This film is a moody and evocative portrait of a physically and emotionally isolated man who is mourning the death of his only son, his wife, and his formerly lavish way of life. The distinguished Bengali actor Chhabi Biswas gives an outstanding performance as Huzar Biswambhar Roy, a once-happy and prosperous landowner who used to spend his evenings in the music room (or jalsaghar
) of his magnificent palace. There he would sit on priceless carpets under magnificent chandeliers and admire himself in a large ornate mirror as he watched the best Bengali dancers and musicians perform.
Huzur is reminded of this opulent past by a tendril of music emanating from the house of his annoying nouveau riche neighbor, Mahim Ganguly (Gangapanda Basu) who likes to throw his good fortune in Huzar's face. Ganguly hosts the kind of lavish parties Huzar used to host, while Huzar's music room sits as empty and cold as his wounded heart.
Finally, unable to stop Ganguly's taunting, Huzar uses his last 500 rupees to reopen the jalsaghar for one more glorious performance. The loyal manager of his estate, Taraprasanna (Tulsi Lahiri) tries to stop him, but it's hopeless.
This film, made in 1958, is an excellent example of Satyajit Ray's ability to evoke mood. The desolation of the crumbling palace is the perfect visual metaphor for Huzar's inner state. For fans of Ray's work, this is a must-see example. --Luanne Brown
With The Music Room (Jalsaghar), Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali) brilliantly evokes the crumbling opulence of the world of a fallen aristocrat (the beloved actor Chhabi Biswas) desperately clinging to his way of life. His greatest joy is the music room in which he has hosted lavish concerts over the years—now a shadow of its former vivid self. An incandescent depiction of the clash between tradition and modernity, and a showcase for some of India’s most popular musicians of the day, The Music Room is a defining work by the great Bengali filmmaker.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Ray’s career and includes interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films
• New interview with filmmaker Mira Nair
• New interview in which Ray biographer Andrew Robinson discusses the making of The Music Room and the film’s cultural significance
• Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and filmmaker Claude Sautet
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp as well as reprints of a 1963 essay by Ray and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music