Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jalsaghar - a Sathyajit Ray film


I watched this beautiful Sathyajit Ray film, Jalsaghar, last week. I have watched some of his other movies too, but I was amazed by this movie, mainly because it contains just around 6-7 characters. The main character, Thakur Biswambhar Roy and one of his servants only come during most part of the film. Still we are made to get engrossed in the movie.

The first scene shows Thakur Roy sitting on the terrace of his palace-like home in a rocking chair, alone, in a long house coat, smoking hukka. After sometime, an old servant comes with a glass of sherbet and waits to give him. Roy gets up slowly and walks here and there and the servant runs behind him with the glass. He just watches the deserted surroundings of the once rich estate. This shows the first glimpse of the old glory of the aristocrats who were losing their control over their legacy slowly. Roy is an old man now, who had lost his wife and son, in a boating accident, four years back. He has become an alcoholic now, with no money in the thijori (locker). He is left with 2-3 loyal servants, a beautiful white horse and an elephant. His lands are eroded by the river, through the years. The old castle with a beautiful Music Room is the only remains of the old legacy. The walls of the music room are covered with the paintings of his ancestors and himself, in princely attire. The huge chandelier polished by the uniformed servant earlier, now is full of cobwebs. It is clearly visible that the old landlord is under severe depression.

Meanwhile, Ganguli, his neighbour who is now, a flourishing businessman, the new aristocrat, land-poor but cash-rich has got electric lights in his house, a motor car, the first in the region. Satyajit Ray, the legendary director, masterfully contrasts the hollowness of the old aristocrat with the shallowness of the new one. Ganguly tries his best to be like Roy and invites him to inaugurate HIS Music Room. He says he has invited the current prominent dancer for the function. Roy burns with jealousy and asks his Estate Manager to keep a musical party, with the last few gold coins for expenditure.

He invites Ganguly also.He asks the servant to clean the music room. The servant is so happy to do the things which he had been doing all these years. He wears his uniform too, proudly. Then the party begins. A young dancer Krishna Bai (Roshan Kumari) who was the then famous kathak dancer, dances and a young male singer sings (a young Shehnai player, Bismillah Khan!). The dance is quite good. Then everyone leaves.

Again, Roy, a lone man, wander in the music room, with a glass of alcohol in his hand and blabber about his ancestors, about the glory of the past and becomes delirious. He lingers in the music room throughout the night, long after the last guests leave. In a semi conscious state, he pays tribute to his ancestors and to his own portrait. However, his bliss turns to hysterical despair when the candles in the music room start to go out. Obviously mentally unsound, his fear of the darkening room mystifies his faithful servant. The servant is able to open the drapes and Roy is comforted by the rising sun. Roy hears his white horse nay outside and claims that the horse is calling to him to ride him. His servant and estate manager are distressed, since Roy's dilapidated physical state makes horse riding dangerous now. Roy gallops off quickly on his horse with the estate manager and servant in pursuit. When he rides to the beach, he is distressed to see a broken boat, which reminds him of his departed family. He doesn't change the horse's course and upon nearly colliding with the boat, the horse flips out and jumps in the air, knocking Roy roughly into the ground. Roy dies on the spot with his servant and estate manager standing over him

The present days of Roy is shown without much background music, which is apt for the atmosphere, I feel. They show a lone dog sleeping outside the veranda, which is deserted. Though we can sense the end, we feel vacant in our heart, when the movie is over.

Roy character is played by Chabi Biswas, who was in real life completely tone-deaf, it seems. His creation of a music-lover is an astonishing accomplishment, both by him and by Satyajit Ray. He plays the instrument (can anyone give me the name of the instrument, please? Sur bahaar?), shown in the photo above, as a pro. A young Begum Akhtar is shown singing in the first musical party.

Ustad Vilayat Khan is the music director for this film. He got rave reviews for this film.

I have watched some of Ray's films like Apu trilogy, Apur sansar, Pather panchali etc. Though the movies are slow for us now, we can see that every frame is shot with great care for the human emotions.

I got a 'you tube' video, showing the last dance programme in Roy's Music Room. Have a look at it - black& white film looks so different and clear.

2 comments :

mesoliloquy said...

Sandhya, That was a detailed review. I remember watching several Ray movies on Doordarshan but have forgotten all.

I can't seem to find DVDs of old movies from arthouse.

Sandhya said...

mesoliloquy: This movie hasn't got any climax or turning point, just human emotions ...so, I thought it will not make any difference for the person who reads this review. I wrote most of the scenes that affected me and still remember (!) and this is the first time I have taken lot of time to edit also, to make it short! Normally, I am not a very good story teller. I tried this time!

Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

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