Bulbul Can Sing: Rima Das continues from where she left Village Rockstars

Bulbul Can Sing is the spiritual successor of Rima Das's last film Village Rockstars. It is another beautiful film with a lot of heart and character to it. The film highlights the conflicts teenagers confront in a conservative society. At the 20th Mumbai Film Festival, Rima Das won Golden Gateway Award for Bulbul Can Sing in the India Gold section of the competition.

Bulbul Can Sing: Rima Das continues from where she left Village Rockstars Bulbul Can Sing: Rima Das continues from where she left Village Rockstars Source : Press

Village Rockstars fame Rima Das's begins Bulbul Can Singh from where she left her last which was India's official submission to 91st Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Village Rockstars was a Cinéma vérité-esque portrayal of the life and dreams of Dhunu, a ten-year-old girl in a backward village in Assam; Bulbul Can Sing is allegorical if not categorical continuation of the same journey after a span of almost half a decade.

Bulbul is shy and pretty. She has two close friends, Suman and Bonnie. They play, eat, study and hang out together. Bulbul falls in love with a guy who writes poetry expressing his love. Bonnie is the more talented singer and Bulbul is the one with rebellious soul. She is a free thinker. She is not a role model. She doesn't act or do how her society and culture expects her to. She is courageous enough to take a stand for what she thinks is right. Her mother tells her at one point: "Girls need to be modest."

Suman is teased by everyone in the town because he hangs out with Bulbul and Bonnie. At one point he breaks into tears and says "God made me this way. How it is my fault?" as Bulbul and Bonnie console him. Suman is kind and a great friend and even though he has feelings for Bulbul, he gleefully acts as the mediator between Bulbul and her lover. The society doesn't give him respect and space so that he learns to accept himself as he is and to if he is made to feel that if he is to live with dignity he has to conform.

There is a discourse in the film about the dichotomy of ‘love'-the contemporary, western love that has come from foreign exposure, that which is ‘impure' and physical is rather ‘lust' and the love of the old, between Radha and Krishna which was ‘pure' and spiritual and devoid of lust. Romantic love is condemned, punished and exploited when it is ‘caught.' The participants are shamed and their upbringing is questioned. The school principal fears that one ‘bad fish' will contaminate the whole ‘pond' and they need to deter others by creating examples out of the lovers.

Bulbul Can Singh has the same fluid and intimate camera work characteristic of Village Rockstars. It is not perfect; there are moments where you want the shot to be composed differently. Though it should be kept in mind that the director Rima Das is also the cinematographer as if being a director wasn't challenging enough for it is commendable that throughout the film she maintains the consistency in visual tones.

Music by Dotora and Kabindra Patowary marks the progress of Rima Das as a filmmaker since her last film where the use of music wasn't as prominent as it is in Bulbul Can Sing. Here, the music is used to good effect and advances the story. The music wraps the leading characters in the romance of youth. After all, it's a movie about school-going teenagers and the music resonates with them, helps them express what they don't understand. It is not pop-music; it is the traditional folk music in Assamese. The lyrics aren't necessarily about the teenagers nevertheless they are beautiful and it is the tunes that matter.

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