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The Music Room
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Produced by Satyajit Ray
Screenplay by Satyajit Ray
Based on Short story Jalsaghar 
by Tarashankar Bandopadhyay
Starring Chhabi Biswas
Padma Devi
Pinaki Sen Gupta
Gangapada Bose
Tulsi Lahari
Kali Sarkar
Ustad Waheed Khan
Roshan Kumari
Begum Akhtar
Music by Vilayat Khan
Cinematography Subrata Mitra
Edited by Dulal Dutta
Distributed by Contemporary Films (UK)
Edward Harrison (US)
Release dates
  • 10 October 1958 (1958-10-10) (India)
  • April 1962 (1962-04) (UK)
  • 15 October 1963 (1963-10-15) (US)
Running time
100 minutes
Country India
Language Bengali

Jalsaghar[1] (Bengali: জলসাঘর Jalsāghar, "The Music Room") is a 1958 Indian Bengali drama film directed by Satyajit Ray and starring Chhabi Biswas. It was the fourth feature film directed by Satyajit Ray. The shooting was done at Nimtita Raajbari, in Nimtita village, 10 kilometres from Murshidabad.


Jalsaghar depicts the end days of a decadent zamindar (landlord) in Bengal, and his efforts to uphold his family prestige even when faced with economic adversity. The landlord, Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), is a just but other-worldly man who loves to spend time listening to music and putting up spectacles rather than managing his properties ravaged by floods and the abolition of the zamindari system by the Indian government. He is challenged by a commoner who has attained riches through business dealings, in putting up spectacles and organising music fests. This is the tale of a zamindar who has nothing left but respect and sacrifices his family and wealth trying to retain it.


  • Chhabi Biswas – Biswambhar Roy
  • Padma Devi – Mahamaya, Roy's wife
  • Pinaki Sen Gupta – Khoka, Roy's son
  • Gangapada Bose – Mahim Ganguly, Neighbour
  • Tulsi Lahari – Manager of Roy's estate
  • Kali Sarkar – Ananta, Roy's servant
  • Ustad Waheed Khan – Ustad Ujir Khan, Singer
  • Roshan Kumari – Krishna Bai, The dancer
  • Begum Akhtar – Durga Bai, Singer

Other credits[edit]

  • Music & Dance performances
(On screen) – Begum Akhtar, Roshan Kumari, Ustad Waheed Khan, Bismillah Khan
(Off screen) – Dakhshinamohan Thakur, Ashish Kumar, Robin Mazumdar, Imrat Khan


Jalsaghar was based on a popular short story written by Bengali writer Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay. After the box office failure of Aparajito, Ray desperately needed a hit film and decided to make a film based on both a popular piece of literature and a film that would incorporate Indian music. It was the first film to extensively incorporate classical Indian music and dancing. Ray began shooting in May 1957.[2]

While in pre-production, Ray and his crew had difficulty finding a suitable location for Biswambhar Roy's palace. By chance they met a man who recommended the palace of Roy Chowdhurys in Nimtita, known as the Nimtita Rajbari and Ray decided to scout the location. To his surprise the palace was not only perfect for the film but just so happened to have once belonged to Upendra Narayan, whom Bandopadhyay had based his main character on when first writing the short story.[3] Ray worked closely with composer Ustad Vilayat Khan on the film, although he was initially uncertain about the composer's musical choices and had to convince Khan to make more sombre music pieces for the film.[4]


When the film was gradually released in Europe and the US in the early 1960s it became a critical and financial hit and helped establish Ray's international reputation, although Ray said that in 1958 he did not think that the film would be successful in foreign markets.[5] New Statesman film critic John Coleman compared Ray to Jean Renoir[6] and Marie Seton said that the film "challenged the whole convention of songs and dances in India cinema. Audiences...conditioned to the introduction of songs and dances as entertainment interludes and [as] dramatic and romantic stresses, had never before been confronted with...classical singing and dancing as integral focal points of realistic sequences."[7] John Russell Taylor said that the film was "one of Ray's most masterly films, exquisitely photographed and directed with a complete, unquestioning mastery of mood...For those willing to place themselves under its hypnotic spell it offers pleasures of unique delicacy."[7] Roger Ebert hailed it as "his (Ray's) most evocative film, and he fills it with observant details." In 1963 Bosley Crowther praised the "delicacy of direction...[and] eloquence of Indian music and the aurora of mise en scène."[5] [5] In 1965 Derek Malcolm called it Ray's "most perfect film."[5] When the film was released in Paris in 1981 it was a surprise hit and led many French critics to adopt a new appreciation for Ray that had not been common in France up to that time.[5] Chicago reader critic Dave Kehr described it as "A wonderful tale of pride and the fools it makes of men."

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • 1959All India Certificate of Merit for the Second Best Feature Film
  • 1959 – National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali
  • Best Music Award at 1st Moscow International Film Festival. Also got a nomination for Grand Pix for Best Film in the festival.[8]
  • Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Voted #20 on the list of "100 Best Films" by the prominent French magazine 'Cahiers du Cinema' in 2008. Was ranked at #27, #146 & #183 respectively in the Sight and Sound list of Greatest Films in 1992, 2002 & 2012. The British Film Institute placed it at #270 in their list of 360 Classics. Ranked at 330 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die'. Got the 7th spot (jointly with few other films) in the list of Cinemaya's Greatest Asian Films (1998). Recently Busan International Film Festival featured it at no. #18 (jointly with few other films) in their list of 100 Best Asian Cinema.

Home video[edit]

In 1993, Merchant Ivory Productions restored the film and Sony Pictures Classics released it theatrically in New York with five other Ray films. It was released on VHS in 1995.[1]

In July 2011, an HD digitally restored version of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection.[9]


  1. ^ http://www.satyajitray.org/films/jalsagh.htm
  2. ^ Robinson 1989, p. 115.
  3. ^ Robinson 1989, pp. 115–116.
  4. ^ Robinson 1989, p. 116.
  5. ^ a b c d e Robinson 1989, p. 113.
  6. ^ Wakeman. pp. 842–843.
  7. ^ a b Wakeman. pp. 843.
  8. ^ "1st Moscow International Film Festival (1959)". MIFF. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "The Music Room". The Criterion Collection. 


External links[edit]