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Nobility or Utility? Zamindars, businessmen, and bhadralok as curators of the Indian nation in Satyajit Ray's Jalsaghar (The Music Room)



The Bengali bhadralok have had an important impact on Indian nationalism in Bengal and in India more broadly. Their commitment to narratives of national progress has been noted. However, little attention has been given to how ‘earthly paradise’, ‘garden of delights’, and related ideas of refinement and nobility also informed their nationalism. This article excavates the idea of earthly paradise as it is portrayed in Satyajit Ray's 1958 Bengali film Jalsaghar, usually translated as The Music Room. Jalsaghar is typically taken to depict, broadly, the decadence and decline of aristocratic ‘feudal’ landowners (zamindars) who were granted their holdings and, often, noble rank, such as ‘Lord’ or ‘Raja’, during Mughal or British times, representing the languid past of the nobility, and the ascendance of a restless business-oriented class that represents an emerging present and possible future. The zamindars are shown as pursuing aesthetic and spiritual delight, ecstasy, and edification through soirées. These soirées are produced for those among the nobility who are sufficiently cultivated and cosmopolitan to appreciate the finer things in life, such as the classical music and dance showcased in this film. The businessmen, too, aspire to host such exceptional events, but are too crass to do so properly and, moreover, they are motivated by a desire to accrue prestige, thus using soirées as a means to an end, rather than to experience aesthetic and spiritual elevation as an end in itself. I argue that the film calls on the bhadralok to value aesthetic cultivation and to actively counter its evanescence. The film thus beckons and authorizes the bhadralok to sustain the value of the timeless past, including nobility and refinement. Yet the bhadralok are also expected to embody and expand a new, progressive, and utilitarian spirit that would modernize India. With the aristocrats gone, and the entrepreneurs eager to assume authority, the film charges the bhadralok to construct a nationalism in which the immortal, character-building values of classical art, for example, can yet be sutured to utilitarian progressivism. I argue that the film conveys this even though it does not explicitly portray or even mention the bhadralok, or feature uniquely Bengali music and art. Accordingly, this article does not focus on the actual aesthetic and political practices of bhadralok nationalism. The aim is to shed light on one genealogy through which the bhadralok sanctioned themselves as India's stewards along these lines.

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1 J. C. F. Schiller, Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man, Letter IX, 1794,, [accessed 10 January 2016], p. 12. The specific ‘immortal model’ Schiller has in mind is classical (Athenian) Greece.

2 Collingwood, R. G., The Principles of Art, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1938, p. 285.

3 Parel, A. J. (ed.), Mahatma Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997, pp. 47–8.

4 S. Ghose, ‘Decline of Bengal, death of the Bhadralok’, Hindustani Times, 3 January 2015. It must be noted that her article was catalysed by a debate surrounding a sexual assault.

5 Some have seen the term bhadralok as the counterpart to the British ‘gentleman’, and zamindar as parallel to ‘gentry’. Both of these translations indicate the ways in which imperialism was as much a social and cultural project as an economic or geopolitical one. See Akita, S. (ed.), Gentlemanly Capitalism, Imperialism, and Global History, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2002.

6 Some would view the matter as less a ‘mission’ for the bhadralok than a matter of the bhadralok inviting themselves to raise the issue of earthly paradise and then to rise to the occasion.

7 There is some debate regarding whether Muslims could be characterized as bhadralok, but the general consensus is that bhadralok means Hindu. Zamindars could be either Hindu or Muslim, though in Bengal there were more of the former.

8 The term for women only was and is bhadramahila.

9 Chatterjee, P., The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993, p. 36. See also his Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse?, Zed Books, London, 1986. Interestingly, when the latter was reprinted in 1993, the question mark in the title was dropped.

10 Nehru, J., The Discovery of India, Meridian Books, London, 1947.

11 Of the bhadralok it is arguably Meghnad Saha (1893–1956), physicist and political figure, who most clearly linked the putative emancipatory power of science with the advancement of the nation.

12 For political relations between the bhadralok and zamindars in the most pivotal years of the nationalist movement in Bengal, see Chatterji, J., Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002. In Bengali, ‘zamindar’ is usually pronounced ‘jamidar’.

