Bulbbul: Not A Fairy Tale
Irony and hypocrisy pay royalty to the ever existing patriarchal Indian societal setup where the allegory of the nation is no one but a mother (a woman).
Bulbbul, is a story that very beautifully urges you to think beyond what is displayed on the screen. Usually, a climax is a point in a movie which the audiences wait for and when the most exciting revelations are made. But in case of Bulbbul, the viewers are somewhat aware of the story but surprisingly, this by no way hinders the viewers’ urge to watch more. The dialogues are so well written that the essence of the story is not lost at any point. The strong yet subtle look on Tripti Dimri, the lead actress’s face speaks a lot even when the character remains silent.
Anvita Dutt’s direction and Siddharth Diwan’s cinematography adds to the beauty of the story and ultimately lifts up this masterpiece altogether.
It is a horror themed film which is set up in the year 1881 Bengal Presidency which gives a complete insight into the contemporaneous elite Bengali household and vulnerability of the womenfolk. In the very first scene a 5-6 year old girl is shown wearing traditional wedding apparel.
Yes! She is getting married to a man three decades older. This scene leaves the viewers speechless and through the opening scene, Dutt seamlessly introduces the extreme vulnerability of the feminine component of the contemporaneous society right in the beginning.
Soon after her marriage Bulbbul is shown sharing a really friendly but a strong bond with Indranil’s (her husband) brother, Satya (played by Avinash Tiwary) who is likely of her age. Naturally their bond grows sweeter with each passing day. But this also is the time when the seeds of Bulbbul’s misfortune are planted.
Bulbul, the name of the film is done in a way that it draws a sharp contrast between the life of the protagonist which unfortunately lacks freedom of choice and the life of a free bird. (Bulbbul is the name of a bird in hindi)
“Pishima, why do I have to wear toe rings?” asked the 5 year old Bulbbul to her Aunt,
“Because there’s a nerve here, if it is not pressed, girls tend to fly away”, “like a bird?!” Bulbbul exclaimed,
“No it is to control you.”
The conversation ended.
This small conversation between Bulbbul and her maternal aunt (Pishima in Bangla) encapsulates the complete theme of this story.
20 years have passed
That small, innocent Bulbbul has grown into a woman, who had become the Thakurani (milady) of the entire Zamindari. There is a complete contrast in between both of these personalities. It is really simple for the viewers to sense a bit of tension, a lot has happened in past few years.
This is when Satya enters in the main storyline. Satya arrives from London after studying there for years. While returning home he is told by his driver about the mysterious deaths that have occurred in the past few years and
that how everyone blames a female demon for the same.
Flashback (5 years before)
This is when Satya and Bulbbul have grown partially. There is a completely different innocence on Bulbbul’s face. Her gaze is softer, her actions are childish. Her liking Satya is a possibility, but it is not highlighted. Both of them decide to write a novel together, on the lines of romance and horror.
Another important character of this tale is, Binodini. She is Mahendra’s wife and Mahendra is Indranil (Bulbbul’s husband) twin brother. Mahendra is intellectually disabled and his knot was tied with Binodini long back. Binodini’s character (played by Paoli Dam) is such that no one can choose to completely hate her or like her because she too is the victim of toxic patriarchy.....
“Badi Bahu (Milady) a new stock of jewellery has come, why don’t you take some? I would suggest you to keep these new toe rings; yours seem to have loosened a bit.”
Binodini tells Bulbbul with a hint of sarcasm and reveales her thoughts on the growing intimacy between Bulbbul and Satya. After all she was Indranil’s wife and most importantly Badi Bahu!
The story takes a very sudden turn when Indranil comes to know about the growing proximity between his wife and Satya. He considers this as a stain on his masculinity which needs to be removed by any means. He attacks Bulbbul’s feet with an iron skewer and keeps hitting hard until Bulbbul’s scream turns into a deathly silence, the floor is full of nothing but her blood and the viewers’ eyes do not remain dry. He hits her feet until the blot on his fragile masculinity is washed away with his wife’s blood.
No! She isn’t dead yet.
Mahendra (Indranil’s twin brother) who was intellectually disabled- from the very beginning saw Bulbbul as a “Gudiya”, a doll and intented to do something mischievous to Bulbbul. But what he does cannot be explained in words. While severely hurt Bulbbul lies on her bed with her feet tied up at an angle with the help of bandages after they are beaten out of shape by Indranil. Mahendra enters her room, brutally rapes Bulbbul and leaves silently.
But this time, Bulbbul couldn’t scream. Her hands are still, her wide open eyes are motionless, her legs are again covered in blood, but this time it’s the thighs..
She is dead...
No!! Screamed an invisible power, not yet. Bulbul was given a new life, but unlike the previous one, with a purpose. Everything changes; the moon turns dark red, not only for that night but forever. Badi Bahu is alive, but this time she is strong.
RETURN FROM FLASHBACK
Satya returns home after studying in London and finds out that his sister in law (Bhabhi) has changed from what he had left her. He doubts her character. After some time it is revealed that Mahendra, Satya’s brother (who raped Bulbbul) had died mysteriously on the day of ‘Pujo’. Since then many men have died mysteriously, some say a female demon had killed all of them, selectively the males.
To find out about all of these accidents, Satya loads his English rifle and heads towards the jungle, only after warning Bulbbul that she is getting out of ‘control’ and a decision has to be taken in the case. Here Satya indirectly accused Bulbbul of having an affair with her doctor, Dr. Sudip (played by Parambrata Chattopadhyay)
It is evident that the female demon is only killing men who have inflicted numerous atrocities upon women. Satya, after rigorous attempts finally succeeds in spotting the female demon and shoots a bullet at her. He sets the entire jungle on fire only to be told by Dr. Sudip that thw woman he had shot was none other than his sister in law (Badi Bahu) and that she is not a demoness but a Goddess (Devi)
The story ends with a scene where a wounded Bulbbul or better to put “the Goddess” is hopping from tree to tree to save her life, leaving the viewers with eyes full of tears. An appropriate representation of most women today, strong, but silenced by one means or the other nonetheless.
We live in a land where Goddesses are worshipped day and night, a land where Goddesses who killed demons is considered divine, but also the land where women who raise their voice against the odds are called uncultured, the same land where women are set ablaze alive for speaking up.
SATYA: “WHERE DID THE SWEET LITTLE LADY I KNEW DISAPPEAR?”
BULBBUL: “I GOBBLED HER UP!!”
Bulbbul is a very beautiful amalgamation of a storyline with supernatural incidents and a strong social message. It attacks the ever existing patriarchy in a very different way. The metaphorical approach to project that the hands of all the three brothers are stained with the blood of the same woman leaves the audience to ponder whether patriarchy or any other crime against women is something committed by a person or society as a whole?