'Bandish Bandits' Review: A mesmerising musical experience

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Bandish Bandits, a romantic musical drama series, has recently premiered on Amazon Prime Video. The show is produced and created by Amritpal Singh Bindra. Anand Tiwari, who previous directed the Netflix film Love Per Square Foot, serves as the series director. Bandish Bandits stars Ritwik Bhowmik, Shreya Chaudhry, Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, and Tridha Choudhury. The ten-episode series features an original soundtrack by the trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who make their digital debut with this show.

Now, Hollywood has a great tradition of musicals. It’s typically a genre in which songs by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, often accompanied by dancing. The songs may contribute towards plot advancement or character development. They may also serve as breaks in the narrative. Now, typically the actors are required to sing their own songs in the Hollywood musicals. On the contrary, Indian films depend on lip-syncing which opens up exciting possibilities. Actors of the pedigree of Naseeruddin Shah and Atul Kulkarni can take up parts that involve extensive singing without actually the need to sing themselves.

Set in the musical city of Jodhpur, Bandish Bandits follows Radhe (portrayed by Ritwik Bhowmik), a singing prodigy determined to follow in the Hindustani classical footsteps of his perfectionist grandfather, Pandit Radhemohan Rathod (essayed by Naseeruddin Shah), and Tamanna (portrayed by Shreya Chaudhry), a rising pop sensation desperate to become India’s first international popstar. But, Radhe loses his focus when he meets Tamanna who wants to collaborate with him. Now, Pandit Rathod detests any form of commercial singing and has nothing but contempt for singers who are not trained in classical music. Under the circumstances, can Radhe stay true to his own music and his family’s legacy? Or will he lose everything while trying to juggle both?

Bandish Bandits comes across as a breath of fresh air as the time when the Indian web space is flooded with a myriad of crime / psychological thrillers. The duo of Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari deserve all the credit for creating a musical feast like Bandish Bandits. Naseeruddin Shah shows us his true pedigree as a performer yet again. A truly consummate actor, Shah’s mesmerising performance makes Pandit Rathod absolutely unforgettable. He is a man of principles who is a touchstone for all musicians, and, yet, as is slowly revealed, like most virtuosos, he is a deeply flawed human being. Shah is brilliantly matched by Atul Kulkarni who is riveting to watch as Rathod’s nemesis Digvijay. While other performances aren’t bad either, Tridha Choudhury deserves a special mention for her short but memorable portrayal of a young singer named Sandhya. But, above all, it is the superb score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy that makes Bandish Bandits a mesmerising musical experience.

Rating: 8/10

A version of this review first appeared in The Sunday Guardian.

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