RAY AND ROWLING – BHOOT’ER RAJA IN HARRY’S WORLD?

Winter is here. It reminds me of the winter vacations during my childhood. Those days, I spent the vacation visiting my grandparents’ home every day and watching movies; pretty sure that the cinephile in you must have done the same. I remember spending the first part of my childhood winter vacation watching Ray’s Goopy Bagha film series. But that soon changed when I was introduced to the Harry Potter film series by my aunt.

For me, winter is synonymous with Harry Potter series. Pogo, the popular television channel made it a point to run the series every winter and I would excitedly wait for it all year long to watch.

Coming back to the Goopy Bagha series, let me tell you something about it that I often thought. As a child, I often felt a Harry Potter vibe in Goopy Bagha films but I couldn’t exactly figure out what made me feel it. I used to think that it was probably because both the films had a folktale-ish vibe and magic.

Growing up, I was finally able to make several connections between these two series over the years. They are so subtle that you wouldn’t notice them at first.I’ll start with minor similarities and then move on to the major one which served as the undertone or theme of both the series. Before I do that, I’ll add a summary for the two series.

Goopy Bagha Series – This is a three-part film series. The first one is Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, released in 1969. The story was originally written as a short story by Satyajit Ray’s grandfather Upendrakishore Raychowdhury in 1915, which Ray later adapted into a screenplay and directed. Ray took the two characters, Goopy and Bagha from the story and developed the plots to make two more films, one being Hirok Rajar Deshe (1980) which he wrote and directed himself. The other one, Goopy Bagha Phire Elo (1992), which was the third and final part of the series, was however directed by his son, Sandip Ray.

The story is about Goopy and Bagha, who sing and play dholak (hand-drum) respectively. When Goopy’s voice blended with Bagha’s beats, they produced such a charm that could make any living beings motionless. People couldn’t move till their performance ended.

” What kind of sorcery is this? ” I’ll have to go back a bit to tell you how and why this was possible for these maestro-duos!

Goopy-Bagha were thrown out of their respective villages for their terrible vocal and music skills, hence they came to take shelter in a forest where they met each other for the first time. They were singing when gangs of ghosts came out from the trees and started dancing around them. The king of Ghosts, Bhoot’er Raja was so impressed that he decided to give them three boons. They said that they would like to never starve for food.  He blessed them with such a superpower that all they had to do to get any food or clothes of their choice was to clap their two palms together. For the second boon, they said they would love to travel. Bhoot’er Raja gifted them two pairs of magical shoes that could take them anywhere they wanted once they wore it and clap their one palm together. For the third boon, they said they wish to entertain people by singing and beating drums for which they were given the power to make people motionless with their musical performance.

 Using their extraordinary powers, they were able to travel from place to place, encountering different people and helping them solve their issues using their powers.

Harry Potter Series – It’s 7 part film series originally adapted from a 7 part book series by J.K Rowling. It’s about three friends – Harry, Ron, and Hermione, students of Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardy, going out of their way to get into troubles and crisis, partly because of their over smartness and partly instigated by the actions of Voldemort, the number one public enemy in the Wizarding world. They would be able to solve the crisis temporarily only to be met with another crisis in the following academic year until a full-blown war broke out at the end of the series, between the dark wizards and the humble nice ones. It was much more than that which I’m sure all of you know. It had another interesting angle which I would love to talk about in another post, someday.

Let me start with the minor similarities :

The first similarity is a very obvious one. Goopy and Bagha went into exile after being thrown out of their respective villages but soon situations made them turn into friends on a mission. The Harry Potter series is so widely popular that I don’t need to go into details but yet I have to. I’ll just leave the first one be.

In the film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, I see a character summoned by Mantri, the evil minister in the court of the King of Halla. The character was that of a magician who is an expert at making potions. He is called Barfi. He sports a long white beard, wears a long sleeve cloak, and also carries a walking stick which is used to cast a magic spell. Does the description ring a bell? You got it right, he looks a lot like Professor Dumbledore except that Dumbledore had a more powerful presence, of course. Barfi was a rather funny character. He also indulged in practicing dark magic, unlike the professor.

Barfi , the magician

As you know, there have been different evil characters in each of the Goopy Bagha films. Among the three, the last of the series had a character, Brahmananda Acharya, an evil sorcerer who bore a slight similarity with the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Like Voldemort, he had an unnatural desire – to be immortal. He mostly wore all red attire much like Voldemort’s all-black attire. Acharya heard of a prophecy that a boy of 12 years old, named Bikram would be the cause of his death, one day. He feared death. He practiced meditation for years because of which he gained some superpowers but it wasn’t enough for him. He sought immortality from a greater sorcerer which was denied to him because of his dark past and inability to let go of his greed for wealth and precious gemstones. Upon learning this, he had his man kidnap all the boys named Bikram from villages near him. Unfortunately, his henchman could only find Bikrams who were of age 13. Acharya kept the boys at his place, casting such a spell on them that they were at his command. Like him, Voldemort too was told of a prophecy that stated a boy born on 31st of July would be the cause of his end. Two boys, Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom were born that day. He had decided on Harry and we all know what happened next.

