Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Bulbbul movie review is in. And it’s all about large havelis, old-world charm and dysfunctional family secrets. These are just a few of the factors that easily transport viewers into Anushka Sharma’s “fairy tale come to life”. Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma last presented viewers with “Paatal Lok,” a streaming series on Amazon Prime. Adding another feather in their cap, their next offering is “Bulbull,” a Netflix film starring the beloved “Laila Majnu” (2018) duo Avinash Tiwary and Tripti Dimri in lead roles, along with the talented Rahul Bose, Paoli Dam and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. “Bulbbul” takes place in 1881 Bengal and immediately pulls the viewer in with its visual appeal, which begins as early as the opening credits.
What transpires during the 90-minute runtime is purely cinematic artistry. Stunning visuals and a gripping story slowly ease the viewer into Bulbbul’s world and while the unfolding of events may be deemed “slow” by many, it is this slow pace and serene charm that build intrigue and mystery.
The story follows a young man who returns home to his “haveli” and finds his world turned upside down. Moving between past and present, viewers are introduced to Indraneil and Mahendra, both played by Rahul Bose, twin brothers born into feudalism. Mahendra is developmentally challenged with a child-like demeanor that borders on being aggressive and is married to Binodini, a woman who uses her words to get her way.
Read our review of Hum TV’s supernatural series Kashf here.
Bulbbul is married off into this feudal family as a child, initially bonding with the young Satya before its revealed that she is married to Satya’s much-older brother, Indraneil. While Satya and Bulbbul grow up together as playmates Binodini begins molding Bulbbul’s young mind towards Satya in a manipulation that has lasting effects. When Satya is sent to London for school and returns years later, he begins investigating the violent deaths that have been occurring in the village, deaths that are blamed on a “churail” that resides in the nearby forest.
The family relationships are presented in a way that keeps the viewer on their toes, be it the verbal battle between Binodini and Bulbbul, Binodini’s relationship with Mahendra or the deep connection between Satya and Bulbbul. These relationships are not neat and tidy or easy to decipher; rather, there’s always the feeling of something murky and sinister lurking underneath the surface – and this film serves as a mirror to show that the “sinister” resides within man himself.
This is a story that is particularly captivating for South Asian audiences, as we’ve grown up hearing (or telling) stories of the much-feared “churail” (witch) with backwards feet, long hair, captivating beauty and menacing demeanor throughout our childhoods. It’s the lure of this tale that draws viewers into the world of “Bulbbul” – but while the story starts off as a horror tale, it slowly moves into a genre that could be described more along the lines of “gothic horror.”
What we end up seeing played out on our screens is a tale that ties horror in with strong notions of feminism and tackling the system of patriarchy within our culture.
It must be stated, as we talk about Bulbbul movie review, that this is not an empty film. Rather than focusing on cheap thrills, the screenplay uses the lure of the sinister to discuss important issues such as child marriage, marital abuse, gender inequality, pedophilia and rape, along with the unjust expectations for women to remain silent regarding injustice. There’s an interesting twist to the way this story plays out, beginning with Satya and Bulbbul spending their childhood telling stories of the churail, growing up to write stories about her and then, finally, Bulbbul becoming the embodiment of those very stories.
If “Laila Majnu” was the role of a lifetime for Avinash Tiwary, a role that converted me and many others into lifelong fans, “Bulbbul” is Tripti Dimri’s chance to shine. Her performance is captivating as Tripti effortlessly changes expressions, posture and even the glint in Bulbbul’s eyes as the scenes move between past and present. Bulbbul transforms from an innocent young adult with simple desires into a strong, confident woman with greater plans.
Tripti Dimri was a natural in “Laila Majnu,” but with “Bulbbul” she has arrived as a strong contender in the league of actresses. Avinash Tiwary readily takes a few steps back in this film, allowing his co-star to shine while providing her with the necessary support. Satya is a kind boy with a strong connection to Bulbbul, but as time progresses, his own hypocrisy and male chauvinistic views are revealed. Avinash Tiwary does full justice to this character and adds another great performance to his filmography.
There’s a dialogue in the film where a distraut Bulbbul asks Satya “Kahaani puri kaise hogi?” (How will this story be completed?). Those who are fans of Tiwary and Dimri’s “Laila Majnu” will find themselves drawing parallels between these two films, remembering how Majnu tells Laila “Humari kahani likhi hui hai” (our story has been predetermined).
Tiwary and Dimri have now worked in two films, two stories of unrequited love, love not destined to see itself through towards completion. It’s a reflection of reality in that every love story is not destined for happiness. One cannot help who they are attracted to and who they form a connection with. This is highlighted through the interactions between Bulbbul and Dr. Sudeep, who is clearly a better match – but “Bulbbul ko bas Satya chahiye” (Bulbbul only wants Satya).
Parambrata Chattopadhyay makes his mark as Dr. Sudip, the kind-hearted, loyal friend to Bulbbul, and creates a place in the hearts of viewers with his portrayal of this intelligent, progressive character.
One cannot discuss performances without discussing Rahul Bose who gives not one, but two brilliant performances as Indraneil and Mahendra. This is possibly the best performance of his career to date. Paoli Dam is powerful in her role as Binodini, a character to hate and sympathize with at the same time.
“Bulbbul” is directed by Anvita Dutt, who has previously worked as a dialogue writer and lyricist for Bollywood films, and she makes a strong debut. This film is Dutt’s baby and she has cared and nurtured it before sending it out into the world. One can see that a lot of effort was put in on her part in terms of vision and that translates well on-screen.
Music composer Amit Trivedi provides a brilliant musical score to accompany the visuals on-screen while cinematographer Siddharth Dewan and production designer Meenal Agarwal provide the incredible canvas on which the story unfolds. The art design and presentation are a strong point and cannot be ignored.
It’s rare that I, as an avid Bollywood movie viewer, find myself so deeply impacted by a film, but as I write this Bulbbul movie review, I can easily say that the film joins the ranks of “Laila Majnu” and “A Death In The Gunj” as one of the best socially impactful films of the decade.
Set in a time when women were expected to bow to their husbands and remain silent, Bulbbul is different and therefore invokes fear in those around her. What’s interesting about this is when one gets to thinking – have things really changed that much in present day? Our society still tends to fear that which is different, particularly if it’s a female. Many viewers were left complaining about the lack of “horror” in the film, but the movie forces one to think long after the movie has ended and one question remains in the mind: Didn’t the movie deliver on the horror quotient? Is the greater horror relegated to a “churail” jumping and hanging from trees – or the abuse and mistreatment women have been facing in South Asian society for centuries?