13 Scholars have analysed the bhadralok as a caste (Sinha, S. and Bhattacharyya, R., ‘Bhadralok and Chhotolok in a rural area of West Bengal’, Sociological Bulletin, vol. 18, no. 1, 1969), in terms of Max Weber's notion of a status group (Broomfield, J. H., Elite Conflict in a Plural Society: Twentieth Century Bengal, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1968; Broomfield, J. H., ‘The forgotten majority: the Bengali Muslims and September 18’, in Low, D. A. (ed.), Soundings in Modern South Asian History, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1968), and as bearing a distinct psychological profile (Chakrabarti, P., The Marginal Men: The Refugees and the Left Political Syndrome in India, Lumiere, Calcutta, 1990). Most scholars, however, agree that the bhadralok can be adequately described as a class; for some, a rentier class, for others an administrative one (Hashmi, T. I., ‘The Bhadralok and the peasantry of Bengal’, Dacca University Studies, vol. XXXIV (Part A), 1981; McGuire, J., The Making of a Colonial Mind: A Quantitative Study of the Bhadralok of Calcutta, Australia National University Press, Canberra, 1983). I am more inclined to see the bhadralok as the latter (administrative), which would align more with Michel Foucault's notion of ‘governmentality’ than with ‘hydraulic’ Marxist notions of class.

14 The so-called Bengal Renaissance was a set of nineteenth-century movements that advocated widespread intellectual, cultural, and social reform in Bengal and in India. Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1883) is often seen as the ‘father’, but whether it stretches to Tagore (1861–1941) is debatable. Here, Sagarika Ghose seems to be including the even later Satyajit Ray (1921–92). Among the criticisms levelled against the Renaissance is that it was as revivalist as it was reformist, and accordingly sowed the seeds of Hindu nationalism. Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), for example, is associated with what some have called ‘muscular Hinduism’.

15 Nehru was a key leader of the anti-colonial nationalist movement and India's first prime minister from independence in 1947 until his death in 1964. A measure of his influence is that his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and grandson, Rajiv Gandhi, served as prime ministers from 1964 until 1989, with the exception of 1980–84. His daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, the wife of Rajiv Gandhi, and grandson, Rahul Gandhi, continue to lead the Indian National Congress party.

16 In invoking the idea of earthly paradise, I follow Ron Inden and, in particular, his ‘Classics in the garden: suppers in an earthly paradise’, in S. C. Humphreys and R. G. Wagner (eds), Modernity's Classics, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2013. I return to his essay below.

17 In Bandyopadhyay's original story, the first hint of competition between Lord Roy and Ganguly links sound and time: Ganguly's clock tower gongs, and then we are told that, for centuries until then, only the Roy House had announced the hour for the area. How the hour was indicated is not stated in the story but presumably it was aural.

18 In Bengal, different times of the day and the transitions between them, especially dusk and dawn, were and are laden with significance. Although I am unable to elaborate in this article, I take ‘soirée’ to point to the meaning that ‘dusk’, as a threshold, has in Bengali culture. Dusk (as also dawn) is a time-zone of uncertainty with respect to what the night (or day) may bring. That these are times of uncertainty is indicated in that both dusk and dawn are sandhya belas, with sandhya meaning ‘joining’ and bela meaning ‘period of time of the day or night’. The former is the more dangerous one, as the sun is disappearing and night is dark and silent—a time of death. In this sense, the soirées hold the night at bay by filling the time with music and light. My thanks to Aditinath Sarkar and Ralph Nicholas for this information; see also Nicholas, R., Thirteen Festivals: A Ritual Year in Bengal, Orient Black Swan, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 66–8.

19 See Habermas, J., The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991; Hobsbawm, E., The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848, Phoenix Press, London, 2010.

20 The contours and contents of this different role are not elaborated on herein.

21 Some readers may be reassured to know that there is substantial ethnographic, archival, and other evidence supporting the claims I make with regard to these socio-historical aspects of the film and their implications. My focus here is on the film.

