Music Shop Murthy review: Ajay Ghosh carries a disarming follow-your-dreams tale

Music Shop Murthy review: Ajay Ghosh carries a disarming follow-your-dreams tale

It’s hard to be sceptical about a film that’s so inherently sweet and cheerful, despite carrying its share of familiar tropes
Music Shop Murthy(3 / 5)

Murthy, the protagonist of latest feel-good drama Music Shop Murthy might be a dreamer, but he is a good, righteous man above anything else. Besides being an emotionally sensitive music lover, the middle-aged man is also incapable of any guile. He refuses to sell his old vinyl records, even at the risk of losing a chance to acquiring something that could change his life. At a time when the world streams music on their phones, Murthy continues to collect (and make) cassette tapes. When Murthy performs at a temple, he refrains from raising a quotation and is happy to be paid whatever the humble priest can afford.

Cast: Ajay Ghosh, Chandini Chowdary, Amani, Amit Sharma, Bhanu Chander, Dayanandh Reddy

Director: Siva Paladugu

It is this goodness that makes Murthy the easiest character to root for, and Music Shop Murthy is a challenging film to be cynical or sceptical about. Writer-director Siva Paladugu weaves the screenplay with a disarming blend of lightheartedness and optimism. For his first assignment as a backup DJ, Murthy arrives at the party with his assistant on a rickety scooter, with his assistant carrying old-school loudspeakers. When Murthy first decides to learn DJing, he literally draws the DJ console on a piece of paper. Murthy is a dreamer as old-school as they get, and there is an inherent sweetness to his aspirations that makes him very relatable and heartfelt. There’s barely a bleak moment in his journey except for the final act, where the director does a complete U-turn on his disarmed viewers, but more on than later. 

The two halves of Music Shop Murthy differ only to a slight degree in their level of cheeriness. Murthy (Ajay Ghosh) meets many people on his journey towards actualising his dreams; this is where Music Shop Murthy sweetly subverts the stereotype. Despite an occasional barrier or two, Murthy's spirits are never crushed because he bumps into more good people than bad—people who are only willing to help him. During a crucial point, when Murthy’s audience learns of his age, their reaction is completely opposite of what Murthy was expecting. 

Meanwhile, the first half rides on the sweet earnestness of Murthy's friendship with Anjana (Chandini Chowdary), another musician in the town who is struggling to make peace with the gap between her dreams and reality. Anjana calls Murthy by his name as she teaches him the ropes of being a DJ. They seem like equals, and their friendship has an endearing quality, especially because it quietly wrecks the expectations of everyone around them. Ajay Ghosh carries the entire film on his earnest shoulders, and Chandini Chowdary brings the right amount of coolness and vulnerability to her part. The catalyst for Murthy to eventually set off on his own is his ‘questionable’ bonding with Anjana (Chandini), which doesn't bode well with the conservative people around him.

On one level, Music Shop Murthy can also be read as the story of two dreamers who might differ in their temperament but remain united in their ability to persevere against all odds. When Anjana is tired of her father’s relentless attempts to thwart her ambitions, Anjana simply takes off. On the other hand, when Murthy gets a phone call from his daughter during the early days of his struggle, he is instantly moved enough to reconsider his plans and go back to his small town. Despite his ambition to do justice to his potential, Murthy never forgets his family.

And yet, despite its guise of an inspirational story about following your dreams, Music Shop Murthy also remains rather conservative in the manner in which it ties up the story. The film is not comfortable with the greyness of its characters. Every character, who is earlier shown as a naysayer against Murthy, is redeemed by the end of it, one way or another (except for the evil DJ character, who must repent for his overt brashness). Despite the fame he has achieved, Murthy cannot go along happily in life if that success means alienation or disapproval from his family. Anjana might have run away from the small town that restricts her dreams, but she is humane and attached enough to respond to her father’s email and be open to making amends. 

I was taken aback when, at one point in the first half, Anjana tells her disgruntled father (Bhanu Chander) the difference between an educated man and a literate man; It is too big a reality check for a small-town man who continues to oversee every move his grown-up daughter makes. But Music Shop Murthy, precisely like its protagonist, is not rebellious enough to choose a path of independence over communion. The dysfunctional family equations, despite their share of messiness, must be resolved. That’s the right way, if not the only way, to pursue your dreams, Music Shop Murthy tells us. And it almost convinced me.

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