Ghost Recipe

FILM REVIEW SACHIN CHATTE

Film: Bulbbul

Cast: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose

Directed by: Anvita Dutt

Duration: 1 hr 35 mins

Rating: * * 1 /2

Bulbbul directed by writer turned director Anvita Dutt leaves you with mixed feelings. There is a lot to admire in terms of its top-notch production values and raising the issue of patriarchy – but at the same time the screenplay drags and at times, even 95 minutes feel too long.

In terms of the core story, a chudail (referred to as demon-woman) on a killing spree is nothing new. What is unique is the production – a grand 19th-century mansion, the setting and fancy costumes (almost competing with Sanjay Leela Bhansali but mercifully, not quite there).

A revenge story involving a woman has been done before [Rekha’s Khoon Bhari Maang (1998) comes to mind], a revenge saga involving a ghost has also been done once too often. It used to be referred to as bhatakti aatma, but now all that has got a bit more sophisticated.

Set in 1881, in Bengal Presidency, we see a young girl, Bulbbul, who is not even in her teens, being married off to a wealthy zamindar (Rahul Bose) who is at least four times her age, if not more. Initially, we are given the impression that she is marrying Satya, who is very much a kid, like her.

Fast forward 20 years later – the zamindar has left the building, leaving behind Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri), who is mostly fanning herself leisurely, while having conversations with her sister-in-law Binodini (Pauli Dam), the wife of the zamindar’s brother, Mahendra (Rahul Bose, again), who is challenged – rather was challenged. Somebody sucked the life out of him.

Satya (Avinash Tiwary), returns from London after 20 years and it doesn’t take long for the secret love between him and Bulbbul, to blossom again. She appears to be the more strong and bold of the two while he is still playing it by the book. Some mysterious murders are taking place in the village adding to the much-needed excitement in the screenplay. The other character of relevance in the scheme of things is a doctor (Parambrata Chatterjee), who is friendly with Bulbbul making Satya one of the most jealous men of the early 20th century.

Exquisitely shot by Siddharth Diwan, there are some colourful hues that are used. Then there is the attention to the detailing which all looks impressive. Like most stories we have heard or seen of that era, Bulbbul also reminds you of those Tagore stories of that era.

Bulbbul falters with the screenplay though – it doesn’t immerse you in the proceedings, you want the existing scene to finish and move to the next one and that is never a good sign. I have no doubt that in a theatre, the climax would have been deemed as cringe-worthy. As the audience, you have already figured out what is going on and the manner, in which the characters figure that out, is more of a product of lazy writing, than
suspense.

There are also a couple of scenes depicting extreme violence against women – now sometimes, it fits in the scheme of things to carry the story forward or to justify a character’s actions. In this case, perhaps, it would have worked better if it was implied rather than being so much in your face. Pretty much like the rest of the story.

(Bulbbul is streaming on Netflix)