22 ‘Lord’ is my translation of huzur (also spelled hozur and huzoor) as Roy is referred to throughout the film, especially by his servants—a huzuree is one who serves and the designation implies long-term service, perhaps even over generations. There is the danger here that ‘Lord’ might be taken in the British—especially British colonial—use of the term. In some sense, ‘noble sir’ might be more apposite, though the Nawab in Ray's comparable film, Shatranj ke Khiladi, is also called huzur. It would not be an unusual honorific bestowed upon a zamindar during Mughal times, and Roy's lineage in the film goes back to (at least) those times. That the Persianate-Urdu huzur is used instead of the Sanskritic ‘Raja’, which would be its equivalent, underscores the importance of links with Persia, and the gardens of delight and earthly paradise thereof.

23 The use of ‘prologue’ and ‘acts’ is my own: the film itself is not demarcated in this way.

24 We later see that he was sitting in this very chair when his portrait was painted, in more prosperous and auspicious times (see Figure 6).

25 The adjective or quality ‘auspicious’ is fundamental in Hinduism and I will use it throughout the article. See Inden, R., ‘Kings and omens’, in Purity and Auspiciousness in Indian Society, Carman, J. B. and Marglin, F. A. (eds), Brill, Leiden, 1985, pp. 3040; Ali, D. and Flatt, E. J. (eds), Garden and Landscape Practices in Precolonial India: Histories from the Deccan, Routledge, New Delhi, 2012; Chakrabarty, D., Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002; Moffatt, M., An Untouchable Community in South India: Structure and Consensus, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2015; Raheja, G. G., The Poison in the Gift: Ritual, Prestation, and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1998. In using ‘auspicious’, I distance myself from the pure/impure structuralist dichotomy advanced by Dumont, Louis in Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970. However, in using ‘encompass’ throughout, I intimate that Dumont's notion of encompassment could possibly be helpful in a full analysis of the dynamics of the soirée, if the idea of encompassment is detached from structuralism and related, instead, to Ernesto Laclau's ‘constitutive outside’, which I invoke towards the end of this article.

26 For some, upanayan would be written upanayana, with an ‘a’ at the end. But my spelling follows how the word is pronounced in Bengali and, accordingly, in the film. In Bengal, it is common to use the more plebeian poite in speaking of this important initiation ceremony, but this is never used in the film—perhaps to distinguish Lord Roy from the plebeian. There is some dispute and variation as to whether only Brahmins can be initiated or other upper castes as well. Upanayans are performed on auspicious days, as determined by astrologers.

27 In this article, I will be able to only gesture to some key themes, such as the distinction between host and guest—which also resonates with dichotomies such as citizen and refugee, which become pivotal after the 1947 partition and the migration of the bhadralok in its wake.

28 In Bandyopadhyay's original story, we are told that Ganguly gradually but steadily usurped much of the Roy estate's land.

29 Audience is in quotation marks because the relationship between the performers and the patrons is different, here, from how the word is connoted in the West. For example, in Shatranj, there are elements of darshan—a visual connection with something holy or auspicious—in the soirées. See also note 33 below regarding sahrdayas.

30 I say ‘son and wife’ rather than ‘wife and son’ because, in this historical and cultural context, the primary relation is between genitor/patriarch and male heir. The ideology of ‘love marriage’ or ‘companionate marriage’ is that the husband–wife relationship is primary, and children are reflections and extensions of it. But that would not be the case here. That said, the film shows there is genuine affection between Biswambhar and Mahamaya. Also, the names of the servants are noteworthy: Ananta can mean ‘eternal’ and Prasanna mean ‘contentment’. But the idea of eternal contentment has an oblique relation to this film, as also to nationalism.

31 The protagonist, Lord Roy, is a Barendra Brahman, which would suggest that the river we see is the Padma. Director Ray confirms that the river is in fact the Padma (see note 42 below), but that does not necessarily mean the river as presented in the film is meant to be the Padma—but there are hints in the film itself that it is (and Bandyopadhyay's original story confirms that it is the Padma). For most Bengali Hindus, rivers have a divine quality, the Padma especially so for it is a tributary of the Ganges. ‘Padma’ is one name for the wife of Vishnu. Vaishnav and Shakta worship, respectively, were and are the key forms of religious practice among Bengali bhadralok. (The name of Roy's wife, Mahamaya, is an acknowledgment of the Shakta tradition—though it can also perhaps be taken as Maha-maya, meaning great illusion.) It may be added here that, insofar as the Padma is seen as a natural border demarcating West Bengal from East Bengal, one cannot help but think of the river as a metaphor for the Radcliffe Line that, in 1947, officially divided Bengal into West Bengal and East Pakistan, respectively. This partition had significant repercussions for the bhadralok and their first-among-equals claims. Further, like the Padma, the official border, too, was prone to unpredictable shifts, with, for example, Murshidabad district predicted to go to (East) Pakistan on one day and to India (West Bengal) on another; Murshidabad is mentioned in the film. In short, it is difficult to not associate and juxtapose the natural border with the political border in a film produced just a decade after independence and partition—a film made by and for the bhadralok; I will argue the ‘by and for’ below.

