I cannot remember the last time there was such an honest investment on any commercial Hindi content based entirely on Hindustani Classical music. It’s almost criminal that this has been a fairly untapped genre in mainstream cinema.
The premise of Bandish Bandits seems predictable in the beginning – traditional vs. commercial music, the two protagonists representing each side. Radhe a simple boy who has submitted his entire life to pure music , Tammana a pop sensation who is a template millennial.
As their relationship progresses we see a confluence of their music forms. The romantic angle is awkward and weak, but the music always stays on point.
Halfway through the series, I was strongly convinced that it has been wrongly titled. The narrative has many subplots beside the love story, in fact the love story happens to be the most inconsequential. It builds up a complex storyline through its 10 episodes, rising to heightened tension towards the end. While there is a natural progression to the climax, it does drag in some places and in retrospect some elements seem frivolous and unnecessary. But I think just like characters in the series, the makers also wanted to please the traditional as well as the millennial audience. But wherever the narrative dwindles, music more than makes up for it.
What Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy have done here is pure magic. Each piece is uniquely composed, aptly placed and keeps giving new dimensions to the otherwise mediocre narrative. Whether or not you understand raag, bhaav, lay etc you are bound to be mesmerised by it. It could be just me, but there is more than one moment that gave me goosebumps.
Apart from the music, the cinematography deserves a special mention. The picturesque frames of Jodhpur are refreshingly captured, beyond the ‘wedding destination’ vibe that Rajasthan is usually limited to.
Everything is authentic, the palace, the Rathore house. The costumes are well thought, the mother is beautifully draped in leheriya, kota dori sarees, Radhe’s jaipuri shirts clevery get a modern touch every now and then just like his music, Tammana has her own contemporary statement.
Every character is beautifully etched and cast, and they all get their moments to shine. What do you say about Nasseruddin Shah, his prowess needs no superlative. Then there is Atul Kulkarni, Sheeba Chaddha, Amit Mistry who are an absolute treat to watch. Kunal Roy Kapoor has been given all the witty lines, he delivers them and how. Ritwik Bhowmik and Shreya chaudhary are a great find and do complete justice to their parts.
Bandish Bandits should not be missed. This might be the closest our generation can get to understand the fables of the great ‘Tansen’ and for just attempting to do that the makers – Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Singh must be applauded. By the end of it, you’d be moved by the music to overlook the flaws of a scattered storyline.
Going with 4 on 5 cuttings.