The Legend of Goopy And Bagha

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Waking up and reading about the demise of Tapen Chattopadhyay, the Bengali actor famous for playing the role of Goopy Gyne in Satyajit Ray’s Goopy-Bagha trilogy for children (the last was directed by Sandip Ray based on a story written by Satyajit Ray), the first thing I thought, like countless of Bengali people of my generation, was: “Goopy will sing no more”.

Rabi Ghosh, the freakishly gifted actor who played Goopy’s partner Bagha Byne, died ten years ago. But since he played many other memorable comic characters in Bengali movies, the conceptual connection between him and Bagha was not so ‘one-to-one’  as that between Tapen and Goopy Gyne.

Today with Tapen Chattapadhyay’s death however, one also remembers Rabi Ghosh and the partnership they forged as Goopy-Bagha, the endearing musical superheroes who would always save the day, no matter the odds. The sadness we feel today is not only for the passing of a true artist but also that of  a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were true and simple,  soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled.

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968), the first in the trilogy based on characters created by Satyajit Ray’s grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, was one of the first movies I ever saw in a cinema theatre, that air-conditioned house of light and shadow where I would enter a few Sundays in a year, clutching Baba’s sleeve in one hand and in the other a trusty Kwality Choco-bar, my most favorite ice-cream in the whole wide world.

For those who do not know the legend of Goopy-Bagha a little introduction. Singer Goopy and drummer Bagha were rural simpletons with two common traits, an unquenchable desire to express themselves musically and a total lack of any talent.  Thrown out from their respective villages by angry citizens and the king for their tuneless singing and rhythmless drumming, they retired to the forest. There however, their singing and drumming was music to the ear of the King of Ghosts (yes more than a bit of resemblance to the legend of Himesh Reshammiya) and his army of happy spirits. Being denizens of a higher plane of existence, they appreciated the netherwordly charms of Goopy and Bagha’s music and broke into a grand group dance.

Pleased by their ability, The King of Ghosts granted the duo three wishes—–the ability to get any clothes and  any food they want by merely clapping their hands, a pair of golden shoes by which they could be teleported anywhere in the world and the power to make such beautiful music that would make people stay frozen to the spot (shades of Harry Potter’s Petrificus Totalus). Armed with these magic spells, Goopy and Bagha walked the earth till they came to Shundi, a peaceful kingdom under threat from the kingdom of Halla. There with the help of song, dance, much bumbling and laughter, Goopy and Bagha spoil the plans of the evil war-mongering minister of Halla, the person who was precipitating the conflict (with whom I nowadays  find an uncanny resemblance to Dick Cheney), restore peace to the world and get married to the princesses.

I saw Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne in 1979 when I was four years old. I don’t remember much of what exactly I loved but I do remember laughing through all of it. After all a movie with magic, beautiful songs, the antics of Goopy and Bagha, the dance of  fat ghosts and memorably funny evil characters just could not go wrong. It was however on subsequent viewings of this classic, and I have seen it many times, that I not only saw the political subtext but appreciated the subtle nuances of Satyajit Ray’s craft—– his ability of underplaying humor and his use of irony, the poetry of the songs and the beauty of the music (he was the lyricist and music director), the genius of the “dance of the ghosts” special effects [Video]  and the magical “bringing-a-lump-to-the-throat” sequence when at the crack of dawn, Goopy and Bagha discover their metamorphosis into actual musicians, their faces alight with wonder, catching the rays of the sun as Anup Ghosal’s ethereal voice sings “Dekho re nayan mele jogoter bahaar” [Open your eyes and witness the beauty of the world], the most beautifully symbolic depiction of  artistic awakening I have seen captured on screen, a cinematic equivalent of Tagore’s “Nirjhorer Sopnobhongo”.

In 1980, the sequel Hirok Rajar Deshe (In the land of the Diamond King) released, twelve years after the original. The expectation was thick in the air, cinema halls were booked full. I remember going in with my parents and the moment Tapen Chattopadhyay and Rabi Ghosh came on the screen, in full color, the entire hall exploded. In this installment, Goopy and Bagha lock horns with the evil Hirok Raja (made unforgettable by the genius of Utpal Datta), a king who with the help of an equally wicked scientist-magician has made a Brainwashing machine into which he throws in his subjects and makes them into zombies. Then they are put to work in diamond mines, minting money for him. Goopy and Bagha join hands with the dissident Udayan Pandit, played by Ray favorite Soumitro Chatterjee, who is Hirok Raja’s enemy numero uno because he wants the citizens of the kingdom to be educated and liberated in spirit, something that Hirok Raja dreads. And again after a series of hilarious adventures including Goopy Bagha’s run-in with a tiger and the evil magician and his machine, Hirok Raja and his band of sycophantic ministers are overthrown and happiness reigns.

Hirok Rajar Deshe might not have the joyous simplicity of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne but it more than makes up for it with its astringent satire and more nuanced political undertones, Hirok Raja being the archetypal corrupt and megalomaniac totalitarian ruler,who bases his rule on the “brain-washing” power of propaganda, mis-education,  re-writing of history and the merciless suppression of all dissent. The final scene of Hirak Rajar Deshe where liberated subjects rush out and pull down giant statues of Hirok Raja while singing “Dori dhore maaro taan, Raja hobe khaankhaan” (Pull at the rope and destroy the power of the King) was Ray’s prophecy for the regimes that ruled through the “cult of the personality”  and within a few years  identical scenes would be repeated across Europe as the Berlin Wall, statues of Lenin and  Ceaucescu would come down in exactly the same way.

