“Bulbul Can Sing”…. A languid, beautiful, understated tale of a girl who learns to be herself

Posted on October 30, 2018


Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/bulbul-can-sing-movie-review-rima-das/

What if the protagonist of Village Rockstars were a few years older? What if she wasn’t driven by major ambition (becoming a musician)? What if she simply wanted to loll around in her village in Assam? Bulbul Can Sing, Rima Das’s follow-up to her breakout art-house hit, is about a teen named Bulbul (Arnali Das), who’s first glimpsed as a disembodied hand angled at the corner of the frame, resting near a fallen flower. Das — as always, the slacker (she’s only managed to find time to also write, produce, edit, design the production and handle the cinematography; the press notes are strangely silent about whether she’s also responsible for the sun and the rain that soak so many of her beautiful frames) — has a way of making her protagonists one with Nature. Even the Diwali celebrations at Bulbul’s house look… natural. Rows of lamps are balanced on plantain stalks, their warm glow mingling with the harsher light from crackers. And after a friend’s death, we see Bulbul playing with a grasshopper. She’s temporarily distanced herself from people. But not from life.


As with Village Rockstars, music plays a part — but it’s Bulbul’s father who wants her to become a singer. And slowly, the difference between the two films becomes apparent. Village Rockstars was an internal journey. The pressures in Bulbul Can Sing are external — from family, from society, from the patriarchy. Till the birth of her brother, Bulbul’s parents dressed her like a boy, but now, her mother is all “Girls should be modest and calm” and “Pull down your frock.” But Bulbul isn’t rebelling. In the opening scene, she’s setting up a swing on a branch, with her friends: a girl named Bonnie (Bonita Thakuriya) and a boy named Suman (Manoranjoan Das). Bonnie and Suman tie the ropes, while Bulbul tests the seat for balance. It’s not a metaphor, exactly, but that’s all Bulbul wants: friends, the wide open spaces, and nothing to unbalance this idyll.

Continued at the link above.

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