Growing up I've read/heard/watched many fairy tales, however, recently I came across an article which ruined the "happy endings" from those "damsel in distress-prince comes saving" tales for me.
As per the article, in 'Sleeping Beauty', it's not the king who kisses her and wakes her up but the twins which she gives birth to after being raped by the monarch.
In 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', the Prince and Snow White invite the evil queen to their wedding to exact sadistic revenge. She is forced to put on hot iron shoes and made to dance until she dies. I cannot vouch for the "original endings" but it just goes on to prove that from time immemorial we are being fed with "fairy tales" which are actually "horror stories", and Anushka Sharma's new production 'Bulbbul' is certainly the latter.
Set in early twentieth-century Bengal, a young bride-to-be Bulbbul asks her aunt, "Why do I have to wear toe-rings?" Her aunt tells her that there is a nerve there and if it isn't pressed girls tend to fly away. "Like a bird?" she inquires. "No. It is to control you," the aunt says nonchalantly.
Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri) is married to a much older Indranil (Rahul Bose), who lives in a mansion with his mentally challenged twin Mahendra, Mahendra's wife Binodini (Paoli Dam) and a younger brother Satya. Bulbbul and Satya, almost the same age, love hanging out with each other. They are even writing a novel together. Jealous of their growing closeness and some nudging from Binodini, Satya is sent to London to study law.
Bulbbul, on the other hand, is brutally tortured by her husband (the scene will break your heart into pieces). Her abuse doesn't end there. In another scene, a bedridden Bulbbul is raped by Mahendra. An indifferent Binodini asks her to keep her lips sealed. She says, "Badi haveliyon mein bade raaz hote hain."
Satya returns after five years only to find a cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking Bulbbul running the mansion like a bawse (it is baffling why a strong woman is always portrayed as the one who drinks and smokes). Upon his arrival, he learns about the bloodthirsty 'chudail with ultey pair' and the havoc she has wreaked upon the villagers.
Who is this chudail? How is Bulbbul related to all of the proceedings? The answer lies in debutante writer-director Anvita Dutt's brilliant critic on the horrors of patriarchy.
The most striking thing about 'Bulbbul' is Amit Trivedi's gripping background score. Siddharth Dewan’s cinematography and Meenal Agarwal’s production design makes the film look as if it has been cut from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's cloth. The lavish mansion with its doors, the passageways, the chandeliers, the stylistic colour palette (turning of the moon from crimson to teal), the century appropriate horse-carriage, jewellery and clothes makes the film a visual spectacle.
In the times when 'Insider Vs Outsider' debate is in full swing, the casting in 'Bulbbul' is a breath of fresh air. On the acting front, Tripti Dimri is terrific. The actor portrays a range of emotions - from being a naive little girl to a ferocious woman who can go all out to seek redemption - you feel her ache. Avinash Tiwary, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Rahul Bose and Paoli Dam are bang on in their respective roles. One yearns to watch such a fine cast, cast its magic on screen.
Anushka Sharma's Clean Slate Filmz must be credited for giving the movie industry an altogether new genre of films. Her last productions - NH10, Phillauri, Pari and now Bulbbul - however distinct from each other, can be tied together as one invoking the feminist spirit. And finally, Netflix has delivered a film which is worth all your time, don't miss a second of it.
Cast: Tripti Dimri, Rahul Bose, Avinash Tiwary, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Paoli Dam
Director: Anvita Dutt
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)