The last movie of the trilogy Goopy Bagha Phire Elo (1991) was a disappointment. Directed by Sandip Ray, based on a story by Satyajit Ray at a time when the master was seriously ill, it did not match up cinematically to the standards of the preceding two. Storywise, it was excellent though—being the darkest of the three. Goopy and Bagha are getting old and when another evil sorcerer promises to turn their ages back twenty years if they steal for him, they give into the dark side of the force. But they ultimately realize the folly of their ways, guided by their moral compass—-the King of the Ghosts and foil the plans of the evil sorcerer. Goopy Bagha Phire Elo was beautiful in that it captured the tragedy of aging brilliantly with a sequence where  Goopy and Bagha make peace with the inevitability of 0ld age by saying “As long as one gets wiser and earns more respect, growing old is actually a step up” being a personal favorite of mine. Such moments of brilliance were however few and far in between, the acting from the side characters overtly theatrical, the direction from Sandip Ray not as sharp and the music, the life-blood of the series, quite definitely weak in comparison to the other two.

So what was the secret behind the success of the characters of Goopy and Bagha? First of all, they were golden-hearted simpletons—-one could empathize with them far easier than with two other popular literay creations of Ray—the super-genius Shanku and the uber-cool Feluda. Second, Tapen Chattopadhyay and Rabi Ghosh were masterful actors with brilliant comic timing, their chemistry unsurpassed and I wonder whether anyone else could have breathed so much life into these characters as they did. Third, Goopy and Bagha captured the essential Bengali character—–they would break out of prison by offering the guard a tasty head of fish and stop wars by raining magical milk-based sweets from the heavens. And like Bengalis, they had the wanderlust, wondering from place to place: bonete, pahare, moruprantore (in the forest, in the mountains and in the desert) whenever they felt frustrated with life. Food, sleep, travel and music—-that was all they had and all they wanted. What could be more heroic to a Bengali than that?

The characters we grow up with become an intrinsic part of who we are. So it is only natural that the demise of the faces we associate with those characters will cause us sorrow . At the same time, let us however take solace in the fact that Goopy has finally joined Bagha in the happy land of the ghosts where they shall  lighten up the world beyond with their sense of humor and song.

And maybe another generation of Goopys and Baghas, while wandering into the forest or surfing on Youtube, will encounter the King of Ghosts and be blessed once again with the “jobor jobor teen bor” (The Three Great Blessings) of friendship, music and innocence.

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99 thoughts on “The Legend of Goopy And Bagha

  1. GB: Mistake in para 8 and 11, Tapen Chattopadhyaya, not “Chakraborty”. But otherwise, a brilliant piece!!

    Brought me back to my younger days, when I would watch such movies wide-eyed and carry them back home to linger for long after.

  2. Thanks for such a beautiful post remembering the legends we grew up with. RIP Goopy, Bagha and their maker.

  3. Wonderful. Poignant. No words to describe the immense loss to Bengali cinema.

    Upendra Kishore had not envisaged a lot of what his grandson actually showed on screen. His “brainwashing” meant – brainwashing the poor Indians into accepting the British Rule. Ray, Tapen and Robi took it to a different level, a global one, a macro-picture of the tyranny that exists even today. Similarly-it is the same for many other scenes – the fulfillment of dreams, the innocence of the average Bengali young-adult……. many such things.

    Sadly, the era is over. Jatayu is no more, neither Ray, now Gupi, neither Agantuk……..only Feluda is now what we have of that golden era of Indian cinema

  4. One of my all time favourite movie is GGBB. Nice post…but mentioning HR spoilt the mood…was it necessary?

  5. I was really heartbroken after hearing that Goopy is no more. Remembering the days when it will come in TV. I remember the 1st time I saw Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. There was a loadshedding. That anxiety when the power will come on. All those things. Singing the songs of Goopy Bagha…… remembering everything

  6. I remember the total frenzy which my Bong school friends used to go into whenever discussing GGBB or HRD or Sonar Kella. Mid-80s it was. Being a tamilian living in Calcutta, with my limited bong vocabulary at that time, I never could understand what the fuss was all about. Thats why I used to be routinely put down with “tui madrasi, tui bujhbina!!” (madrasi being the favourite bong moniker for anyone from the South states).
    But “bujhlaam” I did, maybe in the second/ third viewing. A super Ray masterpiece all the way!
    RIP Tapen. Sadly, I think, he never could replicate the success and magic of the Goopy Bagha movies, unlike Rabi Ghosh. A 2-hit-wonder?

  7. Thanks GB for that. I remember watching this film when Ray died and DD was playing some of his movies late in the night. Had to follow the movie via subtitles and i am sure i lost out on much of the essence of the movie because of that. But immensely enjoyable movie. As you said i remember laughing my guts out watching the movie.

  8. Seriously guys stop with the First! crap. It’s really fucking annoying.
    A fantastic tribute, GB. Way better than any of the obits the papers or anyone else will be able to come upw ith. It’s actually amde me curious enough to try tracking these films down.

  9. Thanks GB for such a great tribute. Incidentally these days I am reading Bijoya Ray’s autobiographical work “Amader Katha” and honestly reliving my growing up years with Gopi Bagha a Feluda as the constant companions.A very interesting read I must say when you get to much details about a Man (Satyajit Ray), for whom I am sure all bengalee’s have huge respect.

  10. Fantastic piece Arnab… I guess we have reached a stage in our life where our growing up years begin to slip awy from us… but here’s looking forward to Gupi Bagha rocking the stars as we would say these days

  11. Really nicely written. GGBB is one of the finest of Ray’s creations, and intertwined into the lives of Bengalis (and I am sure, everyboday who watches it) around the world.

    Really nicely encapsulated, brought back so many memories.

    Keep the great writing going =D

  12. I think it’s the writing that elevated it. The original film did not access to Hollywood-level special effects, but it was so imaginative and funny as to hold up with any fantasy classic. The high point of the original film for me was the mute wizard with the antennae, who conjured up all the stuff for Dick Cheney. He was amazing!!

