|Directed by||Anvita Dutt|
|Produced by||Anushka Sharma|
|Written by||Anvita Dutt|
|Music by||Amit Trivedi|
|Edited by||Rameshwar S. Bhagat|
Bulbbul is a 2020 Indian Hindi-language supernatural drama film written and directed by Anvita Dutt. Produced by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma, the film stars Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. Bulbbul set in a backdrop of 1880's Bengal presidency, revolves around a child-bride & her journey from innocence to strength. Bulbbul was released on Netflix on 24 June 2020.
Set amidst the Bengal Presidency in 1881, Bulbul, a spirited and innocent 5 year old girl is married off to Indranil, a man decades older than her, belonging to a palatial Thakurate Estate. During the journey to her new home, Bulbul becomes acquainted with Satya, Indranil's brother who is close to her age and whom she initially believes to be her husband. He entertains her by recounting the folklore tale of 'Chudail', a she-demon who resides in the forest and leaves backwards, bloody footprints after her murders. Once she reaches the house, she meets Mahendra (Indranil's mentally challenged twin brother who is married to Binodini) and he displays an odd infatuation with her, for which Indranil must constantly interject.
As she grows up in the palace, Bulbul forms a close bond with Satya and considers him her only source of solace amidst her stolen childhood. However, their close companionship,which continues into adolescence, sparks doubt and jealously in Indranil who decides to ship Satya off to London for higher studies. Bulbul is left brokenhearted and copes with her grief by finishing a story that her and Satya had begun writing together. Binodini, who is presumed to be having an affair with Indranil, acts in envy and poisons his mind further which leads him to misinterpret the contents of Satya and Bulbul's book. In a fit of rage, he drags Bulbul violently out of the bathtub and vivaciously slashes her feet, leaving her traumatized. Dr. Sudip is hired tend to her injuries and becomes doubtful when Indranil and Binodini tell him that injuries were due to Bulbul falling off the stairs. Indranil departs from the manor permanently, saying that there was nothing left for him there. Meanwhile, as Bulbul was recovering and bedridden, Mahendra stumbles inside her room, mounts himself onto her bed and begins to rape her. During the heinous ordeal, her already injured feet are hurt fatally, the combined pain leading to her presumed death. However, she is presented to be alive the next morning as Binodini comes into clean Bulbul's wounds and justifies her husbands actions by reciting what was told to her when she was getting married - "He's crazy, but you shall get the riches and luxuries", manipulating her into staying quiet. When Dr. Sudip comes into to check on her, he sees blood running down her inner thigh, but she simply asks him to do his job and leave when he questions her. On the night of Durga Pooja, Binodini finds Mahendra murdered in his room and suspects it to be the "chudail".
Five years later, Satya returns from London to see a new Bulbul, no longer and innocent and timid, but a strong, level-headed woman who has taken on the duties of being the head of the household. Dr. Sudip and Bulbul now share a close friendship, much to Satya's discmofrt and jealously. Thus, when a string of murders believed to have been committed by "Chudail" take place in the village, Satya suspects Dr. Sudip. When he sees Bulbul and Dr. Sudip enjoying a smoke together, he confronts Bulbul about her losing her morals and forgetting about her husband, to whom Satya had sent a letter about Bulbul's presumed infidelity. To this Bulbul retorts, "You're all the same, aren't you?"
On the night of Mahendra's death anniversary, as Satya is taking Sudip to be imprisoned, his coach driver,who was responsible for his wife;s suicide, was mysteriously killed. Satya fires his gun into the forest, now convinced about the existence of chudail, but Sudip sees none other than Bulbul standing atop the trees, in her real avatar. She had been the fabled 'chudail' who goes around the village killing men who had wronged women, such as a father molesting her young daughter, the coach driver and Mahendra himself. Sudip realizes that the myth of the backwards footprints was because of Bulbul's feet being permanently damaged after her abuse. In the quarrel in which Sudip attempts to stop Satya from shooting, they inadvertently set the forest ablaze. When asked why he wants to protect the chudail, Sudip responds saying "She is not a witch, she is a goddess." At first Satya is confused, but when Sudip calls out for "baadi baahu", Bulbul's name in the manor, the extremity of his actions dawn on him and he breaks down. Bulbul sits amidst the raging flames and scenes of her life flash before her eyes before the fire engulfs her.
An year later, Indranil returns to the manor and Satya had left, fearing that he would become the same as his brothers. As Indranil sleeps, Bulbul re-manifests and finally avenges the injustices done to her by killing him.
- Tripti Dimri as Bulbbul
- Avinash Tiwary as Satya
- Paoli Dam as Binodini
- Rahul Bose as Mahendra / Indranil
- Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Dr. Sudip
This article contains too many or overly lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (June 2020)
Bulbbul opened up to generally positive reception from the critics and the audience with a particular praise for its stand on feminism, visual effects, background music, and performance of the leads, especially Tripti Dimri. However, it was criticized for short length and predictable plot.
Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express stated: "Bulbbul is very much its own film, the mix of classic pre-Renaissance Bengal and desi horror gothic making for gripping viewing...It is a powerfully feminist, revisionist tale of a woman wronged, and it is told with economy, precision and feeling...Dutt uses the ancient trope of a bloodthirsty ‘chudail with ultey pair’, a familiar creature tale in our scary ‘kisse-kahaani’, to create dread and fear. The writing is skilful and stays on point, and the performances are all solid."
