Posted in Film & Facts, Reviews & Analysis

Beyonce Sharma Jaayegi – Or not? // Bulbbul

We are proud to feature two guest writers, Salonnii and Bidisha, on our blog, as a special treat for winning The Theory of (Summarising) Everything Competition.

Beyonce Sharma Jaayegi – Or not? 
By Salonii Khemani
Jesus and Mary College

Khaali Peeli, directed by Maqbool Khan, had been all set for its release on June 12 had the coronavirus pandemic not broken out. All ready for the movie’s unveiling on 2nd October, ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi’ was the first song that was released as a teaser for the film. Not only did it trigger the audience, the fact that it shamelessly attacked something as fragile as someone’s skin colour spurred a controversy, to say the least. Starring Ananya Pandey and Ishaan Khatter, the song revolves around how Ananya is so “gori” that even Beyonce – an American singer and the icon Black America needs – is envious. In what world does a woman, black skinned, supremely powerful and successful get to feel insecure of a song particularly about her (or others’) skin colour? 

The main hook of the song – “tujhe dekh ke goriya, Beyoncé sharma jayegi” – speaks volumes about how the song is deeply engraved with racist undertones. After George Floyd’s demise due to police brutality in United States of America, the entire world joined hands in supporting black lives. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used by people ranging from daily workers to highly reputed actors. Seeing Bollywood compose a song about colorism was not only shocking, but the fact that the Beyonce had included Indian citizens in one of her videos made this entire situation even more fragile.  Khatter and Pandey didn’t condemn this action for a very long time which led to the audience being super spiteful, and rightly so. Criticisms for the song were set out on social media. “This is just blatantly ignoring the fact how they’re glorifying fair skin (yet again) and then comparing it to Beyoncé (a black woman). This is racist,” said a Twitter user. 

It’s no surprise that “fair skin” has been glorified for the longest time. With the netizens showing their dissent with the “Fair&Lovely” and support for the BLM movement was an empowering sight. However, being reduced to the levels of Bollywood where writing such lyrics comes very naturally is not something to be proud of. “The word ‘gori’ has been taken out of context, as I understand it,” Ishaan said in an interview to Film Companion.

“We did not imagine that people would think along those lines. Since ‘goriya’ is a word that has been used for ages, we were ignorant that it would result in backlash. We did not intend to offend anyone and we apologize if people were hurt. We would be the last ones to promote racism,” says Maqbool Khan. 

However, there’s absolutely nothing that can’t be made right. Bollywood, as always, resorted to making a change to keep the song in the film. Faced with such criticism and slapped with claims of being racist, the main hook of the song has been officially changed to ““tera dekh ke nakhra, yeh duniya sharma jayegi.” Not only this, the song name has also been changed to “Duniya Sharma Jayegi.” 

Backtracking aside, the song may appear with another title however the fundamental confirmation of their imprudence — the lyrics — are still up on all significant lyric sites just as in the metadata on streaming stages at the hour of distributing. Maqbool Khan, along with his entire team, apologized to the citizens in an interview with Hindustan Times. “There is no derogation intended – we revere beauty of global celebrity Beyoncé and don’t mean to hurt any of her fans,” he says. 

From “Yeh kaali kaali aankhein, yeh gore gore gaal” to “Chittiyan Kalaiyan,” a glorication of fair skin has exist in Bollywood since time immemorial. It has been internalized to an extent of extreme ignorance. It’s high time we are made aware of problematic connotations and help each unlearn. 

Bulbbul: Tale of a scourged tail 
By Bidisha Barua
Mata Sundri College

Childhood, grandparents and stories of ghosts and witches. Did I just sail you through a sea of nostalgia? It’s undeniable that children across Indian cultures have been accustomed to the cultural right and wrong through the fiction of the witch haunting kids who dareth misbehave. From sleeping under a tree at night or not eating vegetables properly, we have been cautioned about the lurking presence of a supernatural woman patiently waiting for years to prey upon anyone who defies the order and invades their territory. Passed down and exalted through generations by men and women entangled in the stringent threads of patriarchy, these tales reverberate chronicles of women endowed with powers that instil fear even in the minds of men. So, was a witch merely a villain or was she the only soul who broke free from an atrocious society? Did she possess knowledge that was deemed unacceptable for a woman? Or was it a sin for her act on her own without the approval of men? Were the stories of female demons the only evidence of women paralleling the much celebrated masculine heroism in the pre-twentieth  centuries? 