  13. never really saw the movies entirely since language was always a barrier but the faces of both characters and their names i always will remember …. “goopy and bagha” …almost everyone, bong or not bong knew about the movie, it used to be d most difficult movie to guess in charades games …sad that i didnt make it a point to watch the movie during his lifetime, but sure will watch it now to commemorate the great EPIC these brilliant people have left behind as a legacy for us all

  14. I actually knew songs from the first two movies by heart before seeing any of them. It was a cassette with a yellow cover featuring songs from both the films. Special mention should also be made of Santosh Dutta, who played the kings of Halla/Shunni in the first film, and the scientist in Hirok Rajar Deshe, and died an untimely death before Robi Ghosh. Two of my favorite films of all time, here’s to Gupi and Bagha!

  15. eternal love for Goopy and Bagha, thank you the Upendrakishore?, Sayajit Ray, Robi Ghosh, Tapen Chattopadhhyay, Santosh Datta..will live in my heart as long as I live.

  16. Awesome post as always. Apparently almost everyone in my close circle knows the scripts of these gems by heart and have used Ray’s brilliance to come up with aptly timed and appropriately aimed quips…”ki porabe/ki shekhabe?” after a PTA meeting or ” razkonya ki kom poritese?” in an institute plagued by adverse fair sex ratio. Makes the heart heavy to know GugaBaba is now completely gone.

  17. Very well-written …….. I feel proud that through your blog, people all over the world can learn about the incredible talents Bengal had once produced …. the entire world knows about the Spielbergs and Tarantinos….. but how many appreciate Ray’s work, whose contribution to cinema is as great, if not more ? ….. I’m hoping to hear your opinion on the screenplay of ET (Spielberg’s first major break), which Ray was supposed to have shared with Peter Sellers based on his short story Bankubabur Bandhu, and which was not acknowledged ! However, keep going, GB ….. your blog rocks !!!

  18. gupi & bagha were fantasy heroes long before harry potter n sorts came into being… they will always remain very close 2 my heart… *RIP*

  19. GB
    I believe world wide or not but Hirak Rjar deshe contemporary to Indian and Boengal politics was a landmark…Hw did the man gauge of a tym where education (read English and COmputer science)_ wud be suppressed to kill mass intellect.When “mosahebs” (court jests wud rule the roost like cadres.When agriculture and industry wud be the apt refelction of the state’s apathy. Bribery (cash or kind) wud define loyalty (Anyone remember Subroto or SOumen or the latest Subhaprasanna)…Ray was way ahead of his tym Be it the cinematic quality of his films or the intellectual and farsighted ting of his scripts…Finally with reference to present Elections I can only say
    “Tumi rakhle jader chepe, tara uthle pore khepe…tomar asonkhana korbe tolomol” (Why does 2009 Loksabha come to mind Mr Ray)

  20. Absolutely a brilliant one…it was a reflection of what I felt and grew up with …difference being I could not have expressed it in words so beautifully…For us you have simply captured two generations – some of the simple yet beautiful things of life…..
    the last paragraph describes my two an half year old son’s journey to the land of Goopy and Bagha thru You Tube. He was introduced to Goopy, Bagha and Bhooter Raja only a month back and since then all his other cartoon favourites like Mickey, Donald and Tom and Jerry have taken a back seat…

  21. I saw the movie for the first time when I was 4 or 5 as well, at Nandan. And years later, I watched Hirok Rajar Deshe at Nandan again. Those are the only 2 films I have seen at that hall.
    As you mentioned, many years later after watching the films alone on DVD, I came to marvel at the undertones of the film – and wonder at how something which was so ‘children friendly’ could have such layers and meanings below the surface.
    GoogaBaba is pure genius – my favorite moment being (again as you pointed out) the scene when Goopy finds out he can sing, and my favorite song being ‘Ek Je Chilo Raja’. I can never watch the film with company without having to look the other way for a while to cover my emotions.
    Sometimes I just watch it to hear Bagha say – ‘Tumi koro giye chinta. Pet bhore khabo, pran bhore ghurbo’.
    Great post. Thanks for bringing up so many memories.

  22. Great Post GB…
    Goopi-Bagha is perhaps the best missing-link for me and my lost chelebela. They perhaps represented a different time…time of simple joys…

  23. I recently saw Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” & realized quite a few story elements are similar to GuGaBaBa (enchanted forest, magical musical instruments, two people who meet in the forest going on an adventure together, evil monarchs, alliterative names etc.) Since Ray was a big Mozart fan, I wonder if MF was an influence.

    Has anyone seen that Hayden Christiansen dud ‘Jumper’? The teleporting scenes there so reminded me of Goopy Bagha 🙂

    Btw, Salman Rushdie, a Ray fan, had two fishes called Goopy & Bagha in Haroun & The Sea Of Stories. This used to be a popular JU quiz question back in the day… 🙂

    Coming back to GuGaBaBa, I wish the movie were a little shorter. For us little tykes it was difficult cocnentrating for 2 hr +. I really started picking up on the nuances, & the entire storyline, in my 5th or 6th viewing, in my early teens. But even at that advanced age, it was a very rewarding viewing.

    Bristee, my parents got me Bijoya Ray’s book/ diary from Calcutta last month. I had read parts of it in Desh a few years back. Someone who isn’t familiar with Sandip Ray’s oeuvre would think from her words that he is a crazy mix of Kurosawa, Dali, Shakespeare & Beethoven. Now that he has mangled Feluda I am very worried he will set his sights on more Goopy Bagha sequels, or (gasp!) Shonku.

  24. Pankaj,

    You are so right, though I havent reached the book where she talks about her son, its still very much Satyajit Ray, and I am enjoying reading the book in the weekend.
    On Sandeep Ray, from my last trip to Kolkata I bagged the DVD of “Tintorettor Jishu”, which is probably the worst “Feluda” I have ever seen. Really pathetic in acting, direction and in all aspect of film making.

