Hire the best musicians for a musical (the iconic Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy in this case), cast actors who look the part, set it in a city vibrant with culture and heritage, but the soul will only come with the depth in your story! Amazon Prime Video’s newest offering Bandish Bandits is a musically rich affair confused with what it wants to tell. And I for one, am still busy figuring out which story should I root for.
Cast: Ritwik Bhowmik, Shreya Chaudhary, Naseeruddin Shah, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Amit Mistry and Rahul Kumar.
Bandish Bandits Review: What’s It About?:
Set in Jodhpur, Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik) is a singing prodigy, touted to take his grandfather’s (Naseeruddin Shah) legacy ahead. Tamanna (Shreya Chaudhary) a young pop sensation who looks down at Indian classical, until one day she meets Radhe. When the two meet, Radhe is torn in two. One to help Tamanna find her ‘the’ song and saving his grandfather’s legacy (Gharana as they call it). Will Radhe be able to reach the shore with his feet in two boats? Let’s see.
Bandish Bandits Review: What Works?:
First of all, let me appreciate the underrated talent that Sheeba Chaddha is. I have seen the lady in two web shows this year (Taj Mahal: Since 1989 & Bandish Bandits), I am in love with her craft. Opposite to her character in Taj, here she is a lady completely silent in the first half, but observing everything and helping the men around her without raising her voice. And when she does, you have to listen.
Now coming to the show, Bandish Bandits is an idea that is rich, or wealthiest to define it aptly. There’s music, genres, love, longing, legacy, a city that reflects art and culture. And the show does promise all of it while you get in. But does it fulfil? About that later.
The show created by Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari has some beautiful music pieces. With Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy on board, the classical aspect of it is immaculate. Two of my favourite songs out of all have to be Lab Par Aaye and Virah. Shankar Mahadevan and Javed Ali’s vocals touch the right cords.
Bandish Bandits brings in two fresh faces (not debutants) with Ritwik Bhoumik and Shreya Chaudhary. Bhoumik, who gets the first full-fledged show, is promising. The actor has worked hard to embody a classical singer. His poised gaze, balanced moves add layers to him. He has to work on scenes that require him crying, though.
Naseeruddin Shah as the grandfather plays this character like it is his own. My experience is nothing in order to judge a man of his calibre.
Shreya Chaudhary plays an internet sensation, city girl quite effectively. While her character doesn’t get as much heavy lifting as Ritwik’s does, Shreya manages to pull off an impressive performance.
Jodhpur is anyways a beautiful city. The blue houses, narrow lanes, dessert, palaces, ruins everything is scenic. Cinematographer Sriram Ganapathy relies heavily on all of this. He sticks to the conventional route and lets the beauty overtake his camera.
Bandish Bandits Review: What Doesn’t Work?:
The confusion! I understand it is about a man trying to hold two worlds together. But what’s the conflict? There is a battle to save the legacy, and I understand, but what about the ‘electronic’ music aspect of it? Rather than using it as a part of the plot, it is merely a device to push it ahead.
I got into Bandish Bandits thinking it is a meeting point of two distinct worlds in music, but what I got are several conflicts that get made up and solved in no time. This left me confused about what I should root for? The war between the worlds? The love that depends on them? The legacy that needs to be saved? The answer is they all get a piece of it, but none dives more in-depth enough that I could cheer for it.
For example, while the role-playing concept seemed a bit childish, we have seen the idea of the music of a broken heart in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. The film aptly captured the emotion, but in Bandish, it doesn’t reach that point. Even her being upset about him getting married doesn’t affect, because I haven’t seen their love bloom.
Writers Amritpal Singh Bindra, Anand Tiwari, Lara Chandni, and Adhir Bhat are so busy on discovering new conflicts, that they leave the old ones half cooked.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy ace the classical part, but don’t make a mark when it comes to composing fusions. Also, whose idea was it to give Atul Kulkarni two voices in the same gig? The audience is getting smarter, you guys!
A suggestion: you guys have the best musicians, Shringaar Ras, a haveli and the beauty of it, why not compile this all and create a visual that enthrals us. A classic example of this is Prem Mein Tohre from Begum Jaan.
Bandish Bandits Review: Last Words:
Bandish Bandits begins with a lot of potential, and it carries it all the while, but doesn’t know how to use it. While everything in place, it’s the soul that is missing. Watch it if you want to for the classical songs, but if not a fan of that too, you can pass this one.
Bandish Bandits Review: Star Rating: 2.5/5 stars (Two and A Half Star)