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Bulbul Redefines The Witch Trope As A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, And It Is A Delight To Watch

Posted: July 1, 2020

Bulbul, a movie running on Netflix, is a beautiful supernatural tale where a witch is on a killing spree.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

Bulbul is a period film, and is set in 19th Century Bengal. It was produced under the banner of Clean Slate Filmz which has brought us other horror thrillers like Pari and Paatal Lok. All of these films have helped advance the horror and fantasy genres in Bollywood and explored them with a dash of social commentary. Bulbul does not disappoint either with its poignant storytelling by writer-director Anvita Dutt.

Bulbuls are birds that are highly vocal.

If you clip a bulbul’s wings and tighten its vocal cords, it cannot utter a sound. But what if her wings grow back as eagles and she learns to warble like a cuckoo? The real-life bulbul becomes a fictional phoenix. Such is the character of Bulbul, whose tale starts as a domestic tragedy and then turns into a mystical fantasy.

Like the beautiful red moon, bulbul’s feet are red with alta then she is made to wear toe rings to curb her impulsiveness. They are then dipped in vermillion and then her feet are blood soaked and broken .A witch always has her feet twisted backwards according to Indian myths.

Bulbul was a little girl running around until she was married of to a man old enough to be her father. We see her as a little child dressed in a saree and jewelry prancing around but we know there is a much more menacing aspect when she is called by the Bade Thakur in the night to perform her wifely duties.The huge haveli where they live is beautiful and a witness to the sinister acts in the name of tradition.

The supernatural entity & a woman’s desire for revenge

Bulbul, as the Badi Thakurain rises above the rapes, the heartbreaks, the beatings and the insidious whispers of her sister in law. A girl scared of everyone is now a woman in control and confident always in her finery. She hides her vulnerabilities in a lovely laugh and a  soft voice. After all she is still the badi bahu of the haveli and her word is respected and revered from the outside. She enjoys the privileges of an upper-caste household while being stifled by the restrictions in her own domestic space. When she dies as result of a rape, her body is possessed by a spirit that seeks to liberate women like Bulbul, who are struggling under the patriarchy of Bengali Brahmin society.

The witch is killing men but her list is of men who are a blot on society:  pedophiles, men who beat up their wives. 

A well-cast film with talented actors

Rahul Bose in a double role is fabulous as someone not in control; mad but evil, and the other in domination seeped in patriarchy and as impulsive as his mentally ill brother.

Tripti Dimri  is an actress who is a delight to watch. She does full justice to her role as Bulbul, embodying both the sweetness of a young wife and her transition into the mistress of the house.

Image Courtesy: Still from the movie published in The New Indian Express

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