32 In Bengali culture, there is an important distinction between an established house for humans (bhitte bari)—which can be used in a more formal sense, such as the ‘House of Roy’—and the less august idea of a habitat (basa, sometimes spoken as basa bari), which connotes a temporary lodging. Insofar as some animals are said to live in basas, the presence of the animals at this point in the film may be interpreted to suggest that the distinguished Roy bari has degenerated into a makeshift basa: the perennial ancestral home does not steady and mould time; rather, it is now subject to its ravages.

33 In the terms of Sanskritic poetics, Lord Roy and his peers are sahrdayas. A sahrdaya can be understood as ‘a man of taste’ or ‘connoisseur’, but it is much more than that. Only a sahrdaya can have a complete aesthetic experience, because he has cultivated his appreciation to the point that he can fully grasp the creative power of the artist: ‘… his mind has become lucidly receptive, like a mirror, through effort and constant practice’, Dimock, E., Gerow, E., Naim, C. M., Ramanujan, A. K., Roadarmel, G., and Van Buitenen, J. A. B., The Literatures of India: An Introduction, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1974, p. 217. This idea of mirror as receptive provides for interesting interpretive possibilities of the many shots in the film of mirrors, and other reflections.

34 As the goddess of creation and destruction, Kali has also been seen as the goddess of time itself.

35 Some critics have taken Ray to task for putatively favouring the former, namely valuing the old over the new. Nicholas Dirks says Ray was not a conservative nostalgic: ‘Ray was sharply critical both of the particularity of this zamindar and the more general system of feudal rule that had been maintained under British colonialism. Nevertheless, Ray wished to complicate the critique of feudalism’: Dirks, N., ‘The sovereignty of history: culture and modernity in the cinema of Satyajit Ray’, in Questions of Modernity, Mitchell, T. (ed.), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 2000, especially pp. 148–9, quote at p. 154; on the colonial aspects in Ray's film, see pp. 155–65. Dirks discusses, in brief, Ray's film, Shatranj ke Khiladi, which also shows an aristocratic decline of sorts. Overall, Dirks reads Ray's film through concepts such as tradition and modernity as these were constituted by British colonial capitalism. By contrast, my inclination is that the idea of earthly paradise, which I suggest becomes an aspect of bhadralok nationalism, is inflected significantly in the colonial encounter, but not entirely constituted by it. Although I do not have the space here to discuss Shatranj as it would deserve, I will note, in brief, some differences with Jalsaghar, such as that the film is set in Lucknow in the nineteenth century (a very important site of cultural and courtly life), its language is in Urdu, it is very much focused on the expansion of British power in India (whereas this is only hinted at in Jalsaghar), that issues of masculinity are fore-grounded, and that it is filmed in 1977 after the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. Pointing to differences does not indicate that the two films do not belong together in the context of my argument. But it would take significant elaboration to show, for example, how the emergence of Bangladesh plays a part in bhadra nationalism as reflected in Shatranj. Likewise, important points of confluence between the two films would require a rigorous analysis. For example, in Shatranj, the Nawab of Oudh is, like Lord Roy in Jalsaghar, a connoisseur of rarefied pleasures, such as music and poetry. Indeed, when faced with being deposed, he asks ‘How many kings of England have composed songs? Has Queen Victoria composed any songs that her people sing?’. As Schiller or Collingwood might say, per the epigraphs at the outset: authentic rulers are also vessels of aesthetic value.