Anvita Dutt instils dubiety about the age-long image of Chudail through Bulbbul-a period tale veiled with horror that traces the life of a child bride, Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri) married off to a rich Thakur more than twice her age. In a family of adults, comprising of her husband Indranil (Rahul Bose), his ostensibly developmentally challenged twin brother, Mahendra (also Rahul Bose) and his wife Binodini (Paoli Dam), the only consolation that Bublbbul gets is from the youngest brother, Satya (Avinash Tiwary) who keeps her occupied with exciting stories about the Chudail (subtitled as demon woman) who eagerly waits to pounce on the princess. Bulbbul develops a fondness for Satya as her only friend and confidante in a world of richly tainted callous walls. 

20 years hence, Satya Thakur, an England returned lawyer, travels back to his hometown to find it haunted by a murderous and mysterious woman who allegedly took the life of many men including his brother, Mahendra. Meanwhile, Bulbbul, fanning herself with peacock feathers, presides over the mansion as the smiling, tough-headed Thakurain

As the story unfolds, we are bombarded with revelations much more gruesome than a superficial horror story that echoe the jolting realities of an atrocious male-centric society destroying every ounce of viability and the dignity of women. Although Binodini antagonistically thrives to compete with Bulbbul, they both seem to connect with each other through their experiences as sufferers of excruciating forms of social control. Binodini’s formidable monologue on “bade ghar ke bade raaz (the secrets of the mansion)” speaks volumes about the necessary sacrifices a woman has to make to be identified with a rich and ‘reputed’ man. 

The witch is powerful and insidious. The victims of her wrath are men who all have a similar record of wronging women which Satya Thakur and the rest of the village fail to uncover. It seems to be unimaginable for Satya to remotely suspect the brutal murders to be the work of a woman despite being prompted by Bulbbul multiple times. 

The filmmakers have employed a commendable use of intelligently stitched symbolism which reflects throughout the movie and the title; Bulbbul, the delicate scourged tailed nightingale was a commonly caged bird of 19th century India drawing resemblance with the plight of young child brides estranged from the world and confined to impermeable fortifications of marriage. 

Dutt carefully plays with vibrant colour palettes complementing the eeriness flowing throughout the movie. The gorgeously spooky night scenes characterised by the vengeance of the red moon are directed perfectly to make the viewers tighten up in their seats. Set in the colonial era of the Bengal Presidency, the movie vaguely encompasses the conflict of invading western ideas with locally held traditions. While the man gets to pursue education abroad, the woman is forced to practice widowhood. Despite their ‘progressive’ views, Indranil and Satya recite the same misogynistic beliefs which curse the society even today. 

Bulbbul as a film of the horror and gothic genre, reinterprets a ubiquitous folktale. The plot seems to incline towards a questionable notion that a woman transforms into a puissant female only when she is brutally wronged and broken. Nevertheless, Tripti Dimri’s performance as the naive yet simpering, callow yet mysterious Bulbbul and the luscious settings make the film a worthwhile watch. 

Posted in Events

An Interactive Session with Aditya Kripalani

Celluloid, The Film Society of Miranda House, navigating its way in this strange, virtual world, conducted another successful interactive session on 1st November 2020, this time with a man with multipotentiality- filmmaker, writer, producer and musicianAditya Kripalani. Mr Kripalani, who is best known for his novels made his directorial debut with the award-winning film Tikli and Laxmi Bomb (2017) based on his best-selling novel of the same name (streaming on Netflix). He went on to make three more internationally-acclaimed films, Totta Pataaka Item Maal (2019), Devi Aur Hero (2020) and Not Today (ready for OTT release) based on hard-hitting social issues, such as concerns revolving around sex work, feminism and gender inequality. It is to be noted that this was Celluloid’s second event featuring Mr Kripalani.  

