I remember Anushka Sharma's Pari had a gotten a lot of good word but for sheer cussedness, I did not see it in the time that it was making waves, and then it went out of my consciousness (I had better catch it while it's still on Prime). As some kind of atonement I suppose, when I heard that Sharma was producing another horror flick to be shown on Netflix I pounced on immediately. How did that work out for me?
In early 20th century Bengal, strapping young lad Satya returns after many years to a home where his much elder brother has deserted, abandoning his child bride Bulbbul. Much nearer in age to Satya, Bulbbul's coquettish behavior suggests old passions. Meanwhile, a bunch of murders in the neighborhood are being attributed to a Chudail.
Bulbbul is the kind of horror story that, if you've seen / read any horror stories before, you will know within the first 15 min EXACTLY how it's going to play out; the film does not once in its entire 90 min running time surprise you. I suppose one must be grateful for its not having the twist-for-twist-sake convolutions that make you want to slap the writers silly, but it is a slog.
It's not unwatchable, though. There's some serious thinking behind the visuals (DoP Siddharth Diwan), with lovely colors, dramatic lighting (and aggressive color grading), which make for the best reason to sit through. Director Anvita Dutt is obviously going for a lush Gothic feel a la Crimson peak (even if certain scenes like a prominent bathroom sequence evoke hilarity rather than the intended gut-wrench, while another set on a hospital bed is undeservingly icky). The climax with a forest fire fares well in terms of the integration of the CGI.
The titular Bulbbul is played by one Tripti Dimri who is...actually good. Depending on the scene, she has a smile that alternately conveys innocence or a knowing sensuality, and commits to the part. One wishes the writing had done her more justice. Male lead Avinash Tiwari seems to come from the T-series stable of bland movie heroes (interestingly, Deepa Gahlot gives him a lot of credit in her review of the recent Laila Majnu movie, so maybe he was just badly let down here). Rahul Bose in a double role is twice as awful. Damn it, why can't he be implicated in one of these #metoo scandals and made an industry pariah?