The boy who was destined to end Acharya was difficult to be found, despite living right near him was because he went by the name, Kanu instead of Bikram, which was his birth name. Kanu was an orphan and lived with his Dadu(grandfather). It was later revealed by his Dadu that his horoscope stated Kanu would suddenly gain divine powers the moment he was to turn 12. Rightly so, he gained the power and became instantly aware of it, ran to bring an end to Acharya’s existence. His presence was enough to end Acharya. The scene where we see Acharya getting destroyed reminded me of a scene from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. There, his body looked as though it was sinking beneath the ground he stood on and soon became a smoke, leaving his red attire behind on the floor. It looked a lot like how Professor Quirrell became ashes on being touched by Harry leaving his clothes behind on the floor; thereby turning Voldemort’s soul possessing his body into vicious-looking smoke. Not to forget Voldemort was looking for Sir Nicholas Flamel’s stone that could grant him immortality. Harry was 11years old in the first part of the series which meant he was a year younger than Kanu. Acharya’s end was permanent while Voldemort’s end was to become permanent years later by another orphan boy.

To be precise, I thought Voldemort’s characteristics bears resemblance with all the three villains of Ray comprised together. You see Mantri at the fort had the magician make a potion for the King of Halla, so that the king, under the effect of the potion, could be controlled by him. He wanted to use him to do whatever he desired, especially to fight against the king’s twin brother, King of Shundi. The act of controlling somebody using magic is something that can also be seen in the Harry Potter series. We know there are three unforgivable curses mentioned in the series. One of the unforgivable curse that bears resemblance to this is called the Imperius Curse. Voldemort was notorious for using unforgivable curses. He also bore a similarity with Hirok’s Raja who was power-hungry and had his scientist perform the act of brainwashing against people who defied him much like how Voldemort had death eaters perform all such cruel actions against people who defied him.

In one scene of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we see Ron, his family, Harry, Hermione, and Cedric’s family gathering around a shoe which when they touched transported them to another location. The shoe was called Portkey. Of course, that’s the same thing as the pair of shoes gifted by Bhoot’er Raja to The Goopy-Bagha duo. The method of using the shoe might be different but the purpose served by the shoe is very much alike.

In Hirok Rajar Deshe, we have a headmaster, Udayan who runs a pathshala (Indian term for school taking place in open space). He teaches his students to fight against wrong things. Hirok’s Raja decided to put a stop to the education of people living there so that they remain ignorant to not notice his misdoings. He feared that education will make them sharper and in turn, they will try to remove him from the throne. Professor Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is similar in characteristics to him. She curtailed the use of magic in Hogwarts and tried to limit the children from learning practical magic spells for she feared that they would use those spells against her and the Ministry of Magic where she is an employee. The Ministry reeked with corruption and she was very well indulging in it.

In yet another scene of Hirok Rajar Deshe, we see Goopy and Bagha were being instructed by the headmaster to steal diamonds from Raja’s palace, as a part of the plan to overthrow Hirok Raja’s regime. He was able to get all the villagers on his side to start a revolt against the Raja but he needed to make the guards of the palace and the scientist employed by the Raja join his mission. He knew bribing them with diamonds was the only way out. When Goopy- Bagha reached outside the room where diamonds are kept in a treasure, they saw that the door to the room was being guarded by a man who wore on his waist the key. They sang to make him motionless to get the key. Once they unlocked the door and entered the room, they saw a tiger was guarding another set of keys that is to be used to unlock the diamond treasury. They once again sang a song, ‘ Paye Pori Baghmama ‘ and the rest we all know. The mission was successful.

I know what you must be wondering. Of course, they could charm the tiger too; such was the power of their magical music performance.

An animal guarding something as precious as diamonds is sure to remind you of Fluffy. Fluffy, the three-headed dog was guarding a door on the second floor of Hogwarts. We all know what Harry and his friends had to go through to get Sir Nicholas Flamel’s stone which Voldemort desperately wanted so that he could turn immortal.

Not to forget the connection with the forests. There are numerous scenes of the forest in the Goopy-Bagha and Harry Potter series. There are probably a few more similarities but I would rather not bore you readers with those details.

Now, let me tell you about this major point that I recognized only last year.

In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part-1, there was a scene where Harry and his friends visited Luna’s father, Xenophilius Lovegood who narrated to them a story about the deathly hallows. The story- The Tale of the Three Brothers was a chapter from Beedle The Bard, a folktale book of the wizarding world.

