Bulbbul from Anvita Dutt, the new Netflix original film produced by Anushka Sharma, is an odd horror film. It is actually not your usual horror story with suspense and twists. You can clearly see what’s coming your way and the movie rarely takes a detour from the familiar trajectory. But the quality production-design and the fact that they have utilized the entire movie to establish one single character gives the movie the dimension of a character-oriented drama rather than a template horror film and that helps it in being a lingering thought for us for some time.
The movie is set in 1888 and it is about Bulbbul; a girl who got married at a really young age (child marriage). She was married to Mr. Mahendra, but at that young age, her best companion was Mahendra’s younger brother Satya. The relationship between Satya and Bulbbul grew gradually, but at one point Satya had to leave to the UK for his studies. And when he returned, his Village was in a really different condition with a lot of mysterious murders happening along with some tragedies in his own house too. Satya’s return to the village and his home under these new circumstances is the backdrop of Bulbbul.
Anvita Dutt is trying to use the structure of a horror story to talk about the normalized abuse faced by women. Usually, in horror films we get to see the movie trying to establish the other characters for a longer time and then show us the back story of the ghost and what injustice made the ghost do all the horrendous murders. Here, when things are unveiled, you won’t feel much of a shock as you may well have guessed that possibility. But at that point, Anvita Dutt reminds you of certain other details she sort of mentioned which we may not have given too much attention. For example, the sequence where Satya meets the doctor for the first time. We as viewers are also looking at the scene from the jealous point of view of Satya and that sort of helps the story to hide certain other elements which get revealed later. The supernatural elements are definitely there in the story and that’s perhaps the reason why a part of the treatment didn’t work for me. The lack of surprising moments wasn’t an issue for me as the end result was more about the personal trauma of a character. But the unevenness and the lack of clarity in the supernatural track of the movie causes issues.
Tripti Dimri plays the role of the title protagonist Bulbbul with innocence and grace. The part of the performance that needed grace is a tricky area as it could reveal a lot, but the actress was able to keep it in that believable space. Avinash Tiwary as Satya also handles the shifts in the tone of the character neatly. The warm chemistry of the Laila Majnu pair definitely helps the film in creating an aura around their relationship. Rahul Bose is the bad guy here and he has made sure that the brothers are distinctive on-screen. Parambrata Chattopadhyay as the doctor was a good choice along with Paoli Dam who plays the role of Binodini, a representation of women who normalize patriarchy.
There is a vigilante nature to the personality of the ghost here and that’s the core politics of the movie. The various torture women had to face because of the attitude of men is the obvious focus here. Such men and the women who normalize their deeds are becoming the culprits in this story and not all of them are directly connected. Anvita is, in a way, compensating the lack of surprise in the story with the brutal depiction of the torture. It is perhaps from that point we are looking at the movie more like a character-oriented drama rather than the usual revenge-seeking story of a ghost. The dystopian setting created by Siddharth Diwan through the glossy visuals that has saturated colors enhances the tension and intensity. The pacing of the cuts is really different from the horror movie pattern we usually see, and here it takes a calmer approach.
Bulbbul is aspiring to be more than a horror drama and that’s the most appreciable thing about this movie. We are witnessing the entire life journey of a girl here within the 96 minutes of runtime. If they were able to generate a certain level of mystery to the proceedings parallel to the story of our main protagonist, Bulbbul might have had a very disturbing impact; the kind of impact a movie like this demands.
If they were able to generate a certain level of mystery to the proceedings parallel to the story of our main protagonist, Bulbbul might have had a very disturbing impact.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended