhood to maturity, is of the ‘chudail’ with inverted feet. The two are in the midst of writing a book on the fable, before the endeavour is interrupted by Satya’s move to London. The grown up Satya is, however, disbelieving of the presence of a supernatural being behind the murders – it is just a lore in his opinion. The idea is quite similar to a small segment in Anuja Chauhan’s Battle of Bittora. There too, the protagonists, in their childhood, work on a series of superhero stories, which are brought alive by one of the protagonists when they grow older.
Anvita Dutt, the writer and director of the film, has managed to weave a gripping narrative that keeps viewers hooked to the story unfolding on screen. The supernatural element in the movie builds up to a powerful climactic crescendo, keeping us firmly in its hold till the first half.
The second half of the movie is what we have a grouse with. It is quite disappointing, to say the least. The end is even worse. Bulbbul simply fails to leverage the suspense and thrill built in the first half of the narrative. The end is tame, rushed and surprisingly amateurish. It leaves you with a niggling feeling of incompleteness and disappointment. The movie would have been a better watch had it ended with a finish as gripping as the build-up, instead of fizzling out like a faulty firecracker.
The fault, though, is not with the storytellers. The fault is in the short run time of the feature. A mere one and a half hours is simply not enough to immerse the viewer in the pathos of the narrative. Even before we can absorb the enormity of the sequences that play out in the second half of the movie, Bulbbul rushes headlong into an ill-conceived climax. Net result – the narrative fails to leave a lasting impact on the mind. It is like a pretty picture you admire in a magazine, which flits out of the mind and conscience, the minute you turn the page. That said, Bulbbul is worth a one-time watch, though not a very impactful one.
Music and Other Departments?
The music of Bulbbul is the stand out element of the narrative. Composed by Amit Trivedi, the background music of the movie imbues the story with a distinctive spookiness that is more subtly mysterious than outright scary. It lends enigma to the narrative, and bestows Bulbbul with a mystifying aura – making her a hard to decipher character.
The cinematography by Siddharth Diwan is another outstanding feature of Bulbbul. It is riveting. The frames are awash in vivid shades of cherry red and shocking pink, adding to the enigma surrounding the chudail. The scenes of Bulbbul are alive with vibrant energy, mystery, poignancy, or even despondency, as is the requirement.
Together, the music and the cinematography of Bulbbul elevate the movie from a run-of-the-mill, avoidable suspense drama to an eminently watchable one.
The riveting, evocative and delectable cinematography
The provocative background music
The striking imagery
The rushed and amateurish ending
The short run time
A niggling incompleteness of the narrative
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes, in parts
Will You Recommend It?
Yes, as a one-time watch
Review by Binged Bureau
Bulbbul Movie Review | Bulbbul Netflix Movie Review Ratings
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