The Tale of Three Brothers begins with the three brothers halting near a river that was too deep to wade across, so they used a magic trick to build a bridge. Death was so impressed that he appeared to congratulate them and offered them three rewards. Death’s real intention was to set up a trap for them in the disguise of rewards because he felt cheated by their survival. The first brother asked for a weapon that would always win any battle. Death gave him The Elder Wand. The second brother wanted something to give him power over Death. Death gave him The Ressurection Stone. The third brother, however, did not trust Death; so he asked for something that would allow him to avoid Death. Death was trapped by his own words and handed over his Cloak Of Invisibility.

Time passed. The first brother provoked a duel once with a wizard he disliked, thus killing him with the elder wand. He later boasted about his wand, which eventually led to his wand being stolen from him after him being murdered. The second brother brought his dead lover back to life using the resurrection stone but found misery instead when he realized that his lover didn’t love him the way she did in her past. Following his realization, he committed suicide. The third brother hid from Death his entire life using the invisibility cloak until he was old enough to die. He after reaching old age, decided to stop using the cloak and handed it over to his son. He soon met Death willingly and departed as an equal, unlike the other two brothers whose lives were claimed by Death himself using his clever folly.

This story always made me think of Bhoot’er Raja, who is not Death but King of Ghosts. He has almost the same powers as Death. He can perform the task of taking lives for Death. Just like Death, he gave three boons to Goopy-Bagha because he was impressed with them. He didn’t have evil intentions like Death though. I have a feeling that Upendrakishore Raychowdhury was inspired by one of the tales from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

The chapter from The Canterbury Tales is The Pardoner’s Tale.

During the height of the black plague, three men sit in an inn, eating and drinking one morning when they saw people taking away a coffin by the inn. They asked the servant who had died, to which they were told that the dead man was a friend who was stabbed last night by a thief called Death. The three men thinking that the thief might still be lurking around and decided to seek him out to kill him.

On their way to find the thief, they met with an old man who explained that he must wander the earth until he finds someone willing to exchange youth for old age. He also said that he is so unlucky that even this cruel thief called Death will not touch him. Hearing him speak of Death, they asked him for death’s whereabout, and the old man directed them to a tree at the end of the lane. They rushed to the tree and found eight bushels of gold coins, which made them forget about death and they decided to divide it among themselves. They decided to wait for nightfall so that they could take it to their respective home without anyone noticing them. Three men decided that one of them would go to town to get some food and wine, while two of them would stay behind to guard the gold. When he left to get food, the other two men decided to kill him when he come back so that they wouldn’t have to share the gold with him. The third one on his way to get food decided to kill the other two men by poisoning them and have all the golds to himself. When he came back with the poisoned wine, he was killed by the two men who then decided to eat and drink before they could part with the golds. Unbeknownst to them, they drunk the poisoned wine and died instantly. Thus, all three met with Death.

I felt this story inspired Upendrakishore Roychowdhury to come up with the idea of Bhoot’er Raja in Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. But unlike the pardoner’s tale, his wasn’t a moral story at all. Although when Ray made it into a film series and by the time he ended the series with Goopy Bagha Phire Elo for which he wrote the screenplay, he turned it into almost a moral story filled with socio-political issues. I say moral story because Ray’s Goopy Bagha Phire Elo had Bhoot’er Raja making an appearance, warning Goopy and Bagha to stop stealing gemstones for the evil sorcerer in exchange for youth. Their desire to get back youth felt almost like a form of greed. Rowling’s The Tale of Three Brothers, however, retained the theme of The Pardoner’s Tale, which was a moral story indeed. Rowling’s tale resembled the Pardoner’s tale so much that I had to google whether she ever spoke anything about it. Turned out that she did. She was inspired by that story. The theme was – Greed is the root of all evils. That was the theme in both the film series and in Raychowdhury as well as Chaucer’s story.

Characters like the Mantri, Hirok’s Raja, Acharya, Voldemort, Death Eaters, the three men from the inn, and the three brothers turned malicious because of their greed for things beyond the average human’s reach. Greed turned them blind and they soon fell into a dark pit.

I can’t say for sure whether Rowling took inspiration from Ray’s films or that Raychowdhury took any inspiration from The Pardoner’s tale but I must say I’m amazed at how they took one theme using which they churned out stories set in another time, place, culture, and situations. While the concept and theme are similar yet at the same time, the approach is different. I believe it’s an extraordinary thing to take inspiration from something and tweak it to create a completely different creative universe out of it.

Did I successfully trick you into reading the article? I’m sorry there’s literally no Bhoot’er Raja in the Harry Potter films. That was just a trick to get you interested. Being a muggle, I couldn’t possibly use a magic spell but a psychological trick that I was so thrilled to use on you. (Evil smirks).

2 thoughts on “RAY AND ROWLING – BHOOT’ER RAJA IN HARRY’S WORLD?

  1. This article is well researched and well written for almost academic purpose. Last time I read something like this, was written by a film editor student for her thesis at FTII. I was looking for a simple entertaining blog, when I asked you. I retired last year from the biz. Now I just want to read fun stuff.
    I still like to read late Pauline Kael ‘s old film reviews. I feel she is talking to me in her writing.
    You are a good writer keep doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s