The Treasurer of Celluloid, Bhaavya Singhal took over as the Moderator of the session after the formal introduction by Giitanjali, the Vice President. The session was conveniently divided into four parts- Creative, Technical/Music/Acting, Production and Particular/Personal– which ensured a smooth conduct as well as efficient interaction. It was an interactive session in a literal sense as the internationally-acclaimed director made sure to answer all questions with utmost candor and commitment, making the session what Celluloid and the event’s attendees, as expressed through Giitanjali’s introductory remarks, had intended it to be – one that would revolve around the “aesthetic appreciation of Mr. Kripalani’s cinema” and the “underlying themes of his expansive work”. 

The first segment which was about the Creative aspect of Aditya’s cinema set the course for the rest of the session, beginning with the much-awaited discussion of two of his movies- Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, and Totta Pataaka Item Maal. Mr. Kripalani stated that he made the films because ‘he felt like they needed to be made’. Talking about his hopes of being an impactful creator without delving into the world of commercial cinema, he expounded that his films are based around uncustomary, sacrificial situations or the question of “what if”, allowing the audience to live vicariously through the characters. He admitted that his aim was to make two engaging, feminist films, the inspiration of which came from unexpected sources, life experiences and introspection. Addressing the question of his approach in the portrayal of sensitive characters, issues and situations such as that of prostitution and sex workers, he stated the importance of perceiving these situations and the people in it in a ‘natural’ way. While answering another question, he cited instances of his misdirected anger- active promotion of capital punishment such as chemical castration for rapists- which left the audience with mixed reactions; some ended up feeling rather queasy and the others flashed smiles in agreement, bringing to light the perennial ethical debate about capital punishment. 

The adaptation of a book into a movie has always been controversial for fanbases and specific cinematic universes around the world, but Mr Kripalani shed light on his process of the same. The success of the entire session was rooted in a plentitude of little backstories that Mr Kripalani shared, which worked as some sorts of insiders giving behind-the-scenes access. He asserted that freedom from the yoke of insecurity acts as one of the bases of film direction. Coming to the context of India, he emphasized on the lack of change in terms of cinema and art in India, which a filmmaker must come to terms with. He expressed that with each film, the filmmaker undergoes an inner journey which is inevitable. Mr. Kripalani left the audience divided again with his take on political correctness in art, which is, in retrospect a part of a larger contentious issue in society. He made sure to briefly explain it in his personal context, by mentioning that a more honest society is preferable over a politically correct society which is based on a pretense. The follow-up question led to Mr. Kripalani’s disclosure of an unpopular opinion regarding the woman, Preethi’s controversial character in the film, Kabir Singh (2019)- the belief that her role, which was criticized by feminists across the world, was rather strong. Ending the first segment on the note that while all forms of art should exist, Kripalani said that all forms of art should also be subjected to critical analysis, to open up art for dialogue.

The second and third segment, Technical/Music/Acting and Production started off with the creator mentioning his personal preference of the usage of Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR) that provides 4K output (in accordance with the requirement of 4K base output by Over the Top Media Service i.e. OTT platforms like Netflix) for shooting his films. He emphasized on the fact that renting out equipment such as a DSLR, lapel microphone and a recorder results in a less expensive film-making process. With the help of anecdotes, he explained that the trick to seamless, uninterrupted filming of scenes is to place the equipment in a location which is away from prying eyes. A question pertaining to the cast of the films, Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, and Totta Pattaka Item Maal led to a deeper understanding of how actors transform themselves into their characters to sell it to the audience. Mr. Kripalani mentioned that several workshops which were initially conducted to help the actors portray their characters accurately and with authenticity often turned into “group therapy sessions of the deepest fantasies and deepest secrets”- all of which helped Mr Kripalani advocate the significance of a strong bond among the people part of a film. 

