Personal observations on life


Bulbbul Twitter Review: Anushka Sharma's Netflix Production Gets ...

On a rainy Friday afternoon, I watched Bulbbul on Netflix.

By Indian standards it is a very short movie. It did not move me to tears or rage, but left me reflecting on womanhood in India, or the reality of being a woman in India.

First, the facts. Bulbbul is an Indian supernatural drama film written and directed by Anvita Dutt and produced by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma. The film stars Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. It was released on Netflix on 24th June 2020, and is set in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency in the 1800’s.

Let me capture the story in a nutshell.

Bulbbul is a child bride given in marriage to a man named Indranil, about two decades older than her. But she is more attached to her husband’s youngest brother Satya who is about her age. She is lusted after by another brother of her husband, Mahendra, who is mentally challenged. Bulbbul’s attachment to Satya soon raises suspicions in her husband which are fueled on by Mahendra’s wife Binodini, who is presumed to have an affair with Indranil.

Indranil sends Satya off to London, and in a fit of fury, beats Bulbbul up till her feet are in a pulp. Indranil leaves the Manor soon after. Dr. Sudip, an empathetic doctor treats Bulbbul for her injuries, but Mahendra takes advantage of her helpless condition and rapes her. In the ensuing violence, Bulbbul’s feet are permanently damaged, and she herself appears to have died. Yet she is alive when Binodini comes into the room and cleans Bulbbul’s  thighs. Binodini tells her to keep silent, which Bulbbul does.

Satya returns after five years to find Bulbbul a strong and independent woman, running the Manor. A string of murders has happened in the village, and Satya suspects Dr. Sudip. However, it turns out that it was Bulbbul herself who kills the men who wrecked the lives of herself and fellow women. She is the ‘chudail’ – the she-demon with feet turned backwards. She meets a violent end just as Satya discovers the true identity of the ‘chudail’.

There are various themes that the movie handles:

1. Child marriage

The root cause of all evil in the story is child marriage. The uprooting of a child from her home, expecting her to live from then on in a strange household with a strange man is actually the beginning of the whole tragedy. Bulbbul’s friendship with Satya becomes natural and inevitable because of this.

2. Patriarchy

‘A woman’s personal life consists of only her husband,’ says Indranil to Bulbbul, when she says that the book that she was writing with Satya was a personal matter. The movie is in fact a fierce critique of patriarchy, and how women rise from the ashes and fight for what is right. There are many helpless girls and women in Bulbbul who suffer at the hands of cruel fathers and husbands.

3. A reinforcement of the she-demon myth

Women, traditionally, are perceived as gentle, sacrificing creatures with no capacity to rise against those who ill-treat them. If she does, she has to be a she-demon or a witch, even if what she does is morally right. This is what happens in Bulbbul as the heroine turns into a she-demon to mete out revenge, and is a normal lady of the Manor at other times.

4. Oppressive social customs

There are any number of oppressive social customs portrayed in Bulbbul, understandably because the film is set a century back. However, some of those customs exist even now. For example, take the case of Binodini who is married off to a mentally challenged Mahendra. She is forced to marry him, which inevitably leads to her dissatisfaction with life and infidelity. In fact, along with child marriage, the tragedies that happen in Bulbbul are all created by human beings, in the name of social customs and traditions.

Personal observations on life

How patriarchy harms the next generation

Patriarchy | What is it, etymology, history, characteristics, examples

Patriarchy is a term h used to identify social organizations in which the authority is invested in the head of the family, the man, who owns wealth, children, wife and property. In other words, the woman, children, and the money in the family are all the possessions of the man in the family. Patriarchy and its typical social conventions are deep-rooted in our society, affecting all facets and strata of life. Nowhere is the weight of patriarchal mindsets more felt than the family, and for that reason, the younger generation grows up with an unhealthy dose of it fed to them everyday. There are a number of ways in which it harms them.

