Recurring Decimals…..

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Ghost Dance from Goopy-Bagha

with 7 comments

Via Amardeep and others, noticed that Boing Boing linked to a video of the ‘Ghost Dance’ sequence from "Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne" – Satyajit Ray’s musical classic.

The film highlights the multifaceted talents of Ray. As was usual for him since Teen Kanya, Ray composed the background score; he also composed tunes for all the songs in the film (which I believe he wrote the lyrics for as well) – apart from writing the screenplay (based on a fantasy story by his grandfather Upendrakisore Ray Chaudhury), and of course, directing the film.

This particular segment is pure genius. It was conceived and executed with brilliance: unspoiled by CGI, using only camera ‘tricks’ for the special effects, blending in various musical instruments and forms (folk music, both south and north Indian classical music and dance forms) – it used to be a delight to watch as a kid. As I grew older, I also appreciated some of the socio-political sub-texts of class and caste: the various ‘forms’ of ghosts – the warriors, the priests, the ‘saheb’/ruling class ec and the infighting among them in the course of the dance.

The ‘explanation’ of the clip at the Google video site was rather unsatisfactory – it describes the whole film rather than just this sequence. I wrote the following as a comment on Amardeep’s blog:

Btw, the the ‘explanation’ is really about the whole movie – not just this clip.

This particular ghost dance has nothing to do per se with the musical abilities of Goopy (the singer) and Bagha (the drummer). Having been banished from their respective villages for their atrocious musical qualities, they happen to meet in the middle of the forest in the evening hours. Relieved at being spared by a tiger, they start singing and drumming – this ‘musical’ bedlam raises the ghosts in the forest area, who break into the dance routines shown in the video.

(after the dance, the King of Ghosts makes an appearance and grants the duo three wishes. They use one the wishes to gain musical talents)

Of course, goes without saying – it is a must-watch film (I am sure there aren’t too many Bongs out there who haven’t seen this).

(Note: Boing Boing links to the Google Video, which for some reason I could not embed in this post – hence I linked to Youtube. )

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

September 22, 2006 at 7:06 am

7 Responses

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  1. What I would like is a clean copy of this film. I own a VHS version with poor sound and horrible visuals. Any suggestions?

    I’ll also copy the comment I left at Amardeep’s here:

    “There is a very amusing song in the movie which chants, “Halla Cholechhe Juddhe…. Ha, Ha, Ha, Halla Cholechhe Juddhe!” which translates as “Halla goes to war… Ha, Ha, Ha, Halla goes to war!” The king of Halla was a particularly bellicose soul and loved to go to war.

    For many months after the illegal invasion of Iraq, my name for George W. Bush was “King of Halla” or rather, more accurately in Bengali – “Halla’r Raja.”
    If only someone had sung the right melody in Bush’s ears instead of the lethal whispering that Cheney did!”

    Ruchira Paul

    September 22, 2006 at 10:32 pm

  2. @Ruchira: That was exactly my thoughts too !

    Those belligerent cries of “Juddho ! Juddho !” (Juddho=War) by the King and his Minister….made me smile at the contemporary relevance.

    To be fair, the King of Halla was a harmless soul, made to do the bidding of the evil and greedy minister only under a magic spell.

    BongoP'o'ndit

    September 23, 2006 at 12:34 pm

  3. To be fair, the King of Halla was a harmless soul, made to do the bidding of the evil and greedy minister only under a magic spell.

    And you don’t see a parallel of the greedy, power hungry minister in Dick Cheney and the assorted neo-cons ? That said, I would grant you that G.W.B. is not as harmless as the King of Halla. But he couldn’t have pulled off Iraq just by his lonesome self.

    Ruchira Paul

    September 23, 2006 at 5:04 pm

  4. […] I am actually very impressed by the special effects, seems way ahead of its time! Incidentally,  heres bongopundit’s explanation of the video. […]

    Ghost Dance « Suhassinator…

    September 23, 2006 at 8:53 pm

  5. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is a true classic by the maestro. The sequel to the film is Hirok Rajar Deshey is even better. It hides how the commie despots brainwash their people and exploit them. Then comes the revolution that brings them down.

    Amazingly, the story was ages before its time. We saw how Lenin’s statues were brought down years later in the breaking USSR.

    Beau Peep

    September 26, 2006 at 1:42 am

  6. @Beau Peep: Brain-washing and propaganda machineries are certainly not the exclusive preserves of ‘commies’ – leftists, rightists (take one look at Faux News), even liberatarians – are all guilty of it. Welcome to the world of ‘truthiness’

    That said, Hirak Rajar Deshe was definitely a very political film – with some scatching attacks on the contemporary ruling class for their attempted subversion of democratic practices. And yes – the brining down of Lenin’s statues was apt too.

    BongoP'o'ndit

    September 26, 2006 at 8:35 am

  7. Goopy and Bagha were much simpler, and golden-hearted than the other literary creations of Ray- the genius Shanku, the cool Feluda, and Apu. Tapen Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh were masterful actors with brilliant comic timing, and their chemistry unmatched. With master Ray’s perfect direction in place, Goopy and Bagha captured the essential Bengali character. They would break out of prison by offering the guard a tasty fish and stop wars by raining magical sweets from the heavens.

    I wonder how something so ‘childish’ could have such layers and meanings below their surface. Even today, when I’m depressed I remember Bagha saying- ‘Tumi koro giye chinta. Pet bhore khabo, pran bhore ghurbo’ (Why worries! I’ll eat till my stomach is full. I’ll wander (sing and dance) till my last breath). The sadness we feel today is not just for the passing of a true artist. It marks the end of a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were simple, soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled. It is hard to digest that for the final time- Goopy will sing no more!

    Sourav Roy

    June 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm


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