The final segment of this session, Particular/Personal flagged off with a discussion on his fourth film, Not Today which is based on suicide prevention. Mr Kripalani highlighted the relevance of such a film in the absolutely disastrous year that 2020 has been in terms of a sharp decline of, and a superficial conversation about mental health. He admitted that the entirety of his life experience shaped his most recent project, and that his next few films revolve around parent-child relationships. Commenting on Indian media’s circus with mental health as its primary attraction, he expressed his disappointment with the lost opportunity of a proper conversation about mental health. With the session reaching an end, the internationally-acclaimed director spoke about obstacles in the form of naysayers that he personally faced throughout his career in the film industry. However, he reminded his audience of how the transformation a filmmaker undergoes in the duration of a film makes the struggles worthwhile, as the expectation of one film metamorphosing the society would be to build castles in the air. A sanguine aide-memoire such as this was the perfect way to wrap up the sagacious session. 

The President of Celluloid, Oli Chatterjee delivered the closing remarks and expressed unconditional gratitude to Mr. Kripalani on behalf of the entire team of Celluloid and all the attendees of the session. A common consensus was that there was a lot to take from this session and perhaps a rewatch of all of Kripalani’s movies awaits while remembering all the behind-the-scenes legal and bureaucratic struggles, therapeutic workshops, and overenthusiastic actors that go into the making of art and cinema.

~ Faaria
BA Hons Philosophy, 2nd year

Posted in Events

Through our Lens: a collaborative event

Celluloid, the film society Miranda House collaborated with Zephyr, CVS and some of the best film and photography societies across DU, for one of the biggest events of the session : Through our Lens. An online photography, videography, and digital art event, Through our Lens organised was a week-long series of sessions hosted by eminent speakers and personalities It was an exciting opportunity for film and photography enthusiasts to hone their craft and learn from the best. 

The first session was conducted by Mr. Umesh Gogna, a professional photographer and brand ambassador of Sony Alpha, on ‘Insights of Photography and Astrophotography’. Astrophotography is a relatively tough technique to understand, but his patience in conducting the workshop and the knowledge he possessed made it so much easier for everyone to learn.

The next session was on ‘Mobile Photography’, conducted by Mr. Neeraj KT, founding president of Zephyr, CVS. Post his graduation, he went on to establish his own company ‘VisionXstudios’ specialising in social media marketing, photography, digital strategy and video creation. It was thrilling to learn from someone who’s collaborated with Redbull, Pepsico and Adidas for various projects. The session conducted by him was especially relevant, as not everyone can afford or has access to fancy photography equipment but they do own a smartphone, making these techniques very useful and accessible for beginners.

Next was the session on ‘Photojournalism’ with Mr. Khushal Balan, who is currently working as a photojournalist in Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s team. Photojournalism is a very sought after space which involves the use of pictures to tell a story rather than words. It requires a lot of experience, and with someone like Mr. Khushal to guide us through, the process to understand it became a lot clearer and easier.

The fourth session was conducted by Mr. S K Jan Mohammad on ‘Photography as an Art- Street Photography’. He is a renowned Art Director and Photographer, the recipient of many awards including the 3rd place in the International Photography Award, Los Angeles 2006 and 1st place in CHIIZ Photography Magazine, 2017. Street Photography requires great understanding of aesthetics and timing to capture the right moment. The session proved to be very fruitful for those trying to understand this field and enthusiasts alike.

The next one was on ‘Sports, Automobile, and Advance Photography’ by Mr. Mohammed Shafiq, official photographer of All India Football Federation (AIFF). Having worked in the industry for 25 years, he had partnered with quite a few industry giants but his main forte remains the Auto and Sports Industry. This type of photography requires technical expertise of concepts such as shutter speed. Mr. Shafiq’s incredible experience enriched the session as well as our passions. 

The sixth session by Mr. Sanket Kashid was on ‘Photography Business’. Having worked in the fashion and lifestyle business, he had shot a plethora of portrait shots to become one of the best in the business. The session gave insight into photography as a business, the dos and donts of it along with tips for those struggling to find their position in the industry.

The next session conducted by Mr. Deepak Verma, recipient of 14 awards from IIPC for his immense work in Wildlife Photography,  was on ‘Birding or Bird Photography’. He has been in the industry for over 25 years, earning a name for himself through his astounding work. While bird photography is one of the most popular genres, it is also equally as challenging to master for it requires understanding of special skills and techniques, all of which were covered in the extremely helpful session. 

