Charming but predictable
75%Overall Score

The Rathore family lives in Jodhpur, where Pandit Radhe Mohan Rathore, a highly esteemed Indian classical singer and teacher, holds sway. His grandson, Radhe Mohan, is a talented millennial who wishes to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. Enter Tamanna, a YouTube pop singing sensation from Mumbai. Music makes their wholly different worlds collide.

Aalap vs auto-tune

The Rathores are a musical family. There’s Pandit Radhe Mohan Rathore aka Panditji (Naseeruddin Shah), a strict, Hindustani classical music teacher and the winner of Jodhpur’s prestigious title of Sangeet Samrat, who banishes students from his classes if their voice so much as shivers while they sing. His two sons, Rajender (Rajesh Tailang) and Devender (Amit Mistry) are both quiet souls who seem to have no affection for their father. Rajender’s wife, Mohini (Sheeba Chaddha), essays the role of the dutiful wife, mother and daughter-in-law. She has a secret. And then there’s Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik).

Radhe looks up to his grandfather and desires the sacred thread that Panditji only bestows upon the most talented artists. When he meets singing sensation Tamanna (Shreya Chaudhary), aka Blue Bandit at her concert in Jodhpur, Radhe is instantly smitten with this feisty, blue-haired pop singer. Tamanna is a city girl who owns her own posh studio, has an agent Arghya (Kunaal Roy Kapoor), relies (pretty heavily) on auto-tune and can’t sing live. At first, she likens Hindustani classical music to the sounds made by a strangled goat, but when she listens to Radhe sing, she’s blown away by his voice and insists on a collaboration. Radhe agrees to this without letting anyone in his family know, for Panditji has always frowned upon commercial music.

The series revolves around Radhe and Tamanna’s budding romance and tries to make Hindustani classical music both relevant and interesting for millennials. It also spotlights the drama and secrets that are a part of every family while subtly touching upon a wide range of topics ranging from parenting to the treatment meted out to women in traditional Indian households. The series finale hints at another season.

A sensory delight

Each episode is beautifully filmed, capturing stunning shots of Jodhpur with its blue-hued homes and beautiful close-ups of its architectural marvels. All of this is made more vivid by the score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Shankar Mahadevan’s classical expertise fuses brilliantly with Ehsaan and Loy’s pop music influences, resulting in a series of catchy tracks.

Naseeruddin Shah, needless to say, is truly exceptional. He expresses without the use of words and his absence on screen is felt just as much as his presence. Ritwik’s simpleton character grows on you, however Shreya Chaudhary’s Tamanna is rather forgettable.

The idea of a coming together of two different individuals fronted by traditional and contemporary genres of music is promising. However the show soon boils down to a predictable narrative of boy meets girl, they fall in love, then drift apart. The real star of the show is without a doubt the music.

Bandish Bandits spotlights the differences between traditional and contemporary ways of being and raises the question of whether changing with the times is better than clinging to deep-rooted but waning traditions. Watch it if you enjoy a good family drama and Hindustani classical music.

Creators: Anand Tiwari, Amritpal Singh Bindra
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Ritwik Bhowmik, Shreya Chaudhary, Atul Kulkarni, Rajesh Tailang, Amit Mistry, Sheeba Chaddha, Kunaal Roy Kapoor
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video