36 This allusion is also present in the shot where Lord Roy receives the corpse of his son with the fountain's figures in the background. Scholars say that the porch of the Erechtheion stands over the tomb of the mythical king Kekrops. This argument is supported by the fact that the Caryatids are carrying their libation, namely the libation that would have to be poured on the ground as offerings to the dead. See M. Cartwright, ‘Caryatid’, [accessed 24 October 2016].

37 Inden, ‘Classics in the garden’, p. 72. Emphasis added.

38 Ibid., pp. 72–4, quote at p. 74. For my argument, invoking the idea of the ‘host’ is more apposite than that of the ‘owner’.

39 Although my focus is on the palace and, in particular, the soirée room, it is important to note how the river figures as a way or enclosing the estate—and, indeed, encroaches on the palace and ultimately ends Roy's lineage when Khoka and Mahamaya drown.

40 Moynihan, E. B., Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India, George Braziller, New York, 1979, p. 1.

41 Inden, ‘Classics in the garden’, p. 72.

42 This indicates that an end-in-itself value need not be singular: e.g. it can include, at once, overlapping ideas of earthly ecstasy and noble lineage, both encompassed in the jalsa. My understanding of ‘overlap’ comes from R. G. Collingwood as he advances, in particular, in his Essay on Philosophical Method, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.

43 In Bandhyopadhyay's original story, Ganguly's electric lights are described as in competition with the stars. In the film, Lord Roy ridicules Ganguly's attempt to ‘reach the stars’.

44 Ray found the estate by chance and after much searching. It was perfect, in his view: ‘The Padma had changed its course over the years so that now there were endless stretches of sandy waste where once [there] had been villages. The palace itself—Greek pillars, entablature, and all—was a perfect materialization of my dream image. It stood looking out over the desolation with a worn and tragic dignity. It had miraculously escaped utter obliteration through a whim of the river, which had approached within ten yards of the façade—having engulfed the garden and stables—and then stopped’, Ray, S., ‘Winding route to a music room’, in his Our Films, Their Films, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1976, pp. 45–6.

45 Speaking of the bhadralok—of which he is a member—Prafulla Chakrabarti states they are not inclined to utility—or at least to industry: ‘The Bengali Hindu . . . never learned to live dangerously; never absorbed the amorality which makes for success in a fiercely competitive world; never saw visions of giant industrial and commercial enterprises. Nowhere in Bengali literature do we find a portrayal of the will to victory, of men of mighty deeds who brushed aside all social inhibitions or moral considerations to attain their ends’: Chakrabarti, The Marginal Men, pp. 110–11, emphasis added.

46 Spectacle is not used here as it often is in cultural critique, such as spectacle as a tool for mystifying and misleading the masses.

47 P. Kemp, ‘The Music Room: distant music’, Criterion Collection, 2011,, [accessed 24 October 2016], emphasis added.

48 The use of rakta allows Ananta to repeat it, when he sees the blood after Roy is thrown from his horse—after which the movie ends and we see the chandelier along with the final credits. The ending is different in Bandyopadhyay's original short story: Lord Roy has all the chandeliers that the family used over the ages stored in a room.

49 The more common word for lineage in Bengali is bangsha.

50 Ganguly, by contrast, describes himself as a ‘self-made man’ who lacks ‘pedigree’.

51 14 Stories that Inspired Satyajit Ray, edited and translated by B. Chattopadhyay, Harper Perennial/HarperCollins India, 2014. As mentioned in 48, the ending is different in Bandyopadhyay's original story: Roy again shuts down the house, whereas Ray shows Roy thrown by and thus killed by his own ‘royal’ mount.

52 The popularity of Rabindrasangeet—one of the most distinctive features of bhadralok culture—is a phenomenon that has not, as yet, been adequately accounted for. I believe the genealogy of jalsa I provide here can perhaps do so.

53 Shortly after the independence of India, in the 1950s, Soumendranath Tagore, a relation of Rabindranath Tagore, founded a group in Kolkata for the purpose of promoting Rabindrasangeet. It was devoted to music but linked also to national pride. Soumendranath Tagore was himself active in politics and recognized as an inspiring orator, and his wife was a renowned dancer. Significantly, the name of the group was baitanik, which can, with some license, be translated as a ‘place for musical enrichment’.