  25. Tintorettor Jishu is worse than Kailashey Kelenkari? I didn’t think it was aesthetically possible. I shall maaro big avoid on that then, thanks for the heads up 🙂

    Thought – I hope they don’t sell TJ in US stores, I would hate for the second word starting with the Spanish J instead of the English one…

  26. Great article. Our super heroic characters that ruled our childhood are all making disappearing acts. as you said Goopy and Bagha captured the essential Bengali character Arnab no where is this as evident as it is with the infatuation of Bagha to wash his hands before or after every meal. a truly bengali trait (he even asks for water in prison when food is served)

  27. Bravo, extremely well written! Brought a lump in my throat.Looks like a lot of people share the sentiments!
    I think all of us in some corner of our hearts, miss those simple, uncomplicated days, where tiny little things used to bring a whole lot of happiness and innocence was not lost!!

  28. Pingback: Global Voices in English » India: The Legend of Goopy And Bagha

  29. @GB Saw this post in the Pioneer today. Treated like royalty – banner headline…half a page. Saw your photograph first before the name…I was like..hey I know that smiling face – I follow his blog.
    Feel good for you. Congrats.

  30. Due to fewer national and international icons from West Bengal, it is dangerous to criticize the minuscule such as Tagore, Ray, Subhash and of course Sourabh Ganguly in presence Bengali audience who tend to get very militant when faced with criticism, clearly showing the cultural and intellectual insecurity. If one says, Tagore’s knowledge of English was too poor to even be considered amateurish — which is quite normal for a non-english writer — and that without the active help in translation and campaign by Yeats as well as his and his family’s massive mollycoddling of the British (the fact is very manipulatively hidden away from the public), Nobel was completely unachievable, the Bengalis will feel insecure. Tagore with a through-and-through bourgeois upbringing was completely unable to understand the true heartbeat of the common mass who were poor even though they constitute the vast majority of the society, despite his formidable efforts to imagine their lifestyles. Tagore used his clout all-out to campaign for the Nobel prize, yet on getting that he wrote — quite hypocritically — “ei manihaar amar nahi saaje” to put up a charitable image about himself. He could well have rejected the prize like Sartre did on the basis that an artist could not accept a prize in fear that his mind would be biased. Tagore’s sycophancy of the British was well known among his contemporaries and he was on the verge of being socially boycotted by the community should he not surrendered his knighthood. There are more. There are many. There are no country other than India, Bangladesh and Nepal where Tagore’s writing is taught in school nowadays. Mysticism is never a timeless science and philosophy of the humans, far from it. It is just a fashionable art which loses its relevance after a short while. The departure of Tagore from the West as well as in other countries is slow, gradual and certain as they are irrelevant in the present context. If a poet wins a Nobel for mysticism, cocaine should be prescribed by the doctors for ADD. On the other hand, Bubhutibhshan, Tarashankar were closer to the people about whom they wrote.

    And again Ray. For example, when I see Agantuk and Shakhaproshakha I cannot figure out how a person could become so ignorant, irresponsible and misleading as to profess the ideologies of those movies. Take Agantuk for instance: Should we go to a quack instead of a modern medical practitioner when we are ill? He argues like the way Deepak Chopra argues these days. Dangerous. I heard that Tagore (Ray as well) was a great admirer of ayurvedic and homeopathic medicines. Now we all know that homeopathy is the most cruel form of quackery and deception. It was well recorded that Tagore was himself a homeopath. (More on Ray later).

  31. Sorry I forgot to mention another “great” Bengali evangelist Vivekananda who has been widespread portrayed by the hindutva media as scientific minded saint who could say no wrong, who could do no bad, who was with a very clear mind etc. etc. Now how trustworthy one can be if he endorses the greatest fraud Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev as having had seen the GOD literally (not just spiritually). Seeing GOD literally. Even in the age Darwinian evolution, genetics and quantum physics. Huh!!! Now just don’t request me to believe Prahlad Jani’s story that has have lived 78 years without water and food, just because he was endorsed by qualified doctor from AIIMS and the news was published on CNN, BBC, Fox not to mention all Indian news papers. Sorry. I may have talked a lot because I find your nickname “greatbong” very very amusing. Keep going. BoL.

  32. Brought your book yesterday from Reliance Timeout (Cunningham Road, BLR) and managed to finish the first chapter before my manager and lead started getting anxious about the issues pending on me and i had to get back working… 😛

  33. @ Miss Mimi,
    While you write in English, I am appalled by your sense of comprehension. Similarly there are too many grammartical errors that I will not bother detailing and hence am surprised that you write about Tagore’s English. I feel you are doing this only to attract attention in a virtual world while in real life you have a very sick life ignored by most.

  34. (cont.)

    Read Gora by Tagore and compare it with the novel “Felix Holt The Radical”, “The Vicar of Wakefield” by Oliver Goldsmith and “Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgernev. The plots are too similar to be deemed accidental. Tagore has shamelessly stolen ideas, plots, characters from less known foreign stories to build on many of his short stories without acknowledgments (some of them are nishithey, shamapti etc.). He was well known for plagiarizing several musical pieces from the West and other places too and pass them off as his own; all these things led Edward Shanks to make his famous comment, “Sir Rabindranath Tagore is not a poet who brings news from the East, but one who returns to us what we have already lent.”

    There are many more too … Go search..

    Well, I’m no Tagore scholar to feel professionally obliged to assemble all such stuff and bring it to the public for re-assessment of Tagore (and Ray too). This is not my job. But I can give you some clues for your disillusionment. The Indian/Bengali media always try to keep you in obscurity. I call it militant obscurantism. Try to break out of the shell and see the real truth, a practice for what the Bengalis are not very famous. You may also choose to ignore such scholarly scrutiny and pat each other’s back in false glorification of them. But that really does not help.

