Bulbbul – A masterclass on cinematography

Let me be honest, I hit the play button on Netflix for this one with much reluctance. Mostly because the trailer felt absurd. It gave repelling ‘desi’ horror flick feels.

So for anyone who has seen the poster or trailer, let me tell you it is not a horror movie with jump scares, it is not even a thriller with plot twists. It is in fact too peculiar and brave to be labelled with a genre.

Beautifully recreating the period of pre-independence Bengal, BulBul has you hypnotised with its poetic storytelling within the first few minutes. A very young bride is being prepped for her send-off as she is about to marry a man at least 20 years older. From there we move to a resplendent bunglow of the ‘Thakurs’ where rest of the story unfolds. The entire length of the movie is immersed in a crimson palette. Bathed in red it symbolises a Hindu bride with the ‘alta’, an obedient wife with the ‘sindoor’ and of course there is blood for all the suffering thereafter. The setup sees a perfect marriage of stunning visuals and enchanting background score. Dark frames with darker secrets to hide. There is a poise in its pace that gives you time to pause, stare and move slowly through the life and horrors of the protagonist. The silences are well placed; the words are few, and thanks to the solid cast, expressions do much of the narration.

Anvita Dutt’s writing is tight and impactful. It combines superstition, folktale and feminism. Despite the exaggerated fiction of ‘demon’ or ‘chudail’ the underlying sorrow stays as real and harsh today as it might have been in that era of prevalent patriarchy. The creature (chudail) isn’t scary, the premise that leads to its being, is. This is how a wronged woman’s rage would look like, if unleashed. She’d still be beautiful and brutally composed. Of course it had to come from a woman.

The brilliance lies in such fine balance of conflicting ideas. The setup is equal stunning and haunting, the visuals are beautiful & disturbing; the music is eerie yet soothing. It’s a visual enigma, a poem in motion.

Special mention to Sidharth Dhawan’s cinematography and Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack that flows like blood through the movie. Backing by Anushka Sharma speaks for her inclination to powerful feminist stories and her non-conformist choices. While the entire cast is outstanding, Tripti Dimri is a revelation, a treat to watch even when she just sits there fanning herself, draped in expensive silk. Rahul Bose, Paoli Dam and Parambrata Chattopadhyay  are perfect of their strong characters, also they naturally add authenticity to the Bengali set up without any forced accents.

Bulbull is unique, stylish and precise for a supernatural. Not meant for casual viewing. Keep a slightly open mind and you will be surprised if not pleased.

3.5/5 cutting rating

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