I grew up in the nineties as a Hindi cinema buff. So naturally, my choice of music always revolved around Hindi cinema music. I adored Kumar Sanu, I idolised Kishore Kumar. Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle were the singers whose songs I kept singing in the innumerable Antaksharis. Indian Classical music never interested me. Like thousands of others, I considered it to be niche stuff, way ahead of my taste and sensibilities. Work brought me to Calcutta and here, I learnt about the Dover Lane music conference, a festival where Indian Classical Music is celebrated as well as revered. Fate intervened and I missed out on the only chance to attend the program. Watching Amazon Prime’s new original show ‘Bandish Bandits’ has made me realise why people hold the Dover Lane Music Conference in such high esteem. I must admit, right now I am in awe of Indian classical music. If at all anything the show has managed to do, is to pique my interest levels in it. And I’m sure, whoever watches this show, will get to experience the same euphoria that I did while enjoying the show. 

‘Bandish Bandits’ is the story of Pandit Radhemohan Rathod, an exceptional singer and connoisseur of the Indian Classical music and his family. His grandson Radhe is an upcoming singer and thrives hard to become the true exponent of the genre. Clashing with the ideology and traditional form of music, in comes Tammana, a rising pop star. Realising their true potential in a collaborative way, they form the band ‘Bandish Bandits’. While Radhe and Tamanna fall in love, the merger of classical music and modern-day pop hits a hurdle, in the shape of Radhe’s rigid grandfather. How Radhe and Tamanna fight off the world to save their love, while Radhe juggling his own family’s fight to save their Gharana of music, forms the crux of the story. 

The writing is fresh and terrific. Not that it doesn’t have loopholes but for the interest of the story and the music associated with it, one must choose to ignore those minor hiccups. The core story is based on the age-old conflict between tradition and modernity, only here it becomes the clash of classical music and contemporary music. Right from the first episode, the writers introduce multiple twists in the narrative. Just as the audience believes the worst is over for Radhe and Tamanna, a new impediment gets created in their way. The biggest twist in the tale is a discord that will loosely remind the viewer about the greatest musical rift of Indian Classical Music, the bitter feud between the two stalwarts Pandit Ravi Shankar and his first wife Annapurna Devi. For the interested readers, here’s the link to the original article that was published in MW years ago. It’s a sordid tale about men, women and their ambitions and insecurities.

Music of this series deserves a discussion of its own. The makers Anand Tiwari and Amritpal Singh Bindra need to be lauded about the authentic research that has been put into the show. The music pieces, the customs, the methods everything is genuine. I am no judge of music, yet every rendition of the ragas, thumri or the alaap brought me goosebumps. I for once had no idea how exhilarating Indian Classical Music can be. Credit must go to the inimitable team of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendosa who infuse each creation with love and affection. Every song is a treasure to keep. Keeping true to the theme of the show, the songs are enriched in both traditional as well as the contemporary form of music. But my personal favourite song of the album is Virah, sung by Shankar Mahadevan, which speaks about love and loneliness. The rendition is so poignant that it literally pierces the heart. 

When the ensemble cast has the name of Naseeruddin Shah, it automatically becomes a point of interest. He plays Pandit Radhemohan Rathod, the forebearer of the Rathore Gharana of music. The story revolves around this pivotal character who is both revered as well as hated. Naseeruddin Shah plays this character with many nuances, carefully balancing its imbibed shades of grey. Atul Kulkarni and Sheeba Chaddha play two most important characters of the story, Digvijay and Mohini, who have a history of their own. Both perform their hearts out and portray the anguish of their respective characters. The protagonists of the show are played by the debutants Ritwik Bhowmik and Shreya Chaudhury who are brilliant as the star crossed lovers Radhe and Tamanna. From the rest of the cast Amit Mistry, Rajesh Tailang and Rahul Kumar perform admirably. Special mention goes to Kunaal Roy Kapoor as the crazy music director Arghya, who brings the house down with his antics and hilarious dialogues.

In the form of ‘Bandish Bandits’, Amazon Prime has got a winner. It’s one of best shows on OTT and director Anand Tiwari deserves a kudos for this amazing jugalbandi of music and love. The season ends in a cliffhanger thus keeping the doors open for a second season. A must watch!

Listen to all songs of ‘Bandish Bandits’ Here

All ten episodes of ‘Bandish Bandits’, are now streaming on Amazon Prime worldwide. Each episode runs for 40-45 minutes. Rated PG (Parental Guidance) for viewing due to strong language and some intimate scenes.

The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5

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