Friday, February 12, 2010

Satyajit Ray: Shakespeare Wallah (1965)

While many westerners know Satyajit Ray as a director, most famously for his Apu Trilogy. The famous Bengali also gained some recent popularity as a composer with Wes Anderson's 2007 film Darjeeling Limited. The soundtrack for the film holds five compositions of his. You can also see a homage to Ray in the film as a painted portrait on the train (I posted the screencap at the bottom of the page.) One of the tracks featured on Darjeeling Limited's soundtrack called "The Desert Ballroom", the shortest track on the record, is originally from the 1965 film Shakespeare Wallah.

Shakespeare Wallah is yet another Merchant-Ivory production (see my Bombay Talkie post), directed by American James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. The story is set in India, and borrows from the real life adventures of the Kendal family (in the film they are called the Buckingham's), a British travelling theater group who mostly performed Shakespeare across the sub-continent.

This is mostly an instrumental soundtrack. Ray uses, leitmotif, the classical western method of musical theme associated to a person, situation or other which in turn is used several times throughout the film. He also incorporates and mixes both western with traditional Indian music and instruments. The only actual "song" on the record is "Manjula's song". It is the only one with vocals, and is inspired by folk music as well as commercial indian soundtracks or filmi music with its dreamlike qualities. I also enjoy "Manjula's Possession" as well as "Lizzie and Sanju Backstage".

Overall, the album is melancholic and atmospheric, sometimes emotionally and sometimes to be used to describe the little unique universe in which all these characters are living in.

It's interesting how Satyajit Ray's films are very much influenced by neo-realism, but this specific soundtrack is not realist in this sense. Not to say they live in a fantasy world the characters do not live in reality per say and the music illustrates that.

I am looking for a film documentary mad e in 1984 by Utpalendu Chakrabarty called The Music of Satyajit Ray. If anyone has seen it I would sure like to hear about it. Thanks, and enjoy the music and the lovely screencap below.

Portrait of Satyajit Ray (top right corner) in Darjeeling Limited (2007) accompanied by Jason Schwartzman.


Side 1

1. Title Music

2. Cleopatra's Barge

3. Arrival of the Troupe in the Rain

4. Manjula's Procession

5. The Good Old Days

6. Mubarak Begum: Manjula's Song-Dil Dharke (Heartbeat)

Side 2

7. Pantomime

8. Bobby's Funeral

9. Love Theme - Sanju and Lizzie

10. Carla begs Lizzie to Return to England

11. The Desert Ballroom

12. Lizzie and Sanju Backstage

13. Lizzie Sails for England

Get the music now: Satyajit Ray Shakespeare Wallah


Anonymous said...

very useful read. I would love to follow you on twitter.

MinaiMinai said...

I'm not sure how I missed that Mr. Ray composed songs for the Darjeeling Limited! Where have I been? Very interesting post! :)

AMIT said...

His songs were really good.

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Anonymous said...

the music of satyajit ray

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Niranjan Actor said...

Interesting post to read and know about 'Satyajeet Ray' & 'Shakespeare Wallh'

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