Another film around a supernatural force set in the 1900s. How the story of a child bride in a village in Bengal where an eerie presence lurks manages to make quite a statement.
Of all the pieces of jewellery that my mother owns, I have been fascinated by perhaps the smallest two trinkets. Two bicchiyas or toe-rings made of silver, with a tiny blue gemstone embossed on its head. Toe rings are generally worn by married women, so when a five year-old Bulbbul asks her mother why are toe rings worn, she gets a rather baffling reply:
“Vash mein karne ke liye” (to tame the one wearing it).
After all women have traditionally been expected to be docile, meek and self effacing. Anything other than this is an aberration. All of a sudden I am reminded of my first year at Hindu college, sitting on dark benches which were fabled to be as old as the college itself (it was founded in 1899). My Professor who was teaching us Jane Eyre told us the etymology of hysteria. He said that Greek philosophers thought hysteria was caused by wandering wombs. Several centuries later, up until the 1500s it was still considered a medical condition associated with women.
Even now we hear women with strong voices being called crazy, ever so often. The word ‘Chudail’ too is replete with these patriarchal overtones, in smaller towns like the one where I come from- an unruly girl is often chastised as ‘chudail’. After all a woman is supposed to be docile, meek and self-effacing, so what if she is a little girl.
About the Film
Produced by Anushka Sharma, the directorial debut of lyricist Anvita Dutt gives the word a feminist twist. It’s the story of Bulbul who is married as a child to the much older Thakur Moshai (played by Rahul Bose). The child bride finds a partner in her brother-in-law Satya (played by Avinash Tiwary) who is the same age as her. They share horror stories, play hide and seek and even plan to write a book. The innocent bond of childhood develops into a powerful force as Bulbbul grows older, much to the ire of her husband. What follows is a predictable but gripping story of devious plots, gut-wrenching violence, and a Bollywood version of ‘hell hath no fury’.
Tripti Dimry is perfect in her portrayal of an adolescent bride who turns into a shrewd matriarch. She is power personified. Avinash Tiwary is as charming as Qais from Laila Majnu except for the patriarchal undertones to his character. The support cast is equally impactful, be it the brooding Thakur Moshai played by Rahul Bose or cunning Binodini played by Paulomi Dam. The grandeur of the set reminds you of Bhansali, just with a supernatural twist. Even though the plot is predictable I was hooked- even rooting for the ‘chudail’ to go for one final hunt, her last ‘shikaar’
As for the bichiyas I don’t think I will ever be able to see them in the same light as before.
Art by Abhilasha Kamre
Art by @carisketcher on Instagram