The musical duo of Goopi and Bagha make a comeback when they are invited to play for a king.The musical duo of Goopi and Bagha make a comeback when they are invited to play for a king.The musical duo of Goopi and Bagha make a comeback when they are invited to play for a king.
Plot: The kingdom of Hirak is under the rule of a tyrant who suppresses all mutiny by applying 'magaj-dholai' on the rebels. One such insurgent, Udayan pundit becomes absconding by escaping the sentries. During this time he encounters Goopy and Bagha who promise to help him with their magical powers. But will they be able to combat the mighty king of Hirak who has all the wealth in the world courtesy his diamond mines, has the assistance of a genius scientist and even possesses a pet tiger which guards the treasury?
Review: 'Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne' (1969) directed by Satyajit Ray was one of his biggest commercial blockbusters. The characters of Goopy, the singer and Bagha, the drummer had achieved cult-status along with the kind-hearted 'Bhooter Raja'. It was eleven years after delivering this master-class; Ray decided to bring back once again the delightful singer-drummer pair of Goopy and Bagha in 'Hirak Rajar Deshe' (1980).
Sequels, besides ensuring a ready viewer base, also invite the burden of huge expectations. Many directors have faltered under this pressure. Ray himself had been quite a pro in creating film franchises. The 'Goopy- Bagha' series was his fourth after the famous 'Apu'-trilogy, 'Feluda' series and the 'Kolkata'-trilogy; besides 'Aranyer Din Ratri' and the 'Byomkesh' series which were taken forward by other directors. Yet it's safe to say; in all those instances Ray couldn't match the glory of the original with his sequels. But with 'HRD' it seemed the wait for the perfect sequel was finally over.
In order to match the heightened expectations, Ray undertook some necessary measures: a bigger star-cast, conversion from black & white to colour, specially created glossy sets in a Madras film-city and the return of the tiger in real instead of the superimposed special effect in 'GGBB'. But the unique feature which can be easily considered the USP of this sequel is its rhyming dialogues. Most of the characters converse through rhymes across long-wielding sequences comprising of simple words which convey the sinister policies and conspiracies of dictatorial politics. One of the few exceptions is the school-master Udayan, whose free speech represents his free thoughts unlike the rest whose ideas are restricted by the imposed policies of the dictatorship. It's notable, even Goopy and Bagha spoke in rhymes when they remained confined in their palace. But once they went out in the open and came in contact with Udayan, they also started speaking in a free-tongue! A couple of words are even in English ('income', 'bookey'); but that's understandable as the British are likely to have arrived in India by then. Even without considering the meanings the dialogues convey, one must doff their hats to Ray who once again reveals a mostly unknown skill of poetry by scripting a screenplay which could remind of other poetic texts like Kashiram Das' 'Mahabharata'. And not just the dialogues; who can forget the famous 'mantras' specifically created for the 'magaj-dholai'? Clearly, poetry's loss has been cinema's gain!
The new cast boasts of the addition of superstar Soumitra Chatterjee along with the veteran Utpal Dutta. Playing the righteous school-master is a cake-walk for Soumitra; but the character of Hirak Raja certainly presented one of the greatest challenges for Dutta. He brings all his thespian skills into play to 'recite' the lengthy-dialogues, many of them shot in a single scene. It's highly creditable as the margin for deviation was nil. He successfully portrays himself as an epitome of dictatorship. Tapen Chatterjee and Robi Ghosh reprise their respective avatars and their chemistry has only smoothened and blossomed with time. A particular mention must be made of Ghosh's courage during his encounter with the tiger; as unlike in the film the tiger was not hypnotized in reality! Like in 'GGBB' Santosh Dutta again plays a double role and his performance as the scientist is again a winner. In fact we get a peek into his real nature only near the end and it was quite surprising to see the diminutive fellow burst into such convulsions of fervor. It would have been nice to see this character explored a bit more.
Unlike 'GGBB' which was based on a book by his grand-father, Ray himself takes on the cudgels of flushing out a meaningful script this time. The treatment and the characterizations are not 'comical' like the prequel; but the rhyming dialogues and occasionally funny behaviors make it an equally entertaining experience. Yet, this film makes an obvious statement against the oppression of despotic misrule; where else the anti-war message was conveyed with much more subtlety in 'GGBB' without ever making the situation grave. The whole concept of 'magaj-dholai' brilliantly metaphors the mentality of modern-day politicians to confine the public into a false sense of prosperity by injecting fictitious bubbles of hope.
'HRD' once again reveals the musical genius of Ray which was first displayed in 'GGBB' and was that film's USP. This time expectations in terms of music were huge; and the songs needed to click for the film to be a success. And Ray delivers! From classical to fast-paced, Ray stamps his versatility on all genres. Backed by simple yet thoughtful lyrics, almost all the twelve songs bind the viewers in a spell. 'Aar Bilambo Noy', 'Aha Ki Anando', 'Eje Drishyo Dekhi Onnyo', 'Santrimashai' and 'Nohi Jantro' are some of the diamonds studded in this gem of a film. Even in terms of background music Ray excels himself and delivers some of his finest scores.
'Hirak Rajar Deshe' is one of those rare sequels which are almost as good as the original. Even though Goopy and Bagha would return for one last adventure with 'Goopy Bagha Phire Elo' (1991); this classic political documentary still deserves many repeat viewings; if nothing else then at least for the dialogues (which I had thoroughly memorized as a kid and still remember by heart)!
- Jun 22, 2013