Strung together with myth and folklores, Bulbbul is the fable of innocence crushed and morphed into a tale of vengeance. Produced by Anushka Sharma and directed by Anvita Dutt Guptan, Bulbbul was released on 24th June and immediately caught attention of the audience with its supernatural elements, aesthetic appeal and ringing societal truth.
Plot and characters
Brilliant screenplay by Anvita Dutt Guptan brings to life the story of little Bulbbul who grows up to become an empowered woman with every cruel twist of life. Bulbbul’s life got shackled to the unfair norms of the society from the day she was married off to ‘Bade Thakur’, a royalty, a few decades older to her. Rahul Bose, who plays the double role of Bade Thakur and his mentally challenged younger twin Mahendra, is a perfect choice as the lord of the household.
The main characters include Mahendra’s wife Binodini played by Paoli Dam who artfully epitomizes suppression and depravity of women, that resulted in jealousy and bitterness. Played by Avinash Tiwary, Satya or ‘Chhote Thakur’ is the youngest brother of the royalty who is around Bulbbul’s age and is subtly portrayed to be her closest companion in the huge manor, even a possible love interest. Dr. Sudip played by Parambrata Chatterjee is also a pivotal character and a reminder of goodness in the male gender that otherwise time and again disappoints Bulbbul. As little Bulbbul evolves, initially into a naïve, beautiful girl with childish dreams and eventually into a mature, confident and guarded woman we cannot help but applaud Tripti Dimri for her performance.
As time passes, the implied romance between Bade Thakur and Bulbbul makes Binodini upset over what could have been hers. Her bitterness in addressing the much younger Bulbbul as her superior irks her until envy gets better of her. She uses the friendship between Satya and Bulbbul to plant seeds of doubt in Bade Thakur’s mind. In a twist of events, everything gets taken away from Bulbbul.
Background and setting
The movie is set in late 19th century Bengali Province but encases certain truths that rings of truth even now. Cinematography by Siddharth Diwan and editing by Rameshwar S. Bhagat has earned appreciation as it is aesthetically very important for the supernatural theme of the movie. The warm tones for the eerie scenes are mostly set around red, yellow and pink while flashbacks and monotonous scenes are centered on more natural and cooler tones. The vintage costumes, horse carts and old mansions with ornate pillars and verandas have been beautifully captured. Although the movie does not have any songs, it does bring with it an eerie and equally enchanting score by Amit Trivedi.
Underlying themes in the movie.
Folklores- folklores hold a special place in all our hearts and this movie does revolve around the story of ‘Chudail’ or demon-woman with twisted feet that kill people brutally, mostly men. Within the horrifying tale of ‘Chudail’, Bulbbul weaves the legend of Goddess Kali who avenges the victims, and correlates the two mythical characters as two sides of the same coin. The story that young Satya told Bulbbul manifests into a reality.
Atrocities against women- From the very first scene the audience are introduced to female oppression like child marriage and traits of pedophilia. From dowry and physical abuse to eventually fatal rape, Bulbbul becomes the epitome of everything is wrongly done to a woman that goes unpunished in reality. As a challenge to that unfair truth, we are introduced to the goddess blessed ‘Chudail’ who avenges the crimes against female gender.
Patriarchy- Patriarchy that sets unnatural ground rules for being a ‘man’ is as injurious to men as it is to women. The fragile ego of Bade Thakur that got crushed by a seed of subtle doubt encapsulates the mentality of majority of male population of those times and perhaps even now. It is the same mentality that coxed Binodini’s family to marry her off to a royalty even when the groom was not mentally healthy. Objectification and putting a price tag on a woman is as normal as breathing and the freedom of speech that was prematurely taken away from Binodini pulls at a raw string in one’s heart. Her repeated advice of “chup rehna” to Bulbbul is a way to instill the idea of acceptance no matter what, into young women and the prevalence of such principles in 21st century is mortifying.
This fabulous story with intricate roots in feminism, justice and equality will definitely keep one hooked and trigger goose bumps. The biggest question that people must take away from this concoction of mysticism, thrill and strength of femininity is whether a she-demon taking lives of criminals more menacing than the justice that is deprived to thousands of goddesses every day?