Subhash K Jha reviews Bulbbul

Review of Netflix’s Bulbbul: A Bitter-Sweaty, Brackish Brew of Tagorian Family Ties and Ramsayesque Horror

Starring: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay.

Written and directed by Anvita Dutt.

Rating: **

Imagine Satyajit Ray drops in for tea with Sanjay Leela Bhansali when suddenly the Ramsay Brothers start hammering at the door.

This is the feeling we get while watching Bulbbul, a bitter-sweaty, brackish brew of Tagorian family ties and Ramsayesque horror(there is a chudail with her feet turned inwards). The 90-,minute narrative is so hungover with pretentious references to Ray’s Charulata and Bhansali’s Devadas that the clock seemed to stand still as the doomed Bengali family in the 19th century playing its karma with a quivering intensity in a period drama that looks like a fable plucked out of its habitat and served undercooked and overspiced.

More corny than scary, Bulbbul is like one of those Chandamama fables that we heard in our childhood dipped in the sauce of scandal and salaciousness meant to be served up piping hot.

But alas, someone forgot to turn on the heat. The narrative reads like a Cold Play ballad rendered frigid by a cover-version band that knows the words but has no access to the feelings. The plot tries to scare. And boy, two psychologically unhinged Rahul Boses is scary enough. Rahul playing brothers in a fetid fading feudal family is so ill-cast he makes us laugh out loud when he is meant to be Pure Evil. Nothing, not even evil, is pure in this ode to ornate artifice.

The scenes where Bose straps down and tortures Bulbbul(Tripti Dimri) are easily identifiable for us. That’s how we feel as the dysfunctional family in 19th century Bengal tries to gag and brutalize the Bahu of the family.

I know I know. This is a feminist statement on what happens when you chain a free-spirited woman to the nearest bedpost and whip her to a bloody pulp.

If the above description scares the yell out of you, then you are welcome to this mash-up of horror and passion. But to most of us who have seen Ray and Ritwick Ghatak bring feudal Bengal to life in the cinema of ruinous decadence, Bulbbul strikes us as a work of inexcusable self-indulgence.

Every technician and actor seems to have been given the same brief: behave like you are on the set of a Ray film being directed by Bhansali. The ripe-orange look of the night sequences echo the Devdas look from Bhansali’s film. Tripti Dimri and Avinash Tiwary try to do a Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee from Ray’s Charulata and fail miserably. The only actor who doesn’t seem to be faking it is Parambrata Chatterjee. With his sincere approach to his character, he seems to be in the wrong film.