Bandish Bandits Review – Indian Classical Music Takes Amazon Prime by Storm

I was being trained in Hindustani Classical Music as a child. Unfortunately, all of that stopped 10 years ago due to unavoidable circumstances at the time. The moment I read the title “Bandish Bandits”, I knew I had to watch it the first day it released because I knew Bandish meant the Stanza of a Raag in Hindustani Classical Music.

The show revolves around two lovers who are polar opposites not only in nature but also in the kind of music they create and professionally pursue. Tamanna is a pop singer with an unmatchable zest for life who comes from a financially sound and urban background, whereas Radhe is the quintessential Rajasthani lad belonging to a traditional family that has a rich classical music heritage with not-so-rich pockets. The two cross paths and find themselves entwined in a journey of love as they struggle to keep their contrasting dreams alive under family pressure and drama, along with creating a magical fusion.

The mesmerising backdrop of Jodhpur in all it’s regality, surrounded by traditional vibrant colours does complete justice to the musical storytelling of love, lust and fusion.

Tamanna essays the role of a millennial pop star perfectly with her spunk, her smile and her blue streaks stealing people’s hearts. While watching the scenes where she composes music in her aesthetic studio, it’s easy to get convinced by her powerful screen presence and believe that she’s an actual singer. It’s heart-warming to see a plush Diva like her fall for not just a small town Rajasthani Rathod but also for his starkly contrasting traditional music. Tamanna’s role starts off as the typical millennial who swears by EDM and laughs at classical music but the way her feelings about classical music change over time are portrayed effortlessly by the actress Shreya Chaudhary who does a beautiful job in showing how her character has evolved.

Radhe’s character is nothing short of spectacular. His role of a singer is perhaps one of the most convincing ones in cinema since Rami Malek played Freddie Mercury in Queen. Ritwik Bhowmik’s acting prowess had us all feel that he was a fully trained hindustani classical music singer – considering his hand gestures, lip syncing and facial expressions that are in perfect tandem with the sur, taal and leyh (tune, rhythm and beats) in the background score. His character is proof, that judgements about men from small towns being chauvinistic can be wrong. Radhe is a true gentleman who refuses to exploit women or their success and is very comfortable with the talent he possesses.

Digvijay is the supremely successful child who longs for respect from his father and a chance to carry forward the legacy of the Gharana that is rightfully his. Atul Kulkarni perfectly dons the role of a man separated from his lover, who had everything taken away from him and yet, seems to possess a character that is white with a few tones of grey. His character and subtle acting leave the viewers thinking of plausible turns that the story might take in the next episode as well as season. Mohini was the star I did not expect. Her role that starts off as a submissive traditional housewife turns into the role of a devoted mother who will stop at nothing to make sure her family’s heritage is safe. Watching Sheeba Chaddha emerging to be a crucial part of the climax was pure bliss.

Rahul Kumar and Kunal Roy Kapoor will leave you in splits with their perfectly timed comedy and dialogue delivery.

The music composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have done it yet again. The music they bring to the screen amidst those beautiful palatial locales of Jodhpur is a treat to the sore and quarantined eye. You will definitely go back to the show or to Spotify to relive the experience of traditional music ringing in your ears with patterns of bandhani dancing to it. I have been listening to Sajan Bin on repeat and was stunned to know that a young boy all of 19, Shivam Mahadevan, is the voice behind the magic. Even the most difficult aspects of Hindustani Classical Music have been expressed in detail – whether it was beautifully capturing the essence of an Awadhi Thumri, or creating mesmerising versions of Raag Bhairav and Bhimpalas among others, or taking the viewers on an enchanting joyride of Taan and Taranas. The star of the show had to be the one where Tansen’s magic was recreated on screen for the modern audience – invoking a drop of rain in an arid desert by sheer devotion to Raag Malhar. The enthralling music moved me so much, that I called up my Hindustani Classical Music guru whom I had trained under, 10 years ago. My passion to pursue my talent and finally learn music again was fuelled by the melodies I heard on screen, so I quit procrastinating and ended up resuming my classes.

Anand Tiwari’s directorial venture is taking both modern and traditional viewers by storm. His attention to detail is striking – be it the attire worn by all the characters, or the little things about classical music like draping a shawl before singing, the posture, paying respect to a Guru before singing a Raag taught by him specifically or praying to untouched food on a plate among many more. Every actor and actress’s performance rolled out the way it did only because of the story he wished to beautifully tell on screen. From plot to casting to music and of course, to direction – Bandish Bandits is a masterpiece.

Thank you Bandish Bandits, the Harmonium that was collecting dust in my storeroom will finally play some Awadhi tunes again.

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