By Siddhartha Krishnan . 3 Min Read
Anvita Dutt’s directorial debut “Bulbbul” produced by Clean Slate Films, borrows heavily from Bengali literature, Hindu mythology and folklore, as far as the aesthetics are concerned. Hence, the opulent mansions of 19th century Bengali aristocrats, their suave period costumes and typical names, seem all too familiar. But this film is no “Chokher Bali” or “Charulata”! Masquerading as a horror flick, this is a gripping, end of innocence story, about big mansions and their horrific secrets. It is a film with a strong social message on the deep-rooted nature of patriarchy but slips into the dark fantasy or dark fairy-tale sub-genre through some clever writing. What we get in return, is an original and highly entertaining film which will keep you engaged till the very end despite its apparent flaws.
Right from the very onset, the first thing that strikes you about “Bulbbul”, is how visually spectacular it is. The cinematography by Siddharth Diwan (DOP of “Trapped” and “Bhavesh Joshi”) is commendable; each frame is well thought out and has a lyrical quality to it. The use of the colour red in many of the frames (which has irked some critics) adds to the fantasy element of the storytelling. It also evokes and intensifies the desired emotion in the audience, as does the haunting background score by Amit Trivedi. The attention to detail exhibited by production designer Meenal Agarwal in creating the world of “Bulbbul” in terms of its locations, costumes and décor is also praiseworthy. Nothing seems out of place and the audience gets an immersive cinematic experience because of it.
“Bulbbul” also boasts a stellar cast comprising of actors like Rahul Bose, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Paoli Dam, Avinash Tiwary and Thripti Dimri. All the actors have done full justice to their roles, however, Thripti Dimri in the lead role of “Bulbbul” and Paoli Dam as “Binodini” stand out. The unusual dynamics of their relationship due to their age difference, in the backdrop of misogyny and abuse within the four walls of their mansion, give us some of the best scenes of the movie.
Anvita Dutt, who is an established writer and lyricist in the industry has come up with a unique concept and story for this film, although, the underlying theme which is patriarchy and domestic abuse is familiar to all of us. But for her to have taken a much-explored theme and to have embedded it seamlessly into a world of mysticism and folklore is admirable.
But in the writing lies the flaws of the film as well. The ending specifically feels a bit abrupt and sadly predictable. And, in the end you could feel that the film should have been thirty minutes longer through the incorporation of a few missing and much needed layers which could have elevated the film considerably. But, that said, the film at no stage will bore you because the visual storytelling is so riveting.
The social commentary of “Bulbbul”, on how deeply entrenched patriarchy is in our society and how it has not changed through the centuries also makes it an essential watch. The dark and twisted nature of the plot therefore is justified because to survive the evils of patriarchy, women, time and again have been forced to don the avatar of the “Goddess” and the “Witch”.
For its originality, performances, stunning visuals and bold storytelling, I am going to give Anvita Dutt’s “Bulbbul” a 3.5/5 rating. You can watch the film on Netflix and check the trailer out by clicking the link below.
Pic credits: Clean Slate Films, Netflix, HindustanTimes and NDTV
Siddhartha Krishnan is the author of “Two and a Half Rainbows – A Collection of Short Stories“. He is also an enthusiastic blogger and on his website www.whatsonsidsmind.com, he regularly puts out his essays, articles, travelogues and film reviews.