Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos

Goopy and Bagha

Image courtesy

Rather relaxed evening yesterday. Came back from band-practice at around seven thirty in the evening after watching a totally plot-less and story-less Pirates of the Caribbean. The evening was made by a revisit to one of my favorite Ray films – Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. I never ceased to be amazed every time I watch this movie and wonder how a man could make a movie for children so acceptable and so natural for adults to watch with none of the subtle embarrassment which normally accompanies a man as he watches a children’s movie.

Spoiler warning: Plot details follow

The story revolves around Goopy, the son of a poor grocer in an impoverished village in Bengal. In spite of a rather unimpressive and coarse voice, Goopy harbors great ambitions of name and fame as a singer. Eventually he is cleverly persuaded by some village elders to sing a song for the sing in the early hours of dawn, perched on a rock outside the king’s window. The king, not accustomed to being an early riser, is enraged by this disturbance to his morning stupor, and orders him to be thrown out of the village on the back of a donkey.

Exiled into the forest, Goopy meets Bagha, who has met with a similar predicament, and together, they form arguably the greatest comic duo in Bangla cinema ever. It’s there in the forest that they encounter a roaming tiger who comes close but not too much, and then overjoyed by the narrow escape, they start singing and playing, very badly. Night falls, and that is when the King of Ghosts (Bhuter Raja) is absolutely overjoyed with their singing, and grants them three boons.
  • They can get food anytime, anywhere.
  • A pair of magic slippers which taken them anywhere, anytime.
  • Incomparable singing and drumming skills. (Needless to say, that’s something I wouldn’t mind either)

Overjoyed, and slightly fuzzed by the sudden change in their fortunes, the duo travel to the kingdom of Shundi, where they meet a benevolent king with a great interesting in music, played by the inimitable Santosh Dutta (who also plays Jatayu in the Feluda series) who is again dumbfounded by the musical skills of the duo and appoints them as court musicians. The king of Shundi however, has no interest in kingdoms and acquisitions whatsoever, and is a peace-loving man.

In the meantime, the king of Halla (who is actually the long-lost brother of the king of Shundi), goaded by a lethal evil minister, who hypnotizes him with the powers of the court magician, plans a scathing and final attack on his own brother. On the bequest of the king of Shundi, Goopy and Bagha travel to Halla in an attempt to prevent the king from attacking, but due to a mixture of foolishness and inattentiveness are inadvertently captured. In the process, they also lose the magic slippers, which could have taken them out of captivity and realize that the only way of escape is through strategy. This they do brilliantly, as they trick the jailer into releasing them, and then come upon the army just as they are about to get ready to start their march towards the kingdom of Shundi. The entire army is captivated and frozen by the sheer beauty of their music, which leads to their king ultimately getting capture, and reunited with his long-lost brother.

The movie has a simple plot, akin to the fairy-tales which came from Russia in beautifully illustrated but extremely cheap books.

The beauty of the movie lies in the simplicity of the gestures, the music and ultimately the rather beautiful message is delivers of non-violence and the futility of war. The subtle humor in the movie when contrasted with some of the slapstick comedy which is dished out of Bollywood, Tollywood and Hollywood, would hopefully, someday prove to be a lesson for directors, producers and actors et al.

Just as an example, I find the sequence where Goopy and Bagha gaze upwards at one of the towers in the palace, where Bagha has accidentally spotted a princess (Monimala), the daughter of the king of Shundi. They watch entranced, as Bagha, played by the great Rabi Ghosh, paints a beautiful picture of marriage to Monimala. While Ray’s camera was like a poet, what amazed in this movie was the sheer power of the dialogue. The way Bagha utters Monimala; in a subdued yet subtly excited voice is a miracle in restrained acting. The music-competition is one other example of extremely vivid characterization and the best and most composite tribute to Indian Classical Music, if any. Characterization, as in any other Ray movie, is top-notch, with Santosh Dutta playing the part of both the benevolent and the lost king with equal aplomb. And of course, you can’t think of two other people playing the roles of Goopy and Bagha with equal conviction. Ultimately, you are amazed when the movie ends; because that's when you realize that it is perfectly possible and remarkably easy to despise the violence, crime and bloodshed of present times without showing any of it. Ray did that with perfection, as Goopy and Bagha approach the army of Halla singing:

Tora judhho kore korbi ki ta bol (What’s the use in fighting this war?)

O re Halla rajar' Sena (O the army of Halla)

4 Responses to “Goopy and Bagha”

  1. # Blogger Sav

    Isn't the song of the ghosts just fabulous? The first time I saw the film, I was too fascinated to read the subtitles. The second time I concentrated on the subtitles and hated myself for having done that. Saw it last some two years ago, and still enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time.

    It's high time I taught myself Bengali at least for Ray's sake!  

  2. # Anonymous Sandy


    Yes it's an absolutely fabolous bit of cinematic choreography - and the singing is top-notch. Of course, I assume you know already that it was sung by Ray himself.

    As regards the movie, it's probably one of the under-rated movies of Ray, in the same class as Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath, which were primarily made for children. In spite of the rather meagre reaping at international award functions, these movies stand out in my mind as my personal favorites, rather all-time favorites.  

  3. # Anonymous aru

    I dont know how you will feel abt this , but everytime I see Goopy-Bagha or Hirok Rajar.. the hidden political essence emerges strongly to me.One just cannot miss The Leftist ideologies which Ray subtly instills in quite a few of his creations. I feel thats where he captures the Adults in a Children Film. I am sure u can connect to the fact that Ray is actually being sardonic about the caste differnce and stratification of the society in his "Bhooter Nach" piece in the movie. Talk about Hirok Rajar Deshe it becomes crystal clear.  

  4. # Anonymous Sandy


    Well, the "Bhooter Naach" in the movie is open to multiple interpretations, which is of course one other common factor in all of Ray's movies. However, I do agree that he tried to show quite a few things in that piece of dance; ranging from the futility of war, to the evils of a caste-based society. The culmination of this was in the movie "Sadgati" starring Om Puri and Smita Patil.

    Of course, "Hirok Rajar Deshe" was a considerably more politicised movie with darker undertones, which was probably why it never became as popular as GGBB. I kinda have the feeling it was probably a sense of dissatisfaction and gradual loss of faith in the goodness of society, enhanced by the imposition of the emergency which made Ray make the movie.  

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link