54 See Gooptu, S., Bengali Cinema: An Other Nation, Routledge, New York, 2011, p. 158.

55 Here, I am referring to Ernesto Laclau's (1990) concept of the ‘constitutive outside’ as part of the process through which social order seeks to render itself as a (process-less) entity. Laclau, E., New Reflections on the Revolution of our Time, Verso, London, 1990.

56 This genealogy of earthly paradise also points, as hinted here, to a crucial component of bhadralok self-fashioning, namely as educators of the nation. But the significant links between the soirée room and the classroom are for another time.

57 Kaviraj, S., The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1995, p. 146. Overall, Norbert Peabody's analysis of the protean interrelationships between kingship, religion, and historical consciousness in pre-colonial times provides a closer parallel to bhadralok projects of paradise than does Kaviraj's account, which is, like those of Nicholas Dirks and Partha Chatterjee, focused on the encounter of India with British colonial modernity. See Peabody, N., Hindu Kingship and Polity in Precolonial India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003.

58 Chatterjee, K., ‘The Persianization of Ithihasa: performance narratives and Mughal political culture in eighteenth-century Bengal’, Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 67, no. 2, May 2008, pp 512–43.

59 One way to elaborate the argument I have pursued here is to see whether and how it fits with Partha Chatterjee's distinction between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ domains of nationalism. The binary that Jalsaghar presents between Lord Roy and Mahim Ganguly resonates with Chatterjee's distinction. I have discussed Chatterjee on this subject in Ghosh, G., ‘The (un)braiding of time in the 1947 partition of India’, Migration in History, Grafton, A. and Rodriguez, M. (eds), Rochester University Press, Rochester, New York, on behalf of the Davis Center of Princeton University, 2007. For a unique post-colonial perspective on the relation between what we are calling here the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ dimensions of sovereignty, see Wilder, G., Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 2015.

60 With regard to Jalsaghar, Kemp remarks that ‘Ray was ready to demonstrate how, in his view, songs and dances should be used in a film—not as irrelevant interludes, but as an integral and essential part of the action’ (emphasis added). I suggest that the music and dance that are featured in Indian (particularly Bollywood) cinema are not irrelevant interludes but, rather, a reflection of the value placed on the possibility of an earthly paradise. It is not a coincidence that Indian deities play music and dance. See Kemp, The Music Room. Faisal Devji's research on Pakistan as a community of belonging could provide a model for how the ‘aristocratic collectivities’ of the jalsaghar were constituted, which could, in turn, potentially model the ways in which the bhadralok sought to appropriate these ideas and practices. Devji, F., Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2013.

61 See Miles, M., Urban Utopias: The Built and Social Architectures of Alternative Settlements, Routledge, New York, 2008, p. 54. Modern Western utopias incorporated detailed plans for ‘urban’ organization, which were managerial and, at times, prescriptive. For example, Robert Owen's ‘parallelograms’, which emphasized internal courtyards for education and recreation, and Charles Fourier's ‘phalanstery’ (1772–1837), which heralded the cultivation of plants, flowers, and orchards.

*Parts of this article were presented by invitation at the Asian Studies Centre, Oxford University; the South Asian Studies Centre, Heidelberg University, and the Borders, Citizenship and Mobility Workshop at King's College London. Portions were also presented for the panel ‘Righteous futures: morality, temporality, and prefiguration’ organized by Craig Jeffrey and Assa Doron for the 2016 Australian Anthropological Society Meetings. I appreciate the comments and questions I received on these occasions. Thanks to Daud Ali, Joya Chatterji, Faisal Devji, Nicholas DeGenova, Gita Dharmal-Frick, Ralph Nicholas, Polly O'Hanlon, Norbert Peabody, William ‘Bo’ Sax, Paola Voci, and, in particular, Ronald Inden, Cecilia Novero, and Aditinath Sarkar. I am grateful to Aurora Films and Sandip Ray for copyright permission to use the Jalsaghar materials, including the two film clips available in the online version of this article. All errors, including in translation from Bengali, are my own.

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Nobility or Utility? Zamindars, businessmen, and bhadralok as curators of the Indian nation in Satyajit Ray's Jalsaghar (The Music Room)



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