BulBul is a story, let’s say a journey of a woman, who drives auto rickshaw to support her family. Along her journey, viewers get to have a glance at the existing class division in Kathmandu, struggle of working women in the profession that has long been considered as a domain of rustic males, and most of all, the movie excels in portraying the longing of a woman for love and affection that I believe is the reason for the title of this movie.
First of all, Writer/Director Binod Paudel, stand up and take a bow for making such a smart and enjoyable offbeat cinema. Salute! Rarely has a movie been made in Nepal has such conviction, smartness and a keen sense of humor. For regular mainstream viewers, the movie may appear somewhat slow paced in the second half but it never loses your interest, even for a second. Even your smart guesses will fail you at telling what happens next and the movie amazes you with every unpredictable turn it takes. As a matter of fact, you don’t even care what happens next, you can just go on enjoying the moments. The patience one requires to enjoy the work of art will be paid in full.
Titular character of the movie is played by Swastima Khadka; five minutes into the movie and you start gazing at her in disbelief wondering if this is the same actress who usually plays a college girl. She has shed off all of that girl-next-door look and portrayed Ranakala, an auto rickshaw driving mother,who also takes care of her father-in-law, with near perfect execution. Debutant Mukun Bhusal excels in his role as a security guard Chopendra, who tries to win Ranakala’s heart. His accent is spot on, perhaps he is from the region. Laxmi Bardewa gives an excellent performance as Bhima, another auto rickshaw driver and wife of a mechanic. Bhima and Ranakala’s camaraderie, buffoonery and cursing are the highlights of the movie, which increases the entertainment quotient as well. Watch out for Bhima’s expression when she meets Ranakala after she gets beat up by her husband.
The story, the characters, folk songs that play in the background, all exhume the smell of ‘Nepaliness’ that has long been buried somewhere and forgotten by mainstream Nepali cinemas. These days, even two-minute long movie trailers have cringe worthy Bollywood dialogues in them. Importantly, it succeeds in showcasing the struggle of Nepali women, suppressed and/or ignored by their men who don’t hesitate to thrash them even at taking a small liberty of watching porn. There is a scene in the movie in which two different couples look at the city from the same spot, albeit with different eyes and thought. Bulbul is full of such metaphors, which represent the prevailing situation of Kathmandu.
Technically, it is an enthralling piece of cinema made without any compromise. Sushan Prajapati’s cinematography is easy on the eye. There aren’t any brightly colorful scenes, which helps in maintaining realism in the movie. Background score by Noble Freaks is another highlight of the movie, which intensifies the effects of moments. It is the ending though, which gets the viewers’ forehead wrinkled. Viewers are made to think about what happened at the end as it is left open for interpretation. There is a cue, sort of, in a scene and if you missed it, you will want to talk about it with your friends.
This movie will be a topic of discussion in the years to come for the excellent performances of actors, very good dialogues and its portrayal of slices of lives of working class Nepali women with sociopolitical correctness. Given such a realist work of art doesn’t have any male character who is not full of oneself, the takeaway is perhaps it’s about time us Nepali men had had some attitude adjustment. Lastly, experienced viewers could also take notice of its resemblance to one of the 80’s art house movie from Bollywood, the one with Smita Patil.
Don’t leave your brain at home, take it along and enjoy this masterful work of art with your friends at theaters near you.
Producer: AbeeralThapa, BhimThapa, Raju Paudel, Purushottam Pandey
Cast: SwatimaKhadka, MukunBhusal, LaxmiBardewa, Joes Pandey, Deepak Chhettri, UjjwalAdhikari, Alina Karki