Writer turned director Anvita Dutt could give a much tighter film in a genre that’s not been respected much in Bollywood
Tumbbad, Pari, Ghost Stories, and Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship are a few horror flicks of the recent times that gave strength to the horror genre in Bollywood. Although a couple of them received mixed responses, the content was strong enough to spark a discussion. Bulbbul is Anushka Sharma’s next production joined by her brother Karnesh, a reason why you should be eager for this one. However, you will surely be left unsatisfied.
1881. Bengal Presidency. India. A little girl Bulbbul (Ruchi Mahajan) is married to an elderly man Indranil (Rahul Bose), a thakur. She becomes friends with Indranil’s young brother Satya (Varun Buddhadev) and bonds over a chudail’s story. 20 years pass. Satya (Avinash Tiwary) returns to the haveli from London, much to the elation of Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri). But mystery ensues in the village around murders that happen, turning the lives of the characters as well.
Written by Anvita Dutt herself, the scripting is a problem here, and not the idea. Talking of the film in its entirety, the idea is good and has meanings, unlike several films of the genre in the past. There are layers as well. But where Dutt falls short, majorly as a writer is that these layers get predictable. They don’t give audience enough substance to cherish the story as a film.
One thing though – this is not a horror film as such. Blame it then on the projection of the makers in the trailers. It is a mystery, and calling it ‘suspense’ would be more appropriate. Also, the enigma around the lead character also remains constant, and while the audience is fed with woman-demon story all across, you are only taken to the point of thrill and not beyond that.
While Anvita succeeds as a director, achieving the necessary flavour for the film, the narrative doesn’t seem to go anywhere after a point. The 94 min film is also very slow, and it takes forever to build and establish the characters. There is also a predictability looming all through, and since you know what the film is titled, it isn’t difficult for you to come to a conclusion much early on in the film. And that’s not a very good sign for a suspense or horror film.
Even when the ultimate revelation is made, it doesn’t hit you the way it should. Reasons are many. Predictability, lethargic pace of the film, stakes not too high, weak plotting of the elements, and weak messaging, are only few. It’s a film that always lies on the surface level and never really allows you to dig deep. You don’t feel for even the protagonist, let alone the other prime supporting characters.
There are sequences though that come as a fresh breeze, and you appreciate the direction. One where Bulbbul is waiting impatiently at the window and you see several soul figures merging with her (it’s an interesting thought) and also where the heightened cruel sequence of the film appears (no spoiler here), you are pleasantly amazed at the spectacle created.
Tripti Dimri after Laila Majnu shows that she is here to stay. She rightfully sets her mystifying character and you like watching her in that avatar. Also, she has shades within the boundaries of her character and she makes sure you find her adorable in all of them. A very good performance. She suffers due to overall half hearted writing of the film, that depends so much on the protagonist.
Avinash Tiwary has an elongated role but not written well. He is the Messiah, the trouble solver, but the writing never allows him to take off. Whatever Tiwary has done is very good though. He makes sure he performs ably, which he does right from his first scene to his last.
Pauli Dam has a very interesting role and she delivers lines with conviction. You want her more on the screen. Her character gives depth and whenever she appears, you listen keenly because the dialogues then spark off something novel. She looks well for the part and the character’s inherent angst is supremely portrayed.
Rahul Bose has a double role. And in both, he is good. He is a fantastic actor, so here it seems that he is underutilized.
Parambrata Chattopadhyay is just fine. He is a good actor and this seems a cakewalk for him. His role and his performance are both reasonably okay, nothing great.
Music by Amit Trivedi is fine, mainly consisting of background score. You do feel that the score could have lifted the film up. It doesn’t do so. A lot of the flat narrative is because of a weak score. Likewise Anish John’s sound design is also pale. Doesn’t do the needful for the film. Disappointing.
Cinematography by Siddharth Diwan is good for only achieving the feel. However the over usage of red doesn’t do well for the overall positioning. There are sequences where red works as a wonderful advantage. But it’s there for the major portion of the film. Production design by Meenal Agarwal is okay, moving in sync with the film. It is too dramatic, however keeping you at distance from the people and situations of the film.
Editing by Rameshwar Bhagat is good, as per the written and shot material. This is the best that could be achieved in this thinly dull piece of writing.
Good thing- this can be watched even by the people having the faintest hearts. Bad thing- wish this wasn’t the case. Because then that would mean a good addition in good horror of Bollywood. While it’s better than many meaningless horror pieces, it is still not impressive.
About the Writer
Rochak Saxena is a Mass Media teacher in Vadodara, Gujarat, former journalist at DNA and an ardent lover of Hindi films – literally. His blog is named Magical Suspension of Disbelief deriving its name from the popular term ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, most commonly used in the world of literature and cinema. Meaning to immerse yourself in an unreal world (where you know what you see on screen is not real) with a self-proclaimed/declared belief/wish to consider it real, the willing world becomes magical. It’s the same magic every Friday that drives Rochak to share things in the perspective that it needs to be observed with. Every film is different. And the difference needs to be cherished.
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