Bulbbul conjures up real life horrors and dark fairytale revenge.
Bulbbul is an Indian supernatural dark fairytale Netflix Original with dark realism that addresses important social issues concerning women. The fairytale-like atmosphere creates a magical feel that is in stark contrast to the dark realism. The visuals and cinematography, the coloring and music are beautiful and really add to that fairytale-like atmosphere.
The social issues addressed are not only important at the time the story takes place but are sadly still relevant. Told from a woman’s perspective and by a female director and writer, it gets its message across in a way that is sometimes hard to watch and all too realistic. It’s a story about love, hardship, abuse and revenge, combing fantasy, and realism creating an enthralling tale.
It’s highly recommended to watch the film with its original Hindi audio and with subtitles in your own language if possible.
Bulbbul is just a young girl when she is married off to a wealthy man Indranil. On her way to his mansion she is accompanied by his little brother Satya who is her own age and they become friends. Maybe more than friends while they grow up together. This doesn’t stay unnoticed by Indranil and 15 years later he sends Satya away to London.
Heartbroken Bulbbul also has to undergo his punishment. He beats her and maims her feet badly. On top of that his retarded twin brother Mahendra rapes her while she is confined to her bed and unable to defend herself. Binodini, Mahendra’s wife knows but does nothing, for a wealthy life is more important. The only one who cares for Bulbbul is her doctor Sudip who mends her feet. And the demon-witch from the forest who has twisted feet and is out for revenge…
Why you should watch it
Bulbbul is a slow paced film that takes its time to tell and build up the story. The relationships are shown as is her place in the household. She might be wealthy, and people, respect her, but she is not free, and a mere slave, Indranil’s property, only with beautiful jewelry.
The story starts out in 1881 and then skips to the present time, 20 years later. A lot has happened, a lot that changed Bulbbul and it all has something to do with terrible acts that were forced upon Bulbbul 5 years ago. While the story unravels the mystery of the men murdered in the village, it unravels the mystery that surrounds Bulbbul.
The film is beautifully shot and creates a dark fairytale vibe that acts as a metaphor in the background. The main focus is on Bulbbul’s tragic life, her forbidden love and her helplessness. But the demon-witch is about to change all that. The demon-witch, or Goddess is a vengeful goddess who protects the other women and girls in the village from harm caused by men. It’s a hefty theme that although set in 1900, still is all too common.
Although it contains some heavy scenes that are hard to watch, like the beating and the rape Bulbbul has to undergo, it is filmed in a stylish way that shows her hardship and his disgusting behavior, without becoming a scene for shock value. That makes it all the more upsetting.
While some murders take place, they are not that gruesome as the realistic scenes of Bulbbul’s ordeals. Although there’s blood, the film is careful not to move the focus away from the real horrors.
With flashbacks Bulbbul’s story is told. How she became a very different person from the sweet playful young girl she once was. Now she has become fearless, decisive, harsh, but a protector and gracious for those who deserve and need it the most. That contrast is shown in a very gripping way. Young Bulbbul and Satya are full of life and love, whilst playing with each other, telling each other stories, and are endearing to watch, till the harsh realism of life changes all of that.
The realism and the fairytales the two young children tell each other are beautifully and in a gripping way intertwined with each other, complementing each other, forming an enthralling tale. It is very well-balanced out, with focus on both the dark realism and the fairytale that symbolizes it, while creating a mythic tale of its own.
The flashbacks are excellently intertwined with the present and flow into each other in an organic way, by storytelling and by means of cinematography. It has a luscious style that is intriguing and alluring full of mystery and drama. But by keeping it simple, but with full focus on Bulbbul’s personal story and the tale of the demon-witch, it grows into a powerful story.
My favorite part
While the story is told in a slow paced manner, the ending is all the more gratifying. It’s when it all comes together. We finally see the demon-witch or goddess in her full glory, with her twisted backwards feet. It’s beautifully shot with amazing backgrounds and colors and music, finalizing the fairytale vibe. It also outgrows its fairytale vibe by creating a far more real legend or mythos about a goddess who lives in the trees as the protector of those who can’t protect themselves.
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
Bulbbul is directed and written by Anvita Dutt. It stars Tripti Dimri (Bulbbul), Rahul Bose (Indranil/Mahendra), Avinash Tiwary (Satya), Parambrata Chattopadhyay (Sudip), Paoli Dam (Binodini), Ruchi Mahajan (little Bulbbul) and Varun Buddhadev (little Satya).
Duration: 94 minutes. Music: Amit Trivedi. Cinematography: Siddharth Diwan. Edited by: Rameshwar S. Bhagat. Produced by: Karnesh Sharma. Production company: Clean Slate Films. Distributed by: Netflix.