The surprising feminist fable from Anushka Sharma is every woman’s battle cry. Rage only makes us stronger.
The dark fairy tale from India is gorgeous. Premiering on Netflix last week, the supernatural morality story is colorful and stunning in the cruelty it shows. Bulbbul is a shocking portrayal of royal wrongdoings and male toxicity. The purposely feminine focused film is a promise for retribution. Brightly hued and intensely focused, Bulbbul is a pretty thriller with teeth and claws.
A small village is tormented by a murderous creature called a chuddail. In flashbacks, we see the life of a child bride promised to royalty. Through these glimpses into the past, we learn why this village is so haunted. The majority of the men in this place are sadistic stereotypes who don’t think twice about taking advantage of women.
Written and directed by Anvita Dutt, this is a fable told through the lens of fairy tales and mythology. From the opening moments, it is obvious this film is about control. The control the men in the movie have over their wives, sisters, and daughters, and the power those same women want over their own lives. A simple toe ring symbolizes that shackling of spirit. Wear it to remind you not to stray too far in mind or body.
Following a brutal beating that leaves Bulbbul with shattered feet, her husband’s brother sneaks in and viciously rapes her. If that isn’t bad enough, he also suffocates her while doing so. He enjoys hurting her so much, so he accidentally kills her. When Bulbbul wakes up, the world has changed. The moon turns red, and Bulbbul is different. She is harder and more exacting. No longer an innocent girl, she both looks different and acts more stoic. Tripti Dimri(Bulbbul) captivates with sly smiles and enigmatic smirks. The innocence of youth forged the diamond strength that only pain could create. Here are all your questions answered about that glorious ending.
What is Bulbbul?
When she was attacked first by her husband and later raped by his brother, she died briefly. When she started breathing again, it is clear she is different. She still is injured from the attacks, but now her feet twist backward. This is a common belief among South Asian and Hindi religions, who each have their versions of the chuddail. Typically these women all have been abused and murdered by men, and a chuddail is the result. Similar to an onryō or a yūrei, they are driven by vengeance and almost always women. Considering the incredibly vicious treatment Bulbbul received from the two brothers, it is virtually certain, Bulbbul was reborn as a chuddail. The reddened sky denotes the change in the world. Lastly, when Satya tries to shoot the monster, Bulbbul begins bleeding in the same spot.
She isn’t wholly freed from her mortal form until she realizes her love, Satya isn’t the ideal man she thought. Before that, she was holding on to her humanity with her love for Satya. It is why the doctor doesn’t suspect her of being a witch and is the reason the bullet wounds her. When she sees Satya for what he really is, she becomes chuddail and immortal. As such, she is all-powerful.
Did Bulbbul get revenge?
To the women of her village who are treated poorly by their cruel men, Bulbbul is the Goddess Kali. She is the Hindu answer to feminism. Fiercely strong and sturdy, Kali chooses to protect women. The embodiment of shakti, Kali, flaunts her sexuality. Unabashedly strong and erotic, she is a destroyer. Bulbbul is similar. She is a force to be reckoned with and doesn’t care who knows it. Bulbbul gets revenge on any man who wrongs women. Even her childhood friend Satya isn’t completely innocent. He questions women’s abilities and places in the world. He may not be as bad as his brothers, but he wasn’t the bastion of enlightenment either.
When did Bulbbul die?
She only dies once. After the beating, during the rape, she is suffocated. This marks her only death. She doesn’t burn to death in the forest when Satya and Dr. Sudip start an inadvertent forest fire. Bulbbul goes through a trial by fire like the Goddess Sita. Sita is an extremely popular goddess in the Hindu religion. She is considered the ideal wife, but through a modern lens is considered somewhat weak, letting her husband take care of her. Bulbbul appears to be a perfect wife keeping her mouth shut about the attack, but she is only pretending to accept what happened to her. Her trial by fire only made her more durable, and she is now able to appear anywhere at any time.
What happens in the end?
After the fire seemingly burns Bulbuul alive, we flash forward to a year later. Her ex-husband Indraneil has returned home to find only decay and a fiery goddess. Satya has run away, fearing he is becoming like his brothers. Our goddess doesn’t need a man to rescue her, and Nutt makes the wise decision to leave Satya flawed.
It’s a satisfying ending for a group of men who had it coming to them. The Indian feminist tale shows Hell hath no fury like a woman wronged. This straightforward story of revenge is told from a decidedly female perspective. Like every good fairy tale, it is as horrific as it is gorgeous. With spectacular cinematography by Siddharth Dewan and a genuinely haunting soundtrack by Amit Trivedi, it is a feast for the eyes, ears, and soul. Just make sure you are on the right side of things, or a chuddail may come for you in the night.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.