1. Skewed perspectives on gender

In families where the father is dominant, and where the father takes decisions without consulting anyone, the role model of the son is set. He most probably grows up to be like his father. However, unlike his father, he has to live in a world where women have education, learned opinions and views. He will be a misfit in such a world where women also work earn, and expect men to put in an equal share of work in household chores and bringing up children. He grows up thinking that man is more important than woman.

2. Lack of open communication

In a patriarchal family, there are things that are not discussed by the father with the rest of the family, such as the family finances and problems the father faces in his workplace. In many patriarchal families, the father and other male adults do not talk much at all, except with their own male adult friends. This gives rise to communication patterns that are very superficial, and the children in such families may grow up incapable of in-depth conversations.

3. Underdevelopment of personality

A child’s personality is molded by the family environment to a very large extent, In patriarchal families, girls and daughters grow up in close alignment with the traditional stereotypical definitions and roles of males and females. This leaves them deficient in a lot of areas of their personality which could be more like the opposite gender. For example, a girl may have the potential to be a public speaker, but since she has not seen her own mother speak confidently in front of a group, she may not even realize that she has this potential. Similarly, a boy may have the capacity to be an empathetic nurturer, but in the absence of a nurturing father role model, he might never fulfill this potential.

4. Promotes dependence

Ironically, patriarchy promotes dependence. Many of the patriarchal men do not know how to make food, or wash and iron clothes. They depend on women for all these ‘feminine’ activities. In patriarchal families, sons are not expected to learn cooking or washing clothes, just like the daughters are not expected to learn driving. Thus, neither the male child nor the female child grows up to be an independent adult.

Personal observations on life

Takeaways from the tragic case of Uthra

The case of Uthra should, if nothing else, pave way for the complete abolition of dowry, in all the different ‘layers’ of society, the crude people who openly ask for dowry, and also the sophisticated upper class that doesn’t openly ask but expects it nonetheless.

The case of Uthra should also lead to the abolition of the thinking that in order to live a good life, a woman has to be married off, at any cost. It is perfectly fine for a boy or girl to remain single, as long as they have an income to support themselves. There is no point in saying that if one doesn’t have children, there will be nobody to look after them in old age. It is nonsense. Better check into a retirement home and enjoy life with your peers than suffer loneliness living with your adult children.

Thirdly, all parents should know that what they need to do is not to save money and gold for their daughters’ marriage, but to use that money to give her a good education that would get her a job and financial independence. Teach her to be assertive and bold.

The fourth change should be the complete abolition of the outdated and unnatural tradition of the ‘marriage of convenience ‘ in which money, social position, religion and caste become the basis of a marriage between a man and a woman. Instead, marriage should happen when a man and a woman find affection towards each other, companionship and compatibility in each other, and genuinely want to live with each other. In order for this to happen, our society should accept that a human being is essentially an organism that looks for a spiritual and sexual companion once it comes of age. It is basic human nature. It is a natural urge to look for a partner when a child grows into a particular age. Our society should do well not to suppress that urge, and stop indoctrinating young minds that it is a sin even to talk to the opposite gender. Abolish all boys’ and all girls’ schools and colleges, and let boys and girls mix together freely.

Fifth, Uthra’s case should lead to a change in how society views divorce. A divorce should be seen as a decision arrived at by the partners in a relationship when they find themselves incompatible, when there is no respect for each other anymore. Society should view divorcees with compassion and give them moral support instead of condemning them.

Finally, stop discriminating between the boy child and the girl child in the family. Give both equal share in the family property instead of giving the girl a dowry and sending her away. Let boys and girls both carry the family name. Let children have both the mother’s and father’s names as their surname. And don’t make it mandatory to change a girl’s name or family name after marriage. The girl should carry her own family name, not her husband’s family name.

These are radical suggestions. If our society would at least start thinking along these lines, many Uthras would live to a ripe old age happily. There will be less injusice due to misogyny and patriarchy. There will still be problems, but there will be less hypcrisy and less suppression of human sexuality. It will be a more just, fair and equal society.
#saynotodowry #saynotoarrangedmarriage