The eighth session, first in the series of videography, was on ‘GoPro Videography and Content Creation’ by Mr. Aakash Malhotra. A famous travel blogger from Himachal Pradesh, he is the official brand ambassador of GoPro and is the founder CEO of ‘Digato Pvt Ltd’, a digital and analytics consultancy company determined to help businesses grow. GoPro is a very useful tool to capture videos in any condition, even under water and the session really helped grapple the mechanisms of it and how to use it for content creation.

The next session was on ‘Essence of Videography’ by Mr. Rahul Dey, an illustrious photographer and filmmaker. One of his short films Break the Tabboo : Period has premiered on Disney Plus Hotstar. The session was especially insightful as it explored the fundamentals of videography, the use and knowhow, and the best way to harness one’s knowledge of it.

The tenth session was conducted by Mr. Sri Priyatham on ‘Digital Art’. A freelance illustrator and Art Instructor from Hyderabad, he has been working in the creative industry for the past 12 years and his clientele includes Netflix USA, Zee Studios, Microsoft- Redmond etc. Digital Art is an up and coming field with immense scope and potential, especially in recent times. It uses digital technology as part of the creative and presentation process. The speaker’s vast bank of knowledge provided many an interesting insights and familiarised the audience with this nascent work space. 

Though the last session, it was definitely not the least. The whole series of events and sessions with illustrious speakers from diverse fields of film, photography and digital art provided a golden opportunity to those genuinely willing to learn and make the most of it. More importantly, it opened and expanded horizons for budding enthusiasts.

~ Seerat
BA Hons Economics, 2nd year

Posted in Reviews & Analysis

The Concavity in October

Delhi metro throbs in and the scene shifts to a 5-star hotel in Dwarka. Elegant glasses are lined up, flowers are set upon tables, and champagne is poured out. That’s how you enter into ‘October.’ The movie released in the summer of 2018 and earned enough attention owing to critical commendations and charges of plagiarism. 

The movie allegedly copied Marathi-filmmaker, Sarika Mene’s plot of Aarti: The Unknown Love Story, that was inspired by the real-life of her brother and sister-in-law. To say the least, the film has sharp resemblances to Mene’s plot. 

The politics of the film opened up a new discourse on the privacy and rights of individuals as the director Shoojit Sircar depended on Sunny Pawar’s (Mene’s brother) real-life narrative. The story does not credit or mention Pawar anywhere in its composition. Having said that, October does introduce an unconventional storyline to Bollywood. Perhaps, that’s the reason behind the compulsiveness to discuss the movie.

The opening scene in October is stunning. The magnetism of the setting is problematized by a stark class-difference that stares the audience eye-to-eye. Workers and trainees run through the corridors, into hotel rooms and across alleys. Their image is in sharp contrast with the image of the guests who are enjoying the sun with martinis. 

There is a clear-cut class difference and changing settings between the hotel and the tea stall remind the audience of the same. The workers seem to be fighting a battle to keep up the pace of the work. Two among the many struggling hotel management trainees are the protagonists, Shiuli Iyer played by Banita Sandhu, and Danish ‘Dan’ Wali played by Varun Dhawan. 

Shiuli’s composure is juxtaposed against Dan’s hyper temperament. No, you won’t see any romance between them, neither the ‘blinding light of love’ that can enamor you into the plot. Here, the director, Shoojit Sircar puts before you a setting that you cannot consume in a single moment. The context is a realist representation of drudgery that requires you to dissolve and place yourself in the space of the characters. 

October is not free of clichés. Both romantic and Bollywood tropes make their seldom appearances and yet, it is not a conventional plot. The heterosexual love culminates into an empowering force for two individuals and the male protagonist assumes a savior-like position. Yet, the writer Juhi Chaturvedi is conscious of these tropes and chooses to play around them by giving the romantic-plot an ambiguous tone.

