The Music Room by Satyajit Ray, with Bob (Jan 2016)

Surprisingly well attended this dark January night, and the first of Bob’s choice of films at the Cut. We sat in the front 2nd row, Bob complaining almost immediately that the sound was ‘crap’. His breathing was shallow and noisy, but he could not hear this, for he was as always focused. On the film.

Made in 1958, the opening scene is indulgently long and evocative, and I settled into an old India. An aged and weary Raja sits on his flat roof, as Indian’s do when the heat arrives, looking out into the landscape, very like the Ganga river plain. A servant is naturally near by, seeing assiduously to his masters needs. Finally the old Raja asks “What month is it?”

The crumbling of the old ways. A man with little to do, except engage his passion for music and listening to concerns in his music room, a show of vanity as much as love of music. His neighbour is the foil, the new Indian, vulgar, bhang chewer, lower caste, a money lender, ambitious hardworking and successful, to whom the Raja eventually sells his wife’s last jewels.

He is a man so encased in his own existence that few realities interfere. He carries on, oblivious, faithful servants, like dogs, remaining to the end. Like Lear he arouses our sympathy even while indulging his vanity and stubbornly doing all of the wrong things. Like Lear, he thinks himself a man more sinned against than sinning. Like Lear, he is wrong.

‘Indulgent’ was my judgemental comment to Bob, who loved the film, the detail of the chandelier, the elephant washing, the decline of a man.

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