Written bySagar Malik
Sometimes, it's challenging to put a film into a certain genre. Anvita Dutt's Bulbbul (streaming now on Netflix) is perhaps one of those. It's not a horror movie in the strictest sense of the term, but it's haunting in the way it exposes our deep-rooted issues of patriarchy and violence.
It, however, comes with its own set of problems.
Here's our review.
The film is set in late 19th century in Bengal presidency, British India.
Bulbbul, an innocent girl of 5 years, is married off to a decades older Indranil (Rahul Bose), a rich man who lives in a mansion.
But, as she grows up, Bulbbul develops a fondness for Satya (Avinash Tiwary), Indranil's youngest brother. A jealous and insecure Indranil sends Satya off abroad.
Years later, Satya returns to the village. But it's a different world altogether.
Indranil has left home permanently, and Mahendra (also played by Bose), his mentally challenged younger brother has been killed under mysterious circumstances.
The once-innocent Bulbbul is now the confident and dominating mistress of the mansion.
Meanwhile, men continue to die mysteriously like Mahendra, and villagers suspect a supernatural power behind it.
Bulbbul is not the kind of horror film you have been accustomed to. In fact, it is not really scary. But it is pretty horrifying.
It is haunting in the way it showcases the terrors that humans are capable of inflicting upon each other. It brings up the horrors of ingrained patriarchy and violence against women.
Undoubtedly, Bulbbul's message ticks the right boxes.
A good heart doesn't always make great art.
Motive is one of the few things that makers get right about Bulbbul. Otherwise, it's a tough watch.
It is unbelievably slow and takes off only in the last half-an-hour or so. Plus, the writing is patchy and the storytelling, exhausting.
This film will test your patience, but fortunately, it's not entirely worthless.
Bulbbul invests heavily in Tripti Dimri (who plays the titular role) and she justifies the top billing in every sense.
A younger Bulbbul is as delicate, sensitive, and loving as the elder one is fierce and intimidating, thanks to Tripti's thoughtful and layered performance.
She owns this complex character, and is a delight to watch.
Avinash Tiwary is graceful as Satya.
As a man strongly influenced by his idealism and modern education, but also held back by his hidden feelings for Bulbbul, he is constantly at conflict with himself.
But the good thing is that the dilemma does not reflect in Avinash's portrayal of Satya. He is comfortable and convincing throughout the act.
However, Rahul Bose puts an uneven performance at best. While he hits all the right notes as the dominating Indranil, his portrayal of the mentally challenged Mahendra feels pretty staged.
To sum up, Bulbbul is a mixed bag.
Its heart is in the right place, but the execution not so much. However, the strong performances rescue the film to some extent.
Of course, this film is far from perfect, but its atypical approach, relevant message, and impressive acting make it worth a watch.
Final rating: 3/5 stars.
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