    I see a book, called “The Argumentative Indian”, mentioned as a reference at the bottom of this article. The book contains many false, some exaggerated, some unsubstantiated facts in a very articulate way to increase the sales in the big Indian market. So just be careful before you are brainwashed by Sen’s finesse of words.

  35. Greatbong: Your tribute made me nostalgic – thank you.

    @ mimi sen: Tagore was championed by Yeats and company because he was perceived as an Eastern mystic. They later rejected him because they were unable to constrain him within their narrow categories. Tagore was himself well aware of the limitations of his English but that does not take away from the eloquence and beauty of his bengali writing.
    He did adapt western tunes into rabindra sangeet( for eg. auld lang syne/ purano shei diner kotha) and I would argue he did that rather successfully. Shakespeare also plagiarised plots but he transformed them into something new much like Tagore did. Your criticism does not diminish Tagore’s inherent genius and you are silly to think that his reputation is built on word of mouth or the media alone!!!
    The same goes for Satyajit Ray. I could give you a lecture on his cinematic prowess but then I would have to charge you for it. 🙂

  36. Nice one. I saw Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne at a film festival in Manhattan last year. It was pretty decent. The songs were good. I think I remember one called Halla chaleche juddhe or something like that. Would have been better if I understood Bangla though!

  37. To all those who are thinking of responding to Mimi Sen.
    “Do not argue with an idiot. S/he will drag you down to her/his level and beat you with experience.”
    I do not know who said these words…perhaps Ms.Sen might know…

  38. @Mimi Sen: Do you have a blog where you can elaborate on your criticism? I partially agree with you and am interested in a discussion. I am disturbed by mindless idolization too. However, regarding the people you mentioned, there are a few things which I admire very much.
    This post of Arnab is not a suitable place to discuss though.

  39. It is a beautiful post which will arouse nostalgia for a lost age in many of us. You have brought out the essence of the magic of these movies really well. Many will never forget the satirical lines like “Jato jane, tato kom mane” [The more they know, the less they obey] or “Lekhapaora kare je, anahare mare se” [He who gets education dies of starvation]from Hirak Rajar Dese which have become part of Bengali vocabulary.

    It is a bit of a surprise to me that Pioneer – which is not read by many in Bengal but has a much bigger readership in rest of India – published your piece prominently as an op-ed article.

    Baba

  40. Sorry, I forgot to mention my name in the earlier post which has appeared under Anonymous. That was from Alok Ray (Arnab’s dad).

  41. Thamlen keno Mimipisi? Besh to lagchhilo shunte. Sourav Ganguly ar Subhash Bose er chapter duto baki roye gelo je! 😦

    Jene bhalo laglo je apni Robithakur er theke bhalo ingreji janen, abar goribder moner kathao bojhen, daktari-o janen, abar Hindu dharmotao gule kheyechhen. Bharotiyo itihas ar Biliti sahityo apnar nokhodarpone. Erakom multi-faceted personality shesh kobe dekichi thik thaaur hochchhena. Apnar khure khure pennam. Ebar Nobel Prize ar Oscar ei duto baagiye felun… amrao omni apnake Moonmoon Sen ar Rakhi Sawant-er thekeo beshi importance dewa shuru korbo. 😀

  42. @Mimi – If after seeing Agantuk, one of the messages you came away with, was that the film was implying that we ought to go to a quack instead of a “modern” medical practitioner, then you deserve an evening with Rakhi Sawant, and for once I’d feel sorry for Rakhi.

    Jokes apart, it’d probably help if you see the film again (and again, and again…). Its far more than what you surmise, and you’d be poorer if you couldn’t grasp its nuances

  43. Hi,

    Awesome post. As always you write best when you write about something close to your heart. Am not a bong, but can understand what effect the duo of GG and BB had on the generation.

  44. “Food, sleep, travel and music—-that was all they had and all they wanted. What could be more heroic to a Bengali than that?”
    hehe…. KHANTI KOTHA EKDOM !!

  45. OMG I just read Mimi’s reply/thesis here !! aaah ato gyan er bhandar onek din por dekhlam karur modhdhe….. bangali’r socio-cultural, literary fabric ke akdom Glucon-D’ er ( orange flavour) moto gule khaoa toh dekchi !!

    Kotha baadiye labh nei.
    GB-> nice, warm post.

  46. Great write-up as usual! Spot on about the “Dekho Re Noyon Mele” song, which remains on my bestest ever list.

    Ray the moviemaker/storyteller was incomparable but not so Ray the political philosopher. In his first phase, he eschewed making political/philosophical statements subtly or otherwise. There is no question that the movies made in the first half of his career are head and shoulders above the the ones that followed. Yet, GGBB and Hirok Rajer Deshe stand out in that they showcase Ray as the political philosopher at his prescient best apart from great moviemaking. Kanchenjunga is another one that comes to mind. At the other end of the spectrum are Ganashatru and Shakha Proshakha, both movies made terrible by shrill preachiness. In the Calcutta trilogy, Ray kept his balance, although one could argue that Jana Aranya was clearly an inferior product compared to the other two and Ray’s Bengali bhadrolok distaste for the act of making money showed through.

    Ray was the last lion–the last great bong (with due apologies to Arnab), last in the illustrious line that started with Raja Rammohun Roy.

  47. Great post as always. But didnot understand the correlation between nirjhorer shopno bhongo and gupi bagha metamorphosis. Could u please clarify it.

  48. (cont.)

