Eye For Film >> Movies >> Bulbul Can Sing (2018) Film Review
Bulbul Can Sing
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
The flicker of Diwali lights and the twinkle of water mirror the unpredictable energy of the three youngsters at the heart of this Indian drama that starts in the warmth of a sunny afternoon but will travel to much darker territory before it ends. Bulbul (Arnali Das) is a precocious 15-year-old, embarking on her first crushes, along with her best friends Bonny (Bonita Thakuriya) and Suman (Manoranjoan Das).
We only need to see them putting up a makeshift swing to know they come as a unit, but their fizz is in stark contrast to the older generation in their rural Assam community, who take a dim view of everything from skirt length to romantic liaisons. Bulbul's dad, meanwhile, seems determined to push her into singing - despite the fact she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket - and Suman has the additional issue of being gay, a fact that means the other kids in the village refer to him only as "Ladies" and bully him constantly.
Rima Das, who as with her first film, Village Rockstars, is multitasking with the best of them here as director, writer, editor and cinematographer - to name just a handful of her responsibilities - has a loose approach behind the camera, going with the flow of the action, which gives it a near-documentary feel in places. It's a feeling of naturalism that is also enhanced by her non-professional cast.
That embrace of normality makes violence seem out of place here and yet when it arrives we realise it has been simmering the whole time, just looking for an outlet, as Das offers commentary on the outbreaks of mob rule that have blighted Indian society in recent years. "A river must be herself," someone says and yet the adults here want to channel their children in into their own image - at almost any cost.
The territory that it takes the film to makes the last third is rushed in comparison to what has gone before, where the simplicity of the storyline provided the perfect backdrop for complex emotions. This is less a coming-of-age film than an exploration of the way that adulthood is both withheld and thrust upon youngsters in some communities and the potential for that combination to be devastating.Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2019