A group of friends struggle to get past the training period that can bring them closer to their dream of starting up their own hotel. Dreams, as in most real circumstances, become an exhausting routine that demand every ounce of their time and hard work, well-covered under hospitable smiles. Dan cannot subscribe to that and his frustration finds careless outlets. He dirties hotel towels, gets into heated arguments with guests, and creates a toxic work environment. Yet, one is supposed to sympathize with him because his frustration comes from an all-too-familiar place- the exploitation by elite businesses whose infrastructure stands on the sweat of the non-elite. 

The sympathy is only heightened up by the fact that Dan’s attitude comes with a desire to break free. Dan’s character appears rather comic, at certain points. Yet, the immaturity finally halts by the stutter that the movie produces after fifteen minutes of slow plot movement.

When it comes to romance, you won’t see Bollywood’s thematic settings. In fact, love in October is concealed. All you encounter is fondness and care that seems sudden in the beginning and slowly begins to look natural. The moment of spark between the two characters can be seen only once when Dan picks up Shiuli’s last flower. The image fades (TW) only to lead to the final climax- Shieuli’s 30m fall right after she asks about Dan’s absence.

Horror describes the next set of events as the hospital scenes follow, one after one. Sircar does not give any romanticized image of the injuries and the operations that follow brain damage. The machines, the pain, the gloominess, and the atmosphere are represented in a most real and authentic manner. Within this traumatic setting of the hospital walks Gitanjali Roy, in the role of Shiuli’s mother Vidya, powerful and resilient. 

Vidya rebels against depleting financial resources and pressure from society to let go of the patient (conveyed by her late husband’s brother). She is not quintessentially vulnerable but consciously sensitive, responsible, independent, and patient. Her conviction to sustain hope in Shiuli’s recovery comes in close association with Dan’s evident love. 

The bond between Vidya and Dan is that of mutual understanding and respect. In fact, if one can see any development in Dan’s character, it comes through his friendship with Shiuli’s mother. When it comes to a tough spot, Dan listens to her words of fulfilling his responsibility towards his career; only to return during Shiuli’s depleting health conditions. Dan settles and develops throughout the course of the film. His friendship with Vidya looks like a familial bond of understanding that depends on love for the same person.

Shoojit Sircar Speaks to The Quint; Deconstructs 'October'

Love receives its complex dimension in the character of Shiuli. One never gets to explore her part of the story. She has the determination and willingness to survive. Abhik Mukhopadhyay’s brilliant cinematography gives a mellifluous language to her emotions. In the last moments of the movie, when Shiuli returns home and shows signs of getting better, the movie takes a rather poetic tone. 

The audience looks at Shiuli’s home through her lens. We begin to move towards the character slowly. As the desire to explore the layers of Shiuli’s mind gets amplified, the movie refuses any more entry into the interiority of her character. The ending is tragic as Shiuli succumbs to her injuries. The happy image of the mother with her recovering daughter, the other two children, and Dan is disrupted by the clamor of transience. 

The title of the movie October suggests the season in which ‘Shiuli’ grows. It is the flower after which the female protagonist is named. Shiuli’s attachment to a material object does not seem unreal. In fact, the fragility of her favorite flower and her frail life diffuse into one, as the film draws to a close. In the last scene of the movie, we see her mother giving the tree of ‘Shiuli’ to Dan. It might seem dramatized but it occurs at a moment of high emotional intensity. Vidya and Dan meet again, after Shiuli’s death, failing to find any company wherein they can express their memory of Shiuli. Vidya decides to leave the town and the red brick house stands aloof and alone as the movie ends.

The moment creates heaviness and it leaves the audience there. The movie concaves and leaves you with a rather unsettling feeling. You wonder if Shiuli’s struggle to live will revisit you. You wonder if you will feel the hope with Vidya’s acceptance of her reality again. You wonder about Dan moving on, detached from his character faults, and yet you will have no answers. That’s the charm of the film. What looks like champagne and orchids and lights turn into a struggle for survival. The movie disappears evoking the soul’s longingness and frail memories of the past.             

