Movie Review: Bulbul Can Sing; A song sung true

Film: Bulbul Can Sing

Cast: Arnali Das, Manoranjoan Das, Manabendra Das, Bonita Thakuriya, Pakija Begam

Director: Rima Das

Rating: * * * *

Our very own one woman production Company (Story writer, scenarist, cinematographer, editor, director) Rima Das has done it again after the super worldwide appreciation, accolades and acclaim of her breakout feature ‘Village Rockstars’– fashioned an enchanting visual odyssey about three young village teens from rural Assam (Kalardiya, Das’s home village to be precise).

Bulbul (Arnali Das) a precocious 15-year-old embarking on her first crush, along with her best friends Bonny (Bonita Thakuriya) and Suman (Manoranjoan Das), are also dealing with the upheavals in their young life brought on by societal dogma. Bulbul and Bonnie have admirers with whom they exchange embraces but Suman is a little more complex. He doesn’t fit into the gender pattern framed by society and is constantly being taunted as ‘ladies.’

For someone who can’t carry a tune, having a father who insists on turning her into a singer, can be even more traumatic than normal. While the title obliquely alludes to this fact, Das’ film is much more than just a coming-of-age recognition of youth. The film, in fact, ingeniously weighs in contrasting stories about how different communities withhold and thrust upon youngsters the prospect of adulthood. Das’ film is a smoothly flowing, realistically defined drama that hits you in the face with its sucker punch.

This film is a lovingly crafted, uncannily perceptive, authentic look at an ordinary young tomboy growing up in a repressive patriarchal society. While the feisty, defiant and dogged Bulbul is on the verge of exploring her teens, a tragedy occurs, which in turn forces her to question her own feelings.

Her clash with traditional expectations thrusts her into a vortex of self-doubt and angst. Das’ documentary like takes enhances the rustic resplendence of the backdrop while slowly simmering up to an explosive realignment on the emotional front.

The narrative may appear simple – Das’ compelling fiction is heightened by languid and unhurried takes, leaning more towards naturalism than emblazoned vapidity. This experience is as strongly personal as it is expressive. The complexities that it exposes and the affect it demands, makes it a unique experience altogether. The superbly primed non-professional cast makes this experience even more fulfilling.