“Auntie, why do I have to wear toe rings?”
“Because there’s a nerve here. If it is not pressed, girls tend to fly”
“Like a bird”?
Set in the Bengal Presidency of 1881, the initial scenes of Bulbbul produced by Anushka Sharma and directed by Anvita Dutt open up to a child bride Bulbbul being adorned by her aunt who is seen telling the ingenious little girl to come to grips with her marriage into a wealthy ‘zamindar’ family. Soon after, she arrives at the palatial manor house with Satya (her husband’s younger brother, who is her own age) only to discover that her husband is not Satya whom she had befriended but his intimidating elder brother, Indranil (Rahul Bose) who is also seen playing the role of the deranged twin brother, Mahendra who is married to a vindictive woman, Binodini (Paoli Dam).
The story takes a turning point when Satya unexpectedly makes his way back to the manor after a long span of twenty years in London. Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri) is all grown up now and has fully embraced her life as ‘the lady’ of the house. Satya also discovers that his brother Mahendra has been brutally killed in his sleep and his eldest brother Indranil has disappeared for good. The villagers are convinced that a witch is behind a series of mysterious deaths taking place but Satya, on the other hand, disregards the belief and takes the matter in his own hands.
The film lays bare a patriarchal society that suppresses it’s women in a hundred different ways, from putting on a toe-ring to keep the girl under control to beating the wife black and blue and later making it justifiable by referring it to a bruise by falling down the stairs of the house. One can find a range of powerful monologues in the film reflecting the deeply entrenched notions of a patriarchal society, be it Indranil asking Bulbbul “Ek patni ka uske pati ke alawa kya niji ho sakta hai (What can be personal for a wife other than her own husband?) or Binodini asking Bulbbul to stay mum about her sufferings when she says “Badi haveli ke bade raaz hote hain (there are big secrets about big mansions)”.The entire setting of the film is evocative of privileged upper-caste women who live in a world full of grandeur on the outside but are tormented on the inside. However, Bulbbul’s sudden transformation from a docile and timid girl into a strong and independent woman taking charge of the entire manor house unfolds a captivating feminist fable as she goes on to seek revenge as a ‘Devi’ in order to channelize her trauma.
Added elements of supernatural horror and folklore like a picturesque gothic haveli amidst a lush forest and the blood moon evoke an eerie sensation thereby making the film altogether appealing. Nevertheless, one can easily predict the movie’s mystery as it does not really take a genius to put two and two together.
Image Source – DNA India
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