|Directed by||Satyajit Ray|
|Screenplay by||Satyajit Ray|
|Based on||Short story Jalsaghar|
by Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay
|Produced by||Satyajit Ray|
Pinaki Sen Gupta
Ustad Waheed Khan
|Edited by||Dulal Dutta|
|Music by||Vilayat Khan|
|Distributed by||Contemporary Films (UK)|
Edward Harrison (US)
Jalsaghar (Bengali: জলসাঘর Jalsāghar, "The Music Room") is a 1958 Indian Bengali drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray, based on a popular short story by Bengali writer Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, and starring Chhabi Biswas. The fourth of Ray's feature films, it was filmed at Nimtita Raajbari, in Nimtita , Aurangabad, Murshidabad. Despite initial poor critical reception in India, Jalsaghar went on to win the Presidential Award for best film in New Delhi, and played a significant role in establishing Ray's international reputation as a director. It has since gained near-universal critical acclaim, and has come to be regarded by the cinema community as one of the greatest films of all time.
Jalsaghar depicts the end days of a decadent zamindar (landlord) in Bengal and his efforts to uphold his family prestige while facing economic adversity. The landlord, Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), is a just but otherworldly man who loves to spend time listening to music and putting up spectacles rather than managing his properties ravaged by floods and the government's abolition of the zamindari system after Independence. 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 Lahiri – 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
- Music & Dance performances
- (On screen) – Begum Akhtar, Roshan Kumari, Ustad Waheed Khan, Bismillah Khan
- (Off screen) – Dakhshinamohan Thakur, Ashish Kumar, Robin Mazumdar, Imrat Khan, Salamat Ali 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.
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. 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.
According to Ray, "The Nimtita palace was perfect, except that the music room–it did have one, for Ganendra Narayan's uncle Upendra Narayan Choudhury had been a patron of music much like the nobleman in our story–was not impressive enough to serve as the setting for the sumptuous soirées that I had planned." Therefore, the film's famed jalsaghar scenes were made inside the Aurora Film Corporation studio In Maniktala, Kolkata. The studio has now been demolished.
Although the film received mostly poor reviews in India, it received the Presidential Award in New Delhi for best film. 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. New Statesman film critic John Coleman compared Ray to Jean Renoir 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." 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." Roger Ebert hailed it as "[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." However, that same year Stanley Kauffmann criticised the film, calling it "a deeply felt, extremely tedious film...the Indian music is simply uncongenial and tiresome to our ears." In 1965 Derek Malcolm called it Ray's "most perfect film." 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. San Francisco Chronicle critic Edward Guthmann described it as "A wonderful tale of pride and the fools it makes of men." Werner Herzog said about Jalshaghar "The most amazing Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray and there’s one film, really beautiful, it’s called The Music Room... And it’s of phenomenal beauty and Ray really knew how to use music and create a drama around music."
Awards and recognitions
- 1959 – All 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.
- 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 cinéma in 2008. Was ranked at #27, #146 and #183, respectively, in the Sight and Sound list of Greatest Films in 1992, 2002 and 2012. Film critic Derek Malcolm ranked the film at No. 56 on his list of the "Top 100 Movies" in 2001. The British Film Institute included it in their list of '360 Classics'. The film got the 7th spot (jointly with few other films) on 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.
- In 2021, The Daily Star ranked the film 3rd on its list of the greatest short story adaptations.
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- Guthmann, Edward. "Film Review – Aristocrat's Pride Is His Downfall In Feudal Bengal". SFGate. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- "Werner Herzog". Red Bull Music Academy.
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- "1st Moscow International Film Festival (1959)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- Malcolm, Derek (18 January 2001). "Derek Malcolm's top 100 movies". The Guardian.
- Bari, Mehrul (13 June 2021). "10 must-watch short story-to-film adaptations". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 15 June 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
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- Robinson, Andrew (1989). Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06946-6.