India’s most original movie

True masterpieces are so few and far-between, that when one comes upon us, awe is obvious.

It’s been many years since I last watched Satyajit Ray’s 1968 classic Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and thanks to a recent Ray Revival, I caught it again in a Mumbai theatre last night.

Very well remastered digitally for the big screen, an unfortunate lack of subtitles kept many from enjoying it.

Still, this is a film worth learning Bangla for.

Here goes. A humbly overwhelmed ode:

A broken tanpura earned with eartwisting
led to a talentless, misled minstrel, persisting.
Trying to earn patronage via a royal groupie,
Exiled on an arse is poor lanky hero, Goopy.

In deserted forest a drip thumped out a beat,
Drummer Bagha alongside, snoring indiscreet.
With identical backstory of an intolerant monarch,
A royal bengal scare, the woods go oddly dark.

Then unfolds information on spectral hierarchy
Ghosts fat, priestly, warring, some even snarky.
The Bhoot king squeaks welcome, bids no fear,
Grants our lads wishes, but only three, hear!


So it is Goopy, Bagha awake — hungry no more,
Shoes travelling far, songs to stop and adore.
Adventures begin and kingdoms must be saved,
If princesses are to be had: pretty, well-behaved.

This Satyajit Ray film is India’s most original movie,
Sorcerers named after sweets, satire, music so groovy.
Amazing special effects decidedly decades before time,
Upendrakishore Ray Chaudhury’s story told even with rhyme.

Tapen Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh magically play the leads,
Jahar Roy, Harindranath Chatterjee such magnificent baddies.
Art director Bansi Chandragupta expectation exceeds;
Dulal Dutta’s edits startling; Ray’s own musical expertise.

There is nothing mere about a great children’s epic,
Lots between these lines to savour and behold,
Unparalleled characters & story, irony pure gold.
Ray’s most entertaining film trips the light — fantastic.



Published Rediff, May 25, 2007.

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  1. Rockus

    I saw it recently on DVD (BIG home videos have released a lot of Ray titles on DVD with subtitles). Was amazed by the craft shown by Ray. Loved the dance of ghosts. Years ahead of its time and a great message too.

    1. rajasen

      Are the subtitles any good?
      The voices in the ghost-dance sequence are Ray’s own, btw.

      1. Rockus

        Subtitles are pretty decent. At least the story matches with what my mom told me when I was a kid!

        1. rajasen

          Well, props to Big then. Hope they keep it up.

  2. Nishit

    You made me nostalgic. My dad told me this as a bedtime story as a kid and got to watch it after a long time back in DD days, which is quite an achievement being a non-bengali kid. I stayed up till 12 in the night to watch it. Jai Ho!

    P.S. : As usual, the most prompt (and most jobless) man. #FAIL

    1. rajasen

      Am curious as to how universally it works without translation. It is a pretty visual story and I did take a friend along to the theatre without subtitles, but I was translating at breakneck speed. Did it work for you as a kid?

  3. Sujoo

    Ok. This is going to be next on my “must-watch” list. Thanks for reminding us for these much appreciated yet long forgotten films. :-)

    1. rajasen

      Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to call Goopy Bagha forgotten, but glad I could provoke you into watching it :)

  4. Akshay

    Saw this a long long time back on DD, with subtitles … brings back memories … loved the movie back then, though I’m sure I missed a lotta nuances as a child, as well as due to the linguistic and cultural barrier … barely remember the movie now, but I suppose even back then what I loved most was the subversiveness … the supposedly scary ghosts applaudin the ‘talents’ of the 2 protagnists :) Still remember that scene :)

    1. rajasen

      Try and watch it again, I’m betting you’ll get a lot more out of it. And then there’s the sequel, Hirak Raja’r Deshe — which is an allegory about censorship and the Emergency. Fabulous.

  5. Mayank Sinha

    Hi Raja,

    You are quite in summing it up as the most innovative film made in India. I remember I watched it when I was 10 with my mom, who knows Bengali. Nevertheless, the language never made any difference and just found it a great fun ride.

  6. Saurya

    Raja, not trying to pick here…but “arse” here is incorrect use? Replace with “ass”?

    at any rate though, as everybody has already said, your little poem made me nostalgic!

    and “…snoring indiscreet”…gem!! :)

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