    1. na amar kono blog nei. aar blog lekhar somoio amar nei. khomotao hoito nei…

    2. jara baje kotha bolle ..bolte paro. amar ga-souya hoe geche. besh kichhu bondhu amaro aache setai rokkhe..

    jai hok…

    Every trade has its trick. Sales of a book or the prize won by a piece of artwork says virtually nothing about the merit of a book or the quality of the artwork. For example, Bible is always the rank one best selling book of all time, however, we know Bible contains loads of preposterous ideas and very little artistic elements. To exalt Tagore and Ray to a divine status just because they have own prizes is not only unfair, it is like turning yourselves fools by playing into their hands. But surprisingly this always happens in Bengal. For example, hardly any one remembers K.S. Krishnan who contributed the major, if not all, part of Raman effect but became a victim of anger and jealousy of his more well-known boss CV Raman who won the Nobel alone when Krishnan was pushed into forgotten past. Raman knew the trick to win the Nobel.

    The trick of winning prizes for cinematic excellence has a formula too. Show to the West the stuff of the East that the West like to see in graphic detail, lobby hard, curry favor with those who matter and you are several miles ahead of others at grabbing the prize. It is true always and everywhere. It is true with Danny Boyle (Indian ugliness in SM), it is true with Buddhadeb Dashgupta (Missionary killing as in Uttara), and it is true with Tagore (completely nonsensical ideas like mysticism which is no better than narcotics in arts: amaro porano jaha chai tumi tai tumi tai go) and Ray (Indian poverty displayed in Pather panchali) too.

    Tagore, who and whose family were at the center of Bengal renaissance, married an under age girl and also sent her to labor room too often to be expected from a truly progressive man who advocated, wrote on and supported women liberation, women equality and many other women issues under his public persona. Mrinalini Devi’s early death was partly attributed to her worsening health due to many pregnancies. The same is true about his philosopher father Debendranath Tagore too. There are many other facts also that happened in the “great” Tagore family which are more feudal in nature than modern unlike their public image. The Tagores had the influences, powers to manipulate things in their favor. And they did it with great success.

    Ray lived in a glass-covered self-made romantic world with no relationship with reality, not even with social and natural sciences. Early successes had probably gone into his head on basis of which he probably thought he could actually make expert comments on anything from astrophysics to molecular biology to archeology to market economy and finally go home with claps if the presentation was made a bit pseudo-intellectual. Remember the question that was asked in Agantuk: “Why do the sizes of the Sun and the Moon look identical?” It is asked in a manner as if it is the greatest mystery of the universe and nobody never experimented with it. It may win claps and in fact it did in the theaters. It sells if you know how to make people clap, that’s all. Did he ever live with pre-historic tribes in Africa or India or whatever in order for him to make a comparison between tribal societies and modern civilized world. Does he know how humans, starting out from Africa, have gradually colonized the whole world against all odds to finally come to where we stand today. I can go on and on… (may be later)

  49. Hmm very nice post…Ray always delivers

    @ mimi sen

    u have a right to critique any art personalities u wish to..however stay away from bringing vivekananda into the muck

    some people regard vivekananda as the actual visionary of india..he is respected in all indian cultures/ethnicities besides bengalis…when u face events in your life which change your world forever then maybe u will find some solace in him

    BTW Nikola Tesla..the inventor of the modern world actually spent hours listeneing to his lectures. google tesla..u will get an idea of what vivekananda is

  50. @ Mimi

    Like most Shakta Bengalis Ramkrishna Paramhansa was a Purva Mimansa follower (the Kumarila Bhatt school) of Hindu Darshana.

    He asked Vivekanand to explore Advaita Vedanta (instead of Purva Mimansa), as he felt that Advaita Vedanta was the best suited school of Hindu Darshana for the 20th and 21st century. Even though Vivekanand may not be the most knowledgeable and intellectual scholar of this school, he was certainly the most famous, the most articulate and most popular for the common masses, across the world.

    Here is a small list of “famous” people who also felt themselves close to Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy-

    Albert Einstein
    J. Robert Oppenheimer
    Nicola Tesla
    Erwin Schrödinger
    Romain Rolland

    Vivekananda isnt in bad company, is he?

  51. Absolutely loved the comments posted by Mimi Sen; first I thought it’s Kishore posting under a different name, but not 100 % sure about that. She could be a close relative of him. Keep going Mimi.

  52. For the first time in many years, I have been coming back to this blog not to read Arnabda’s posts but to read a commenter’s responses. Move over Greatbong, you have just been beaten in the entertainment factor by Ms. Mimi Sen.

    Ms. Sen, your criticism of Ray that he did not live with African tribes before commenting on them in his movie “Agantuk” shows that you have great respect for personal experience before commenting on any topic. So it is very obvious that you have a vast experience in film-making, mysticism, religion and literature, not to mention physics. I would like to watch some of your movies so that I can detox myself of the effect of trash like Ray who just showed poverty in Pather Panchali. I am willing to pay for them – just tell me the names and where I can buy them. And yes, since you have done experiments on the size of the Sun and the Moon too, please explain to me why they look exactly the same size from Earth. All these years I have been thinking it’s “magic!” 😦

    Have you played cricket too? Waiting for your views on Ganguly with bated breath… and Subhash Bose too while we are at it. 😀

  53. Dear Mr. Anirban,

    You are not alone with this misconception. The question Ray put as something “magic” only betrays his ignorance on this fascinating subject of astrophysics and will make anyone with a little bit more knowledge than grade 9 break into laughter. If I toss a coin and you call “heads”, it is no magic if it is “heads” indeed. If I toss an unbiased coin arbitrarily many times and if it is always heads then it is indeed magic. Ray probably does not know Earth rotates around the Sun in an elliptic trajectory (rather than circular) so its distance from the Sun changes a big deal around the year, when the Sun itself moves in the Universe, as well as Moon revolving around the earth. If you take measurements for a long period of all the distances you will see the apparent sizes of the Moon and the Sun are the same only for very tiny period of time which is quite normal. Most of the time it is not the case; in simple words, they do not “look” equal in size. A glaring example of such fact is “Annular Eclipse”. There are plenty of other more simple phenomena to prove this. I’m no physicist so I bothered to write so long. I find it real silly when people with rounded eyes say, “OMG, Ray is knowledgeable” while what he is supplying is his pseudo-science based on little knowledge.

