Six & half minutes of Dance & Music

Six-and-a-half minutes of dance and music

Chandi Mukherjee08 May 2008

'The adventures of Goopi and Bagha' (Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne) was released in 1969. Goopi and Bagha made their first appearance in the family magazine 'Sandesh' in 1914, with illustration for by Upendrakishore Roy, grandfather of Satyajit Ray. The magazine 'Sandesh' was stopped being published but the revival of 'Sandesh' was again possible in 1961 only because of genuine interest of Satyajit. In the revival issue Satyajit decided to republish the story in the same time began to contemplate filming it.

The adventures of Goopi and Bagha (Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne) was released in 1969.

Goopi and Bagha made their first appearance in the family magazine Sandesh in 1914, with illustration for by Upendrakishore Roy, grandfather of Satyajit Ray. Themagazine Sandesh was stopped being published but the revival of Sandesh was again possible in 1961 only because of genuine interest of Satyajit. In the revival issue Satyajit decided to republish the story in the same time began tocontemplate filming it.

During the last 40 years much has been written about the film, the films philosophy, music and every thing, but less has been written about the unique ghost dance! Ray described the 6½ minute sequence of the ghosts in his two letters as

“…most abstract, avant-garde affairs which I havent the faintest idea how people are going to react to….” and “…it is the most striking thing everdone in the cinematic choreography.”

In the original story by Upendrakishore, there is a passing reference to a ghostly dance. But how do the ghosts dance? Do they really do it? Right from thebeginning he decided to dispense with the certain conventions about Bengalighosts - that their ears are those of an elephant, their teeth are like long radishes and so on.

Since Upendrakishores story gave no clues he decided to invent a completely fresh dance. In an interview Ray said,

“I had to rely on my ingenuity to desire it…I was greatly interested in creating something that was completely new -because this thing called bhoot does not exist elsewhere. In the fact ghostand bhoot are not the same thing or sprits, for that matter… on the top of that, something like bhooter raja in out of the question. So I have no precedent to fall back on, no model or convention in other words.

He began to think about the whole affair in an entirely different way. According to him,

“I thought of those who have lived and died in Bengal and become its residents ghosts - people of diverse roots and races and chieftains as well astillers of the soul men of John Company and, another class just for visual contrast.”

Mainly Ray had visual quality in his mind. Film critics have analysed this sequence from the historic point of view, they thought this sequence is a thinking sequence, which is not totally true. For a total visual treat he made thefourth group of ghosts which consisted of Bramhins, parade of Christian church, lawyers took on the shape of a composition of four classes. One of Kings, the second of peasants, third of Brits and the last of the fatties. Many critics have identified the four groups represents in basic castes in Hinduism, but Ray had clearly stated that, “…since we have so many class divisions the ghost would have the same…” for the four different classes of ghosts we would find an interesting thing.

In the first division we see six ghosts who are kings. They are from pre historic date to the late 18th century. In between them three are kings from the Buddhist period, South Indian Kings and General Kings.

In the second division consists of peasant and warrior. In that group there were bauls,peasants, santhal warrior with a bow and others.

In the third group it was the Sahib - ghosts. Each Sahib had some accessories. One was like Hastings who had a gun in his hand, Clive had snuff in his hand, the cunning Britt had a stick in his hand, Cornwallis had a pair of spectacles in his eyes, a British soldier had a sword in his hand and an Indigo painter sahib had a bottle of whisky in his hand.

In the fourth group, in the group of fatties. Ray named it Naaru Gopal Group.There was a Baboo lawyer; Urban Baboo; Burrabazar commercial people, a bania; a Hindu preist; a Christian parade etc.

Once the four classes of ghosts were visualised then came the form of dance. Here Ray thought of music first, not the dance form.

How did it come? He admitted,

“I was reminded of a classical musical form whichI had heard many times on the radio. I had seen it once in the film festival in Delhi at a performance arranged for delicates - Carnatic, a youth Indian percussion instruments musical performance. Taalbadya Kacheri. There were 12 kinds of percussion instruments out of which I picked up four kinds of instruments asthe representative sounds of the four groups of ghosts!”

He picked up Mridangam for the royal class as it is really a classical instrument. The Khanjira was associated with the peasants as the sound quality of this instrument was of semi folk color. Chattam was given tothe British which produces a metallic sound. Murshringa was connectedwith the fatties. This instrument is out and out a folk instrument.

As soon as the instruments were chosen the dance form was considered classical inpeasant class, folk in nature for the peasant class and for the sahibs and thefatties it was a bit comical in nature.

Each class is played by actors dressed and made up according to their social positions. The sahibs were under cracked at 16 frame per second for a wooden,mechanical effect.

The dance form was decided to be slow in the beginning. All four instruments should be played in a low scale which would gradually ascend through five movements to the top In the first movement the group of ten ghost would be introduced separately.

In the second movement they would dance.

In the third movement they would clash.

In the fourth movement they would die after a battle.

In the fifth movement they would again dance, but this time all in one frame.

This was a basic design of dance and music.

The fifth movement was used as a coda. Ray said,

“Finally it seemed to me thatsomething like in harmony with each other - because ghost cannot have any thing called internal conflict, a situation will come when they will smoothly be reconciled to each other, some thing that never happens easily in the case ofhuman being.”

Then comes the shooting part. He first shot two rows of men masking the top half of the lens. Then reversing the camera film, masked the bottom half of the lens and shot another two rows. Negative printing and an effect that makes the image shimmer are sometimes applied. While editing he arranged positive image and negative alternately, so that it creates another rhythm apart from the rhythm of the classical dance.

This was a 6½ minute sequence in the film which had only music and dance - the dance of the ghosts. In his entire cinematic career this was the most creative sequence.

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