Shilajit Mitra of The New Indian Express stated: "A slender mix of supernatural horror and social commentary, Bulbbul...is a bewitching tale of trauma and heartbreak. It sings of clipped wings and feet, capturing the injustices of a feudal world built on the subjugation and enslavement of women."
Namrata Joshi of The Hindu applauded the rebellious idea of Anvita Dutt and stated: "Anvita Dutt mixes the feudal with the supernatural, the spooky, the mythological and the fablesque in a thoughtful, moving and engaging manner....She mixes the feudal with the supernatural and the spooky, the mythological and the fablesque to strike at the putrid core of patriarchy in a thoughtful, moving, engaging and powerful manner."
Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV stated: "The visually lush film uses unshod feminine feet, the mysterious forest, the trees and its shifting colours as narrative codes that conceal secrets and truths that are out there for all to see if one is attentive enough...Tripti Dimri justifies the top billing with a performance that blends the coquettish with the mysterious in fine, enigmatic harmony."
Nairita Mukherjee of India Today applauded the film and its producer Anushka Sharma and stated: "The Anushka Sharma production is an uncomfortable yet almost intoxicating watch...Bulbbul cleverly uses the fairytale trope here to trap the audience....(it) is a brave commentary on patriarchy, and how strong women who cannot be boxed or chained have threatened it in every century. Therefore, they must be burned, just so the phallic pillars of patriarchy can remain standing tall. Except once in a while, a Bulbbul is born from those ashes. And a fairy tale unfolds."
Shubhram Kulkarni of Koimoi gave it 3.5 stars and stated "As much as I am in love with Anvita Dutt as the writer, her direction is point one below. As observed, while the script tries to keep the big reveal hidden, the direction and dialogue make it predictable. Thus making the climax less hitting. But the journey to it is fruitful, which compensates. Also, the red tone that is used in the scenes involving the witch is overused and after a point gets irritating. Probably this is a collective drawback on DOP and the director’s part. While in any horror show music plays a big role, Bulbbul has an adequate amount of it. Music by Amit Trivedi builds the crescendo where needed. The theme piece though is engraved in my memory now." He also stated " Bulbbul may not be the top scorer, the message is the winner in itself. Watch Bulbbul for Tripti Dimri and the idea. As said it takes a woman to be a witch for the world to be afraid of her. We need to change that!"
Samira Sood of ThePrint applauded the concept of the movie and stated "A supernatural horror film that’s also a period drama and a social commentary on the ugliness of patriarchy, Bulbbul is built on a familiar premise — the grandmother’s tale. No matter which part of India one is from, one has probably heard some or other version of a local legend, a fairy-tale, a horror story. As kids, we lapped them up as entertainment, but in reality, they were all cautionary tales, meant to prevent us from straying from the trodden path. And in almost all of them, the one who strayed was a woman." According to her "At just about one and a half hours, Bulbbul is a neatly told movie, and features solid performances by all the main actors as well as some gorgeous cinematography courtesy Siddharth Diwan and production design by Meenal Agarwal. The attention to visual detail, be it the costumes or the tiles of the haveli floors, is commendable, and the music by Amit Trivedi is haunting and moody." She had also showered her praise to the producer Anushka Sharma and Clean Slate Filmz for backing up such a unique story.
Rohit Vats of NEWS18 also praised the movie and Stated "The new Netflix film, directed by Anvita Dutt, makes us familiar to the era of ‘zamindars’ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there is a definite shift in the traditional outlook of that time period. Though many Hindi filmmakers have explored the era with a lot of reverence, they mostly refrained from delving deeper into the dark corners of those glorious mansions. On that front, Bulbbul has to offer some new angles, but they might leave you wanting for more." He ended with note "If you’re willing to overlook the most obvious interpretations of the situations shown in the film, Bulbbul will definitely give you chills. And yes, it’s not a jump-scare film, which I think is the best thing about Bulbbul."
Nandin Ramnath of Scroll.in has stated "The extraordinarily crisp Bulbbul doesn’t have too much room for suspense, with some of its answers telegraphed early on and the others arriving in an unwelcome rush. There appears to be a layer or two missing in the screenplay, but whatever is on the screen for 94 minutes is smart, sensitive and haunting."
Stutee Ghosh of the Quint gave it 3 stars and mentioned "One of the questions that the film throws up and doesn’t answer is if the binary between being a devi or a chudail is the only recourse that feminine power has to navigate in this patriarchal set up. No easy answers in sight but nevertheless a visually appealing film." She has also lauded Clean Slate Filmz for producing Bulbbul and stated "Clean Slate Films, founded by Anushka Sharma and her brother Karnesh, has a knack of backing projects with a distinct feminist tone - from NH 10 to Paatal Lok and even the latest Netflix original Bulbbul. Also, Anushka Sharma’s penchant for the supernatural is equally evident. From the friendly ghost in Phillauri, the scary supernatural presence in Pari to the feminine power as the mainstay in this period film, there definitely is a range to the characters."
Kritika Vaid of India.com mentioned the universally positive reaction of the audience in social media and stated "The horror-drama fairy tale has been applauded by the netizens and critics. The film, released two hours ago, gets positive responses and thumbs up, especially for the exceptional performance by the lead actor. Twitterverse is exploding with comments. The story revolves around superstitions and beliefs."
Veteran Director Anurag Kashyap tweeted and gave a rave review about the film calling it one of the best films he has seen in this millennium and also showered praises for the performance by the leads and debutant director Anvita Dutt.
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