Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale documents the life of a young Banchara girl living off National Highway 79 in Madhya Pradesh, India. Though only twelve years old, Bulbul already stands at a crossroads. The likelihood is high that her parents will soon force her into the longstanding community tradition of prostitution. Bulbul’s tribe, the Banchara, have existed at the bottom of Indian society for centuries, relying on prostitution as their economic lifeblood. A continued lack of options allows this practice to persist. A Persian word commonly used in Hindi/Urdu, the name Bulbul translates as nightingale.
Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale depicts the life of a strong-spirited 12 year old Indian girl named Bulbul, living in Khardi Village, Madhya Pradesh. Bulbul is Banchara and is the youngest of eight children. Her sister Manju has been diagnosed with HIV and is no longer able to provide for the family. Bulbul’s other sister Rani, with whom she is closest, was pulled out of school and sent to work as a prostitute at the age of fourteen and now supports the household. Of her six older sisters, four either have worked or are working in the longstanding community tradition of prostitution. Bulbul spends the majority of her time tending household chores and caring for her younger cousins, leaving very little time for her studies. It is through Bulbul’s eyes and encounters that we meet all the other characters in the film and for first time she begins to perceive her world in a different light. She becomes empowered to contemplate and hope for an alternative option for her future. Interviews with each of these characters help to unravel the complexities surrounding the caste trade of prostitution, shining insight upon the question of “what will become of Bulbul?”
Learn more about the documentary here.