It is said that in Bengal, even the stones can sing. It is the land of Tagore and Nazrul. From Bauls to Bangla bands, we have it all. No wonder music has played the most important role in many Bengali films. No, we aren’t talking about films that are known for memorable compositions; there’s probably no non-musical Bengali movie. We’re talking about the best music movies where melody plays the protagonist.
Let’s take a look at the best music movies in Bengali where melody is the central character.
We have chosen Bengali films which are about music, where melody is the thread along which all the events and incidents of the story are strung, whether it’s a musical, or not.
1. Joy Jayanti
A Bangla musical inspired by the international classic, Sound of Music, Joy Jayanti is the story of a young woman, played by Aparna Sen, who, as a governess, uses music and affection to change the lives of five naughty children, the nieces and nephews of a businessman, portrayed by Uttam Kumar. Every 90’s kid can break into songs like Amader Chhuti Chhuti, Chhorata To Besh, and Ke Prothom Chhande Gechhe, without any mistake.
Tanuja plays a young ‘princess’ who is brought up with extreme care and discipline by her mother. Her life is restricted within a routine. She has exceptional musical talent and has grown up receiving training in the Hindustani classical genre. But when she meets her sewing teacher’s brother, an insurance agent played by Uttam Kumar, she finds freedom in the words and tunes of light music, and they fall in love. The film is about the ups and downs in their love story.
A movie based on the life and works of the 19th-century Bengali language poet of Portuguese origin, Hensman Anthony, Jatiswar has music in its heart and soul. On one hand, there’s Prosenjit Chatterjee plays the reincarnation of Anthony Firingee, and fights with memories of his past life and Kobi-Gaan, Jisshu Sengupta’s character tries to learn more about the Bengali culture through music to win the heart of Swastika Mukherjee’s Mahamaya, a true Bangali.
4. Moner Manush
Moner Manush showcases the beauty of Baul music, and its importance as an integral part of Bengal’s folk culture. The movie is about the life and philosophy of Lalon Fakir, the most celebrated Baul saint. Prosenjit Chatterjee portrays the role with finesse and brings out the beauty of the Bengali music genre, and has been considered as one of the best movies produced in recent years. It had 18 Baul songs; even the Songlaps (monologues) were musical pieces!
5. Madly Banglaee
Only 90’s kids will understand the craze Bengali Rock Bands. After Mohiner Ghoraguli in the 70s, the desire to form a band or become a solo Rock Musician was strong in the mind of kids from every other house. Madly Bangalee brings out this sentiment associated with the rock music culture in Bengal. It’s about a group of boys who want to form a rock band. But, life catches up with them, and they all end up in different situations.
6. Kishore Kumar Junior
Prosenjit portrays the life and journey of a Kishore Konthee, i.e. a version singer who performed songs of Kishore Kumar because his voice sounds like the famous playback artiste, and is referred to as Kishore Kumar Junior. It captures the stories of innumerable artistes who are more like “sound-alikes”, and make a living by singing the famous numbers sung by celebrated singers to whom they sound similar, either naturally or by practice.
An Aparna Sen experiment in which the story gets narrated through music and rhythm, Arshinagar is a musical that tells movie-makers to break the tried and tested norms of film-making. It’s a new version of Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet where Dev, as the singer and guitarist in a Bengali rock band, is Romeo, and Rittika Sen is the Juliet; their love dies in the hands of religious fanatics. The soundtracks showcase different genres of Bengali music.
To be honest, it is never easy to put together a list of Bengali movies on music. The saga has been going on for decades. How can we not talk about films like Deya Neya and Antony Firingee, whose stories and characters revolve around music? Harano Sur, a film with music in its very name, is yet another film that exhibits the importance of melody in Bengali cinema. More recently, we had Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbo Na, and Ami Ashbo Phire, which showcase Anjan Dutt’s famous genre of “Country Rock meets Bangla Soft Rock’, dipped in nostalgia and romance. Let’s not ignore Haripada Bandwala, a romantic comedy about a budding band artist. And how can we ever exclude the musical Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne series while talking about the best music movies in Bengali?
We’ll get to see a story about the woes of growing up, parenting, and friendship, in the movie Generation Ami (slated to release soon), where a young rebel, Apu, find the courage to pursue his love for music with the help of Durga, a 19-year old girl. Music movies of this kind are rooted in the Bengali culture, which is why, every now and then, we see something new – something melodious.