The Music Room Blu-ray review

            Despite being an Indian film with the title The Music Room, there is something unique about the style of Satyajit Ray’s film that makes it anything but ordinary for Indian cinema. There are no musical numbers placed in the film as an interlude to the melodrama, and the melodrama is far too understated (except, perhaps, for the final sequence) to be called anything but drama. Instead, Ray brings a thoughtful film about a regretful aging man, whose love of music was ultimately his demise. The musical sequences provide a showcase for some of India’s most popular musicians, though their presence never detracts from the storyline.

            Ray wrote the screenplay for The Music Room himself, adapting it from the short story by Bengali writer Tarasankar Banerji. The simple storyline begins with an aging aristocrat, Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), a once joyous lover of music who now refuses to leave his palace. Instead he sits on the top of his palace and watches over the land, smoking hookah and slowly spending the last of his fortune. With the sudden use of flashback, we are thrown back a few years as Roy is still successful. More importantly, he is still using his expansive music room to entertain guests, and we see this in his son’s coming-of-age celebration.

            We also see the progression of events which lead to the ultimate ruin of Roy, and as we return to the hookah smoking hermit, a change begins in him. These last days he takes notice of many ominous signs in the dilapidated home, all leading the Roy’s ultimate demise. The music works for the film, instead of serving as an interlude, and often it leads the audience through the subtleties of emotion within the screenplay.

            The Blu-ray release for The Music Room presents a high-definition digital restoration of the film, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The disc also includes a feature-length documentary from 1984, which extensively covers the career of Ray. There are also new interviews with Ray biographer Andrew Robinson and filmmaker Mira Nair, as well as excerpts from a 1981 roundtable discussion with Ray and others. The package also comes with a booklet insert with an essay by critic Philip kemp, a 1963 essay by Ray, and a 1986 interview with the director.

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