Clearly, Clean Slates Filmz is walking the talk. Five projects down and the production house, headed by actor Anushka Sharma and her brother Karnesh, prove beyond any reasonable doubt that their pertinent stride is to tell stories that excite audiences and challenge their thinking. In a clever storytelling move, conceived by writer/director Anvita Dutt, ‘Bulbbul’ deploys horror and fantasy to concoct a feminist narrative.
Set in Bengal between the late years of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century, ‘Bulbbul’ is the story of an innocent child bride who grows up to be an enigmatic young woman, while the presence of a witch endangers her domestic front.
At the technical front, the film is a marvel to rave about. From the period appropriate costume design by Veera Kapur Ee replete with brocade and ornate fabrics, production design by Meenal Agarwal (don’t miss the gorgeous rajbari) and the lush cinematography by Siddharth Diwan, ‘Bulbbul’s crimson-soaked world invites you over for an exciting time-travelling experience. Red is a predominant leitmotif, symbolising femininity, sensuality and strength. Amit Trivedi’s music and Anish John’s sound design compliment the mood well. Personally, for me the film was forgivably predictable but I felt that the editing by Rameshwar Bhagat could’ve been tautened. Else, ‘Bulbbul’ is a world you’d want to submit yourself to.
A lot of that is to be credited to the impressive performances on display. Reprising their convincing ‘Laila-Majnu’ chemistry, lead actors Tripti Dimri and Avinash Tiwary compliment each other’s energy and perfectly nail their acts as childhood confidantes. There is an arresting screen-presence about Tripti and she perfectly emulates the mystique of a Bengali woman. Avinash strikes a fine balance as a young man bordering between empathy and privilege. Rahul Bose as the manor Thakur Indraneil and his identical twin brother Mahendra carries off a double role with ease. Pauli Dam, whom Hindi film audiences may recollect from the first instalment of the ‘Hate Story’ franchise, portrays her shades of grey as the scheming, slighted Binodini with grace. Parambrata Chatterjee as the general physician Dr. Sudip is compassionate.
Despite a few shortcomings, ‘Bulbull’ is largely watchable because Anvita does not revisit the clichéd tropes that have been exploited to drive women-centric films. Instead, this is a stroke of creative genius which meticulously combines bedtime stories told by our grandmothers, folklore fantasy and Indian mythology to create a visually stunning experience.
Definitely, a much competent watch from Netflix’s Indian vault in a long, long time.