Blu-Ray Review: The Music Room (Criterion Collection)

Whilst Bollywood dominates the Indian film industry, there’s much more to Bharata’s cinema than merely the conveyor belt of love, loss, song and satire. The greatest Indian film-maker of all time, is without doubt, Satyajit Ray. His masterpiece is indubitably The Apu Trilogy. The story of a young Bengali boy growing up in the early 20th Century became an international sensation. In the middle of filming this trilogy, Ray made The Music Room; which is minor triumph.

Set in 1920s Bengal, Huzur Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas) still lives a decadent life in his crumbling palace, struggling desperately to cling on to the past. At the end of the 19th century, zamindar (landed gentry) like himself were dominant. However, as the laws and economy changed, he’s increasingly ignored his family and property to satisfy his love for spectacle and music. As his wealth seeps away, he’s determined not to let a ‘common’ money-lender (Gangapada Bose) outdo him, regardless of the cost.

The Music Room is a quiet, stately and rich film about a man whose refusal to change with the times, and obsession with music, causes him to lose everything. He’s a sad and desultory figure whose solace drives him to the edge of insanity. It’s easy to pity his situation, however much he’s brought it upon himself. Biswas is perfect in the role. He carries himself with heirs and graces and only the smallest movements bely his confidence. The Music Room is an elegant depiction of a man standing on the beach and trying to hold back the tide.

Disc Features:

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Ray’s career through interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films
  • New interviews with Satyajit Ray biographer Andrew Robinson and filmmaker Mira Nair
  • Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and director Claude Sautet
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Philip Kemp, a 1963 essay by Ray on the film’s location, and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music

The Music Room is released on Blu-ray by UK Criterion on Monday 7 August.

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