    Regarding his knowledge of tribes and their culture around the world, I could only say he needed to occupy himself with real study of anthropology, paleontology, archeology, biology and of course genetics before he could feel confident to comment. One more example from Agantuk again, “There is doctor in one tribesclan who knew the benefits of 500 medicinal plants.” This statement probably shows his endorsements of ayurvedic treatments. I’m not going into how unscientific and therefore, risky ayurvedic treatments are in reality which bases itself on astrology and sometimes diagnose disease from looking the color of tongue and nails. And the medicinal plants that are prescribed as medicines in tribes culture or ayurved sometime turn to contain more toxic than beneficial. There is no standardization of doses therefore can be very fatal if taken on the basis of anecdotal evidence. A proper medical procedure through double-blinded clinical trials will be able find the ascertain the qualities of a medicinal plant; that is what we in fact do. All in all, it’s a shame Ray made films like Agantuk. Ther are more pseudo-intellectualism throughout his career in films and books on Feluda etc. Trust me they sell when truth is twisted and it is half-truth. Human minds are very much prone to believing myth and hallucination.

    Dear Khujur,

    Advaita Vedanta are mostly trash except for a few general good suggestions like meditation etc. They don’t stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Bill Clinton, British Royal family, Tagore, David Beckham, Amitabj Bachxchan, Lata MAngeshkar are some famous people and among 500 million people in the world who believe homeopathy is a scientific therapy. They believe it for as long 200 years. This fact does not make homeopathic medicine any better than a drop of harmless water (prove it with Avogadro hypothesis). So never bother to gather people to establish something. Science is no democracy. Although I doubt Einstein believed in God. His God is metaphorical. When he says “God does not play dice” He means that he did not believe quantum mechanical probabilistic behavior of subatomic particles. A mere interest in Advaita Vedanta does not make me a believer in that.

  54. (tarahurai ektu typo hoe gechhe ager post tai. Tai abar likhlam. Sorry.)

    Dear Mr. Anirban,

    You are not alone with this misconception. The question Ray put as something “magic” only betrays his ignorance on this fascinating subject of astrophysics and will make anyone with a little bit more knowledge than grade 9 break into laughter. If I toss a coin and you call “heads”, it is no magic if it is “heads” indeed. If I toss an unbiased coin arbitrarily many times and if it is always “heads” then it is indeed magic. Ray probably does not know Earth rotates around the Sun in an elliptic trajectory (rather than circular) so its distance from the Sun changes a big deal around the year, when the Sun itself moves in the Universe, as well as Moon revolving around the earth. If you take measurements for a long period of all the distances you will see the apparent sizes of the Moon and the Sun are the same only for very tiny period of time which is quite normal. Most of the time it is not the case; in simple words, they do not “look” equal in size. A glaring example of such fact is “Annular Eclipse”. There are plenty of other simpler phenomena to show this. I’m no physicist so I bothered to write so long. I find it real silly when people with rounded eyes say, “OMG, Ray is so knowledgeable in so many different”, while what he is supplying is his intuitive pseudo-science based on little knowledge.

    Regarding his knowledge of tribes and their culture around the world, I could only say he needed to occupy himself with real study of anthropology, paleontology, archeology, biology and of course genetics before he could feel confident to comment. One more example from Agantuk again, “There is a doctor in one tribe who knew the benefits of 500 medicinal plants.” This statement probably shows his endorsements of ayurvedic treatments. I’m not going into how unscientific and therefore, risky ayurvedic treatments are in reality which bases itself on astrology and which sometimes diagnoses diseases from looking at the color of tongue and nails. And the medicinal plants that are prescribed as medicines in tribes culture or ayurved sometime turn out to be more toxic than beneficial. There is no standardization of doses therefore can be very fatal if taken on the basis of anecdotal evidence. A proper medical procedure through double-blinded clinical trials will be able to ascertain the qualities of a medicinal plant; that is what we in fact do. All in all, it’s a shame Ray made films like Agantuk. Ther are more pseudo-intellectualism throughout his career in films and books on Feluda etc. Trust me they sell well when truth is a little bit twisted to make people happy. Human minds are very much prone to believing myths and susceptible to hallucination (neurologically people want dopamine activation to feel happy).

    Dear Khujur,

    Advaita Vedanta are mostly trash except for a few general good suggestions like meditation etc. They don’t stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Bill Clinton, British Royal family, Tagore, David Beckham, Amitabj Bachxchan, Lata MAngeshkar are some famous people among 500 million in the world who believe homeopathy is a scientific therapy. They believe it for as long 200 years. This fact does not make homeopathic medicine any better than a drop of water (analyze it with Avogadro hypothesis). So never bother to gather people to establish such things. Science is no democracy. Although I doubt Einstein believed in God. His God is metaphorical. When he says “God does not play dice” He means that he did not believe quantum mechanical probabilistic behavior of subatomic particles. A mere interest in Advaita Vedanta does not make me a believer in that.

  55. @ Mimi
    Without getting into the scientific scrutiny part, I am eager to know how much you know about Advaita Vedanta. (wiki referencing is allowed :))

    How exactly would you suggest we scrutinize Vedanta in a scientific way?

    Look forward to your response.