October Fan Photos | October Photos, Images, Pictures # 60055 - FilmiBeat

~ Anushka Srivastava
BA Hons English, 3rd year

Posted in Recommendations

Flowers: Gloriously Dark & Delightfully Demented

From a weird reverie of dark revelation,
Mr. Grubb woke up with a strange sensation.
Slipping out through the crack at the back of the lair,
Trudging out through the muck and the thick misted air,
Where the collywobbles cawed their sinister call
And the dingle-baggles scurried on jittery claws.
His ghostly breath mixing in with the fog;
He plonked himself down on a damp, mossy log.
But then in the sludge,
Just a few feet away,
Mr. Grubb saw a plant that was quite out of place;
A single buttercup in a pile of feces.
Mr. Grubb tore it up into a pile of pieces.

Flowers, created, written and acted in by Will Sharpe is a suburban Black Comedy and narrative of family, home, mental illness and how each of these concepts situate themselves and coexist with the others. It focuses on the dysfunctional family of the Flowers, a group of people living in an isolated and heathen house in the countryside, away from the traditional widely accepted definition of what the society considers ‘normal’. The landscape in which the show is based acts as a synecdoche, translating the literal and implied persistent loneliness in the lives of each and every member of the family. Will Sharpe himself talks about how the house is personified and is itself a character in the show with its dingy walls and low ceilings, metaphors for the suffocation that each member feels, but cannot confront or run away from, because of their shared love. 

The Flowers family includes Deborah (Olivia Coleman); her husband, Maurice (Julian Barratt); their children, Amy (Sophia Di Martino) and Donald (Daniel Rigby), and Maurice’s Japanese assistant and confidante, Shun (Will Sharpe). Maurice is a depressed children’s author married to Deborah, an almost manic music teacher and dedicated mother who spends almost every waking moment of her life, especially in the initial part of the series, reviving her dismantling relationship with Maurice. She believes that truth is like a toothbrush and you only share that with the people you really trust. Amy and Donald share a sibling camaraderie that seems explicitly vengeful and competitive, but is portrayed as being born out of love for each other. The most remarkable character of the series is perhaps Shun, a satire of every typecast Asian character in mainstream American or British media, who goes far beyond being just an illustrator or assistant to Maurice. Some of the most notable dialogues in the series are his, like the very pedagogical ‘toilet analogy’. Even though in the traditional theatrical sense, he takes up the stock character of the ‘fool’; he is almost certainly the most reliable and the one whom every family member turns to when all their attempts to communicate prove futile.

The show starts off on the morbid note of an attempted suicide, and the theme of morbidity continues as the shadow of the sombre nature of existence haunts it throughout the two seasons. The show tackles mental illness with extreme sensitivity without any unnecessary elements of romanticization or trivialisation, and portrays the effect such numbing pain has on one’s self and their loved ones extremely meticulously.

Production design and cinematography are absolutely spectacular. The absurdity and ‘madness’ of the characters percolates into every frame of the show. The Flowers live in a bucolic English setting in a cottage held together by books. The show is a brilliant expression of dark cottage core aesthetic. The costume design is taken to a whole other level in the second season as are the sets. Clothing is an important marker of mood and temperament in Flowers, from unkempt sap greens to bohemian reds and blues. 

Flowers also makes clever use of literature within the series. Mr. Flowers’ infamous children’s book series, The Grubbs, serves as an analogy for his own life. Amy’s involvement in the tale of The Passage is followed by an obsession with the legend of the Baumgaertners. It is not surprising that every character in Flowers is an artist in some way or another. While Maurice is a writer, Deborah is a music teacher. Amy follows in her mother’s footsteps and Donald is a self-proclaimed inventor. Shun is an illustrator and draws characters and comics for Mr. Flowers. The show undertakes a very cinematic and theatrical exploration of supposed coexistence of art and ‘madness.’

Even though, in its entirety, it doesn’t have a definitive plot, individual character storylines and a very literary and symbolic representation of each of them, makes it quite a Victorian-Gothic narrative.

This Halloween, we recommend this “gloriously dark” and “delightfully demented” dose of dry British humour coupled with some stellar cinematography. In Deborah Flowers’ words – We don’t want to be too happy. We’re not mad. 


~ Aryama & Khushi
BA Hons English, 2nd and 3rd year