• Brimming with confidence coming off the success of the Apu Trilogy (this was actually made in the middle of the famous trilogy—before The World of Apu in 1959 but after Aparajito  in 1956) – Satyajit Ray lands with his single greatest 95-minutes of cinema in The Music Room.
  • The great Chhabi Biswas plays Huzur Biswambhar Roy at the center of The Music Room – it is a role and performance that every actor, regardless of generation or language, must envy.
  • It is a remarkable fable, a sort of novella that could’ve been a story passed down in oral history from generations or even from mythology: a rich man is consumed with pride, or “prestige” as he calls it. This is the tragic story of that man’s destruction. On the page it must be even shorter than the 95-minutes. It is largely silent. Ray lets Biswas’ non-verbal cues and the sublime music from Robin Majumdar do much of the heavy lifting. Ray’s elegant camera rarely stops moving and with its rigid two-part structure (the flashback ends exactly half-way through the film) and chandelier as a device- it is a resounding feat of film form. Like all most major achievements in film form- each point has a counterpoint here— and the story of Huzur Biswambhar Roy is juxtaposed with his neighbor’s. The before and after of the death at the center of the story– duality in the rise and fall.
  • It is a different kind of tragedy- but you have to talk about this film along with Guru Dutt’s tragic Pyaasa (1957). These are two masterclasses in crane shots, tracking shots and camera movement.

As noted, Ray uses the chandelier as a formal marker and symbol. He opens the film on the chandelier (the camera is imperceptibly moving closer as that music jams away gloriously), he closes the film on the chandelier. And often he bounces the narrative off Huzur Biswambhar Roy gazing at the symbol of opulence (stares at it at the 44-minute marker and comes back to it often– Ray even superimposes it’s reflection in a drink).

  • After the chandelier at the films outset, Ray opens on Huzur Biswambhar Roy- he’s in a fog—he sitting on his roof, cationic—he doesn’t know what season it is let alone what month.
  • Constantly tracking in on him in his chase lounger with his hookah
  • As I said it is dream role for any actor- Huzur Biswambhar Roy is drunk, he’s arrogant, he suffers. He does get to emote, but there is plenty of time to just let his face be the canvas. He often behaves deplorably yet you feel for him when he says, sadly, that there is “no more music for me”. Ray’s camera floats in on his pained expression at 63-minutes, and again at 65-minutes.

Visconti would adore this film—it is about the ruination  and self-destruction of the bourgeoise class – royalty in this case. And the neighbor “new money” is constantly shown to have lesser manners. The decay is in the production design detail- broken glass, a crumbling palace, cobwebs (again on the chandelier- with meaning—67-minute mark).

Ray’s camera on a crane glides through the music room itself- hiding behind columns.

  • It is funny- you’re so steeped in Ray’s music that when the western “Colonel Bogey March” (The Bridge on the River Kwai) theme is played you share Huzur Biswambhar Roy’s displeasure for it- haha- a very funny scene.
  • A masterpiece