Mar 19, 2012

25th March 2012; Satyajit Ray's JALSAGHAR

(The Music Room)
A film by Satyajt Ray
Year : 1958
Bengali with English subtitles
Runtime : 100 minutes
25th March 2012
Perks Mini Theater

15 minutes documentary will follow
the main screening with
film maker
Mira Nair talking about Jalsaghar

Of all the remarkable things about Satyajit Ray’s The Music Room, perhaps the most striking is its sense of interior space. Almost the entire film takes place inside the palace of a feudal lord whose star has all but burned out. Ray captures the diametrically opposed opulence and decay of the place — it’s simultaneously a refuge and a prison for Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), a zamindar whose cultural and political importance has been reduced to nil. For The Music Room, Ray invited the distinguished Bengali maestro Vilayat Khan, scion of a long line of musicians, to compose the score.Ray shoots the palace and its contents (a grand chandelier, portraits of ancestors) in ways that make them seem both beautiful and terrifying at different moments. In a film that almost exclusively belongs to Roy, it’s the palace that emerges as the primary supporting character. And inside that palace — the crown jewel of Roy’s existence, a lavish music room where the lord holds concerts and indulges his love of classical Indian music.

Ray’s film is a subtle, illuminating character study that displays empathy for its main character while remaining ambivalent about his behavior and cultural status. The Music Room is a thoroughly Indian film, with cultural touchstones that Ray apparently thought might make it a tough sell outside of the country. And yet, while those culture-specific elements are prominent, the film has an undeniable universality.Ray’s gift for making perceptive, sensitive and artifice-free films is clearly seen here. There’s artifice all around Roy in the ornate palace and the fleeting sense of security its music room gives him, but The Music Room penetrates right through all of it to reveal a broken, obsolete, beaten man.

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray was born on May 2, 1921 in Calcutta into a Bengali family of a distinguished cultural lineage. After graduating from the famous Presidency College of Calcutta, Ray enrolled in the Visva-Bharati University founded by noted poet Rabindranath Tagore. During his stint in the Visva-Bharati, Ray's creative faculties were enriched by the exposure to different nuances of fine arts.

Consequent to the course completion, Satyajit Ray joined advertising agency D.J. Keymer as a visualiser. After a couple of award-winning assignments, he joined publishing house Signet Press with the responsibility of designing cover jackets for books. While the job itself was an exercise in creativity, more importantly it led to Ray's first brush with the cream of Bengali literature. He gradually developed a passion for films and with a few friends founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947.

In 1949 Satyajit Ray married his distant cousin Bijoya Das. The same year French director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta and the great filmmaker's encouraging words motivated Ray to tread the path of filmmaking. Next year Ray went to London as D.J. Keymer's art director and there he got an opportunity to watch Vittorio de Sica's film 'Bicycle Thief.' The film, a neorealist classic, kindled the filmmaker in Satyajit Ray.

He returned home determined to realize the dream of a film portrayal of Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay's novel Pather Panchali. Despite being dogged by financial hassles, Ray and his ensemble of amateur crews finally completed the film and released it in 1955. The film won rave reviews all over the globe and heralded the arrival of a master filmmaker. Satyajit Ray made two more films Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) based on the life cycle of central protagonist Apu. Riding on the crest massive success and adoration, Ray unleashed a slew of memorable films such as Jalsagar (1958), Devi (1960), Teen Kanya (1961), Abhijan (1962), Kanchenjunga (1962), Mahanagar (1963)) and Charulata (1964).

His credentials firmly established now, Satyajit Ray opted for creative liberty in his later films and dabbled in themes as diverse as fantasy and historical drama. Some of his prominent films during this period are Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969), Pratiwandi (1970), Jana Aranya (1975), crime fiction Sonar Kella (1974), Jai Baba Felunath (1978) and Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977), his first film in Hindi.

In 1983 a severe heart attack crippled Ray's mobility and his last three films, Ganashatru, Shakha Proshakha and Agantuk couldn't create the magic of his earlier films. Satyajit Ray breathed his last on April 23, 1992.

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