Often when we see a talent-related content like a dance or musical competition being a central theme in a movie or show, there is a disconnecting element, which is the inability of the viewer in judging the performance. If you look at the Step Up inspired ABCD series, I have at times felt that they were manipulating the viewer through background score and slow-motion to make us believe that the act of the main characters is the better one. Bandish Bandits created by Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Singh Bindra dives deep into the musical world and actually presents the nuances of Hindustani music. The musical talent we get to see here looks authentic and despite being so sophisticated, it doesn’t create that confusion in our head which I mentioned in the beginning.
Radhe, a young 22-year-old boy from Jodhpur belongs to a family that has a history with Hindustani music. His grandfather Pandit Radhemohan Rathod has been holding the Sangeeth Samrat crown given by the royal family for a long time and he is an extremely strict Guru. Panditji never did private shows, film songs, etc, and is strictly against such forms of music. Radhe, who wants to be the successor of Panditji, at one point, meets this young pop sensation named Tamanna who was desperately looking for a collaborator for her next song. Initially reluctant, Radhe eventually agrees to collaborate due to certain reasons and the series Bandish Bandits is about the growth of this relationship along with the dramatic growth of the music in Radhe.
I must say that what I have said in the summary and what you get to see in the trailer of the show is slightly misleading. At one point, when Radhe had to choose between Sandhya and Tamanna, Sandhya clears his conflict by saying that his confusion is not about choosing between her and Tamanna, it was about choosing between Tamanna and the music he worshipped. Because Radhe has fallen in love for the first time with a YouTube sensation who’s obsessed with the number of views, instant hits, and hook lines. The love for her makes him do things that he would have never done, including lying to his grandfather and even having a famous pseudo-identity.
Just when you think that it is going to be an emotional rift between a romance-obsessed grandson and a ritualistic grandfather, we get introduced to another pivotal character that sort of breaks the image of almost all the people who were in the backdrop till that point. There is a larger story behind Panditji, Radhe’s father, mother, and uncle. And the elements of lack of trust, faith, disagreements, and emotional conflicts were not happening for the very first time in that family. Out of the 10 episodes, only 3 are there that are actually focusing on the idea of the band our hero and heroine calls as Bandish Bandits. Post that Bandish Bandits is a mere tool that is unintentionally opening up the secrets from the past of Panditji and others.
Both Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Singh Bindra have used the scope of being a web series to a great extent. Just when we think the drama element is about to drag the story for a while, they place an event or revelation that kind of increases the curiosity. Even though some of them are like twists in the plot, the pacing, and placing of such moments are on the gentle side. The story is ultimately that typical drama where the prodigy wins the championship after a lot of struggle. But because of the way this story invests in a larger pool of characters, they don’t leave your headspace immediately. The way Mohini helps Radhe understand music through everyday life and experiences was an impressive emotional snippet that very quickly explains a lot of things about that character. Rajendra and Devendra are two victims of the strict discipline and even though Digvijay is placed as an antagonist, his competitive mentality has a justification.
The backbone of this whole series of course is the album composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. The music itself has its own statements here. The songs that you hear whenever Tamanna is there are the modern-day instant hit tunes with hook lines and stuff. The song placements in the script are such that it starts from the easily dying instant peppy songs and goes on to those slow poison Hindustani gems which will definitely echo in your head once you finish binge-watching this series. The authenticity in the Hindustani music we hear makes a huge difference and you won’t feel a confusion seeing the judgments in the end. The only issue I had with the script was the way Tamanna got separated from the main narrative towards the end. But her character did play a part in moving the story forward and looking at the way the series has ended we may have more.
Naseeruddin Shah as the hard to please Panditji is in sublime form. You can sense the man’s eye for precision in his expressions. It’s not a one-note character. Guilt, regret, and fear are following Panditji as unprecedented things start happening in the house and Shah’s performance reflected that state of the character convincingly. Ritwik Bhowmik plays the role of Radhe here. Radhe is pretty much a naïve beginner who has this sole aim of becoming the torchbearer of the musical legacy. There is honesty attached to that character and Ritwik brings out that honesty in his performance. It is also a character who sings complex songs and he has captured the body language without any sense of inhibition. Shreya Chaudhary as Tamanna was pretty effective. The character is of an extremely fragile girl and she presented those insecurities without too much cheesiness. Sheeba Chadha underplays the role of Mohini very elegantly. The transformation of that character post a certain stage was really smooth and graceful. Atul Kulkarni as Digvijay carried the hefty character neatly and he also was really good in pulling off the singing portions. Rajesh Tailang as the perplexed Rajendra was fine. I really enjoyed the semi-comical and understanding uncle played by Amit Mistry. Kunal Roy Kapoor as the agent Arghya and the millimeter of 3 Idiots Rahul Kumar as Kabir offered some really good moments of comic relief.
Musicals are a part of our cinema culture and if you look at it, most of the popular OTT series’ haven’t acknowledged that cultural thing. Bandish Bandits is a good mix of that popular storytelling method along with a wide canvas of characters and emotional arcs. The series promises to have a second season and it will be interesting to see how fame, unending rage, and self-realization will take the characters forward.
Bandish Bandits is a good mix of that popular musical storytelling method along with a wide canvas of characters and emotional arcs.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended