Music Room, The (1958)

Music Room, The (1958)

“Music — a crazy passion of yours.”

In 1920s Bengal, an aging feudal landlord (Chhabi Biswas) is cared for by his two loyal servants while resenting the “new wealth” of his money-lending neighbor (Gangapada Basu), and reflecting back on various concerts held in his palatial music room.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Flashback Films
  • Indian Films
  • Royalty and Nobility
  • Satyajit Ray Films

Satyajit Ray’s fourth film — made after Aparajito (1956) and before The World of Apu (1959) — was this elegiac tale, based on a short story by Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, about an aging zamindar (landlord) whose love of classical music overrides all other passions (except, perhaps, smoking from his hookah):

… who is unable to cope with emergent shifts of power and wealth under crumbling British colonial rule in the early 20th century. Ever the disruptor — and largely misunderstood and under-appreciated in his own country — Ray wanted to use music and dance as a logical component of the storyline rather than having them simply burst out of nowhere musical-style; so, this film is essentially a series of realistic music and/or dance performances interspersed with a melancholic storyline which shows how a love of arts and leisure at the expense of all logic can get a nobleman into trouble.

I happen to adore Indian classical music, so was quite engaged by this film — though I can see how its meandering, flashback-filled storyline might not appeal to all tastes. It’s not must-see, but it is one of Ray’s more highly regarded films and thus worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Chhabi Biswas as Biswambhar Roy
  • Subrata Mitra’s cinematography
  • The stunning final kathak dance sequence by Roshan Kumari
  • Vilayat Khan’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look and of course must-see for fans of Ray’s work. Listed as a film with Historical Relevance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Music Room, The (1958)

  1. First viewing (4/24/22).

    Not must-see but Ray fans will want to see it – and film fanatics can gain a better understanding of the culture through a viewing.

    Upon its release, the film was received much better outside India (it may have hit a little close to home for the locals); in some circles, it is considered “among the greatest films of all time” (Wikipedia) – though I wouldn’t go that far by a long shot.

    I won’t claim to understand some of the finer points of the culture revealed in the opening sequences but, as the film continues, it’s not all that difficult to follow the story of a proud, somewhat-indifferent and self-absorbed man whose folly ultimately brings about his downfall.

    The scene involving the fateful storm has particular pathos.

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