The first and foremost rule of a horror movie is to leave you scared, and if that’s not achievable, it should at least send a chill down your spine and engulf you in an eerie mystery worthy your attention. If neither of this is possible, the very least that a decent horror movie can do is involve you in an intriguing plot with a handful of atmospheric sequences. Anushka Sharma’s debut Netflix production, Bulbbul, directed by Anvita Dutt, however, seldom attempts any of the above, almost seeming apologetic for being a horror movie, trying and failing its level best to accommodate a multitude of other plot elements, and landing flat bang in the middle of nowhere.
Scroll below to read my full Bulbbul review…
What’s it about?
Set in Bengal circa the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Netflix’s Bulbbul revolves around the child bride (Tripti Dimri) of a much-older man (Rahul Bose), who secretly loves his age-appropriate younger brother (Avinash Tiwary), and how the family is linked to the curse of a demonic witch in the neighbouring forest, which plagues the entire village.
The opening sequence, constituting a child marriage, followed by some nifty camerawork of horse-carriage traversing a forest, make quite an impact, not least because of a well-placed, sudden appearance of the demonic witch, which is sure to leave a spine-tingling effect. Sadly, that, and probably one or two more such scenes throughout the movie, are about the only spine-tingling effects you can look forward to. That’s not the case with Siddharth Diwan’s nifty cinematography though, which only keeps getting better as the movie progresses, with everything from the how the camera pans to the lighting to the seamless changes in colour schemes hitting the sweet spot time and again.
Besides it, the only other saving grace of the film are three of its performances, with Rahul Bose and Paoli Dam being first-rate and Tripti Dimri trying her best to be the anchor that steadies a listing ship. Alas, there’s only so much they can do when everything else around them disintegrates.
After a good beginning that lasts for around 15-20 minutes, Bulbbul gets progressively slow without the subject demanding a languid pace. Every opportunity for a some chills, thrills or even half scares is forgone in favour of dreary family drama that drags and drags, and then drags some more. The characters take an eternity to be be established, and back stories pop up so late in the day that you’re forced the peel your eyes open to take them in. At just one hour and 30 minutes, this feels like a complete snoozefest, guaranteed to elicit several glances at the clock.
It almost feels like writer-Director Anvita Dutt’s artistic sense felt compromised upon realising that she had a potentially frightening horror film on hand, which prompted her to slow the pace down to a crawl, inject long-winding TV soap-styled family flimflam and makes things so soporific that any hope of a half-decent horror film flies out of the window. A worthy feminist angle is thrown in, but the crux behind it, and the big reveal it leads to can be seen from miles away even by a blind person. It also doesn’t help that Avinash Tiwary and Parambrata Chattopadhyay are totally bland in their roles.
If you have trouble sleeping, watch Bulbbul, which is nothing short of a test of your conviction to stay awake. If you’re looking for a decent horror movie, shut after the first 20 minutes. Anushka Sharma’s sophomore OTT production heavily tarnishes all the rep and cred that Paatal Lok had built.