LIFF 2019 Movie Review: ‘Bulbul Can Sing’

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After experiencing success at the 2018 Toronto Indian Film Festival, director Rima Das has now brought her film to the UK, to showcase it at this year’s Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival. Known for telling stories from villages and of the youth, ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ (2018) promises to be a heartfelt and emotional story, about a girl, her dreams and the people around her.

Bulbul (Arnali Das) shares the same dreams of her father, to become a singer. However, when it comes to singing in front of people, she becomes nervous and can’t project her voice enough to impress anyone, including her two best friends, Bonny (Bonita Thakuriya) and Suman (Manoranjan Das) are best friends. Living through their adolescents, all three teenagers are discovering themselves through romances and their own friendship. However, with Suman being teased and made fun of for his own sexuality, and society being very orthodox when it comes to relationships, the three friends have to find ways in trying to understand the feelings they have. However, they don’t get very far when a group of men catch Bulbul and Bonny with their boyfriends where things take a turn for the worst, and their lives change forever.

Arnali is placed perfectly as the protagonist. Her soft voice and slender body language throughout the film makes her instantly likable. Her character is also one that many can relate to, where her fear of not being good enough to fulfil her dreams become prominent in the most subtle ways. Bonita as Bonny is a joy to watch on screen. Bringing the element of fun, she plays her role with confidence adding an element of boldness, portraying the perfect companion to Bulbul, reflecting the fearless friend everyone has. Monoranjan plays Suman very well, without giving too much away at first, he, like his two co-stars is true and humble in the way he plays his character. Honing in on the emotional trauma that many go through when discovering their sexuality, he compels his viewer to understand him and vouch for him, where his only solace is Bulbul and Bonny.

Rima’s directing style is one that works well for this type of film. Using mostly close-up shots, simple dialogue and long scenic shots with instrumental background music, it almost feels as though the viewer is watching a documentary. Through this the audiences are automatically engaged. However, at times, it can get confusing as to what is actually taking happening. Rima has done well in making a film that questions the way many societies still feel how people should behave and the idea of right and wrong through actions. By displaying the brutal unforgiving nature of some of these societies and the dire consequences of their opinions, Rima gives her viewers a lot to think about. Though the trailers reflect a simple film, the film-maker has made a hard-hitting project where may find it an uncomfortable watch. Her, almost documentary style of film-making does make the story a little slow at times, where there is a constant change in scenery. This may not be a film for those who enjoy a full-fledged commercial drama, as it does require a little bit more concentration. Rima has made a good film, which shows her potential, and does make an impact on the message she is trying to portray.

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