  56. That’s true, Mr. Greatbong. Irrelevant. Yes seriously. My comments are irrelevant to your blog.

    asole sob kichhui irrelevant. meaningless. transient. the life, the living, the feelings.. but not the Universe, it stays forever in its birth and death and rebirth. The more you read science to understand the universe, the life, the more you feel helpless, insecure. I always love to believe that there is a God who watches us from above and that we are answerable to her (my god is a female, how about that) in life and after death for our good and bad conduct. But there is just no God, no “bhagya bidhata” as Tagore said. We all are composed of just materials like hydrogen, helium and all the elements in the periodic table and their compounds. Our feelings are nothing more than chemical reactions in laboratories which burn out forever when we die, leaving no traces of us in the universe. When Ray feels surprised about the sizes about the stellar bodies, I feel more surprised about the fact that our consciousness is nothing but a chemical reaction. Darwin has suspected long back. Every passing day we get testimonials that he is just too right. Now as we make life in laboratory from scratch using bottles of chemicals, we humans probably take the roles of God. …

    oboseshe ekta blog khulei fellam …

    http://mycounterpoints.blogspot.com/

    kotokhani likhte parbo jani na…. tobe ekta kotha bolte pari … 65 million years aage ekta asteroid eshe jemon dinosaur der dhonsho kkore diyechhilo …. serokom aaro ekta asteroid ele amader sobar saathe ei blog tao je dhonsho hobe taate amar bindumatro sondeho nei….

    advaita vedanta niye amaro kichhu knowledge aache … however I don’t think theology (not to be confused with philosophy) is at all a subject which can provide answer to any question that other branches of science and philosophy cannot. So the subject is moot to say euphemistically. tao alochona korar ichche roilo …. keu chaile oi link e likhte paren ..jaa khusi… sudhu personal attack, abuse na holei bhalo … after all we are “the argumentative indian”s…

    thank you very much.

  57. @ Mimi da (or is it di), ato beshi likho na. Tired hoye jabe. Ja likhechho, khanik porlam – anek kichhui thik thak, believable. Hote pare Rabindranath plagiarist chhilo aar Satyajit Ray ekta aasto baal – still there is value in the works of art they created. Rabi thakur took to painting in his old age and produced stunning works – not quite acts of plagiarism. Satyajit Ray created some of the most enduring youth fiction in Bengali since his grandfather. Your deeply factual analysis cannot in any measure undermine the value of these. Tai, ektu rest nao.

  58. @GB, Suddenly read the post by your baba. Suddenly felt humbled for some reason. Must be a doting father proud of the way his son writes. While the rest squabble on matters grave or light, he had a short and sweet message – perhaps to underline the fact that besides being your father, he is also part of your audience and that is the role he is playing here.

  59. A very relatable read. It is the end of era, indeed. The last of the mohicans is gone. Oh wait, there was Soumitra the revolutionary Mashtor Moshai, still alive and kicking, though sadly in all the wrong directions.

    I hope, when you say ‘bengali people of my generation’ you just don’t mean the ghoses and the banerjees. Because growing up in calcutta, a nepali kid like me and my marwari wife have enjoyed manik kaku’s offerings as much as our bengali neighbours. I am not saying you subscribe to this bias, but there are a lot of bengalis who like to alienate themselves by acting all upper classy. Instead of going ‘hey, here’s someone you’d enrich yourself with’ they go ‘aamader sotyojit babu’, which is a little painful. Somebody like him are world citizens, irrespective of creed and community.

  60. You people do not recognise who “mimi” is? It’s Arundhati Roy under a pseudonym out to take revenge. The name (rhyming with “me-me”) also suits her well 🙂

  61. @ vimal. what you say is sad but true. It happens everywhere though. But that’s another story. Bengalis do tend to act needlessly snooty and “exclusivistic”, when they can actually do better. Not everyone, not everywhere, but they do.

  62. Hey Khujur,

    The owner of the site has a good reason to ban such discussion. Please comment on my blog if you like. It is all set, but still looks quite ugly.

    Mimi

  63. The scene from Hirak Rajar Deshe…Dori dhore maro taan, Raja hobe khan khan….what an uncanny resemblance to Saddam’s staute being pulled down in Iraq…life imitating art, eh? The post is about enjoying the simple things in life and remembering our innocent childhood days of which Tapen will always remain an intrinsic part. So, no arguments please.

  64. Thank you GB for the great post ob our favourite “Gupi”. An entire or probably two/three generations of bengails will miss him. And as we pay tribute to his departed soul, all of us have added a silent prayer for his counterpart Robi Ghosh as well.

  65. Thank you so much for this article remembering two of the most wonderful movies in the world and the lead artistes!

  66. Wonderful post GB. I remember watching the movie during the good old days of DD when the sunday afternoons used to be reserved for non-hindi movies.

    As you have mentioned i too recollect laughing throughout the movie to the antics of Goopy and Bagha and now i wonder about it since i don’t even understand Bengali (except ami tomake bhalo bhashi thanx to AB).

    I guess emotions and humour need no language.

    May his soul rest in peace.

  67. mimi sen,

    atleast what ever Tagore and Ray and the likes did or did not, they certainly did not try to piggyback on on someone else’s platform..like you are doing 🙂 stop that..and then maybe I’ll think about what you are writing

  68. thanks, great article…inspires me to see more bengali movies – pather panchali has been a favorite since childhood…
    btw, “a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were true and simple, soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled”…such movies DO get made even now…prob is with a sad conception like indian movies=bollywood, none of the regional movies get mainstream distribution and we don’t get to see gems from other parts of india…i’d recommend malayalam movies to you…most of them display the same qualities of truth and simplicity and memorable characters…

  69. I loved this post. My wife, a Bengali, often recollects the Goopy and Bagha tales with a twinkle in her eyes. And for sometime, you can almost see a 5-year old in her. That is the magic of cinema, and thanks for helping me understand that.

    I know it is not my place to say this, but I think that you should start deleting tasteless comments. I was happily reading along till Mimi crashed the party and $hat all over the buffet! And I think that the motivation to do so did not arise from her obvious ignorance or her heightened misanthropy.

    I want whatever mimi’s smoking…

  70. I was listening to dukhho kishe hoy on repeat to gain closure. Thanks,this was very cathartic. Very good blog.

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