Bulbul Can Sing  ‘LIFF’ Review – The Discernible mellow Voice in peculiar Social noise
Bulbul Can Sing, a coming-of-age docufiction by the rising voice in the Indian independent film arena, Rima Das, provides the audience with a window which opens into the heartlands of Das’ native village Chhaygaon, Assam, and in the process, allows a peek into the heart of any rural Indian adolescent whose dynamic mind and body are stuck in the constant to-and-fro motion between conflicts and embracement of ideas hitherto unknown to them.
Rima exploits the opportunity to capture the raw beauty of rural Assam by filming in natural lights that provide a warm temperature to the setting. The realism is natural and not something which is imposed for the aesthetic pleasure of the viewers. This helps in the amalgamation of the viewers with the participants of the film on a personal pedestal, hence, escalating the stature of the spectator in us to an active member of the ongoing events.
The director-producer scores higher in terms of technical finesse when compared to her previous national award-winning offering Village Rockstars. The camera moves smoothly and the close shots permit a deeper delve into the emotions being expressed. This is one thing Rima deserves absolute applause for considering the non-actor performers she was working with. Focused shots increase the exposure of the actors who are tasked to emote to different processions with minimal dialogues.
An inclination to close range cinematography can be suicidal to the drama if the performers are weak, and on the other hand, can establish a direct connection with the audience if the actors pass with flying colours. The risk, henceforth taken, doesn’t prove to be lethal to the narrative quite amusingly as the actors live and breathe their roles.
Arguably, cinema is essentially the director’s medium. Filmmakers in a dearth of established performers and/or in abundance of newcomers and often due to a restricted screenplay, take refuge in the use of long-range cinematography on multiple occasions to weave the fabric of the story from elements inorganic to the story itself.
Taking an example in Kadwi Hava, the director doesn’t cease to remind us of the infertility of the wastelands where the story takes place via multiple barren landscape shots which cut in midway. However horrifying the reality is, the sheer repetition of attempts takes away the majority of the impact.
Rima doesn’t give in to limitations, or probably she was lucky to have young talents at her disposal and makes her film as much as an actors’ medium as it’s hers. Having said that, a nature enthusiast in me was yearning to lock its eyes with more long-range shots which capture the heavenly abode the village seems to be, than what has been served to us by the director.
Deep focus is utilized in a few shots to render screentime to supporting acts in order to bring them into the foreground at a later time in the film. There is a great improvement in terms of sound design as far as I opine since ambient noises do not dominate the audio.
Quite remarkably, Manoranjoan Das deserves all our attention here. He leaves us with an act we can forever cherish in Suman, a character sketched in the most beautiful and precise way. Suman comes out to be an accurate portrayal of the third orientation in the recent array of Indian Cinema, which has always been overflowing with caricaturish, often humiliating, depictions.
Suman is neither a plot device nor an imposed comic escape. He is what so many people are, and it’s through him we take a walk in our memory lanes. All of us who have been a victim of bullying, or who have hidden an alternate side of ours or at least have tried to, for most of our lives, build an instant connect with Suman.
Rima is empathetic and sensitive in her approach, she doesn’t create a mockery nor does she build a tower of cinematic friendship on the foundations of superficiality which arise out of cliched plot devices. She makes us recollect our relationships as we venture into the relationships of our characters.
You might be detached for the first quarter since the movie feels like the actors are working without a script, normally going through their daily chores. It’s only when the story unfolds gradually we realize that there was something hiding in the plain sight and everything that follows leads us to a greater narrative. This exercise turns out to be elemental to the character development in the film as things progress and our three central characters find themselves in a turmoil which ultimately consumes everything they had been living with.
Rima manages to open up a few avenues into the psyche of the common folk. We all are familiar with how people think around us and how they react when they are acting as a unit of society and not as their individual selves.
Also Read, Rima Das’s debut film ‘Village Rockstar’ Review
Multiple conversations are placed conveniently which address the pretentiousness people carry and the helplessness of the victims of the situation when they lack a standing of their own. I’m personally intrigued with every since act the actors serve us in the film as none of them come out to be underprepared or naive. The drama gets completely dissolved in the film by the second half, prior to which it feels like a colloidal solution.
Bulbul’s voice is central to the theme and her hesitation comes out as a metaphor for all the voices that remain unheard or bleak with their owners’ hesitation. However, I felt that this arc remains largely unexplored as the other narrative overshadows, for the viewer in me wanted to experience her solitude through her voice more than what has been provided to us.
Usually, when stories take this route, the utterly optimistic human in us takes precedence and guides our expectations. We start looking for that saviour face who would obliterate all that is wrong in the little worlds of our protagonists. Rima realizes the harshness reality carries per se and doesn’t sugarcoat the narrative. On the contrary, she places a number of other elements which, without taking the central stage, leave us shocked, appalled and restless. We may wish the voices to become rebellious but do they?
It’ll be interesting to see Rima Das’ little universe expanding as she has successfully proved her mettle with 3 independent films of her own donning multiple hats, both technical and creative.
A few smiles can blossom in the deepest of melancholy. Listen to Bulbul singing and you shall create one for yourself too.