Verdict: This coming-of-age journey gives a first-hand account of life in rural Assam.

Writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and editor, Rima Das single-handedly takes on every one of these roles in her latest venture – Bulbul Can Sing. Last year, she received critical acclaim for Village Rockstars –  the National Award-winning film which even went on to become India’s official entry to the Oscars. In Bulbul Can Sing, she takes yet another trip back to rural Assam, bringing us a brand new coming-of-age story.

What’s Bulbul Can Sing About:

Bulbul is a high-school girl from rural Assam who spends most of her time with her two friends, Bonny and Sumu. Influenced by her father’s aspiration for her to become a singer, Bulbul tries her best to find a place for her voice. On the other hand, as teenagers generally do, she falls in love. As she and Bonny explore their relationships with their boyfriends, Sumu deals with his own demons. Living in a conservative society, one life-changing event sets an entirely different path for Bulbul and her friends. Bulbul looks for ways to deal with love and loss and somewhere along the way, she must also find herself.

What Works:

As opposed to the light-hearted monotone of Rima Das’ Village Rockstars, Bulbul Can Sing follows a very different approach. The film is still set in the same rural Assamese village but this time around, we follow the lives of curious teenagers.

Speaking of the characters, Das seems to be an expert at finding a great balance in justifying each and every person’s presence in the film, while also giving the right amount of importance to her lead character. We get a brilliant first-hand look at Bulbul’s life and her encounters within the world she lives in. At the same time, there are plenty of well-executed secondary characters with their own complex ups and downs. Sumu’s character is an especially vital addition to the film, that adds a totally new perspective to the message that the film tries to deliver. Much like other teenage dramas, this film features new urges, confusing hormones, first loves, and the ache of not fitting in. But in this deeply personal setting, we realize that stolen kisses hold a totally different weight in this world.

Being a one-woman filmmaking team, Das’ films have a genuine style and message. The focus here is on being entirely intimate with her character. From the setting to the situations the characters are put in and even the sound, everything in Bulbul Can Sing has a natural essence. The beauty of her work is that when you watch a Rima Das film, you witness it as a first-hand observer and not just as an audience.

What Could’ve Been Better:

Bulbul Can Sing is its own kind of cinema. It’s raw and takes its time to bring you into the world of its characters. So if you’re looking for something fast-paced, it might seem a little lethargic.

Why You Should Watch:

Helmed entirely by the one-woman army that is Rima Das, Bulbul Can Sing is so expressive and personal that it creates an entirely unique visceral experience. If you want to witness a whole new take on cinematic expression, this one is for you.