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Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne: The adventures of Gupi and Bagha

Upendrakishore Raychaudhury

Abridged, dramatized, and re-told in English by
Pia A. Salter-Ghosh

[This is actually a "thrice-told" tale. Satyajit Ray's movie (in Bengali) has been based on his grandfather, Upendrakishore's Bengali short story for children. The movie has been enormously popular among all, children and adults alike. Pia, only 14 then and residing with her parents at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, was no exception. Pia retold in English an abridged and dramatized version of the story as depicted in the movie. She had also produced and staged it with her friends on the occasion of Halloween 2008.]

Act I: Gupi and Bagha begin their Journey

Narrator: Once upon a time in a little village in India, there lived a young man named Gupi Gyne. He was the son of a poor grocer, but he didn’t care for his father’s trade. Gupi was a very happy-go lucky person, who lived to sing and write songs. His nights were filled with dreams of becoming a master singer, and of being praised beyond all other singers in the land. Yet, there was one problem with Gupi’s singing. He was tone-deaf. When Gupi sang, birds fell dead from their nests, cats started yowling, dogs started howling, and his father’s grocery shop suddenly lost all its customers.  After several years of putting up with Gupi’s braying, the village elders decided they had had enough, and sent him to sing outside the local landlord’s window…

Gupi: (walking on) Good morning world! And what a good morning it is! On a morning like this, there’s only one song I could possibly sing… (Sits down, clears throat, and sings loudly out of tune)

              Wake up! It’s a new day!

              Turn your face to the sun!

(Louder)Turn your face to the suuuuun!       

(As Gupi sings a loud crashing noise comes from behind the scenes, and we hear a man shouting orders in the distance. A guard rushes out--)

Guard: (interrupting the song) Our good lord has requested your presence inside the state room. If you would be so good as to follow me, sir?

Gupi: (grinning) Certainly, mister, just let me finish my song first…

Guard: (angrily) Impudent wretch! Do not ignore the summons of your master!

Gupi: (gets up fast) Allright, allright, I’m coming. (hopefully) Is it because the landlord is going to reward me for my beautiful singing?

Guard: Yes, he’s going to give you the reward you deserve, sure enough.

Gupi: (excited) It must be a great huge reward!

Guard: …Follow me, then.

(Gupi and Guard walk backstage)

Narrator: Sure enough, Gupi got his just reward. As a punishment for waking the lord up too early, he was thrown out of the village with nothing but the clothes on his back.

(As narrator narrates, Bagha creeps in unobserved and “falls asleep”. Gupi comes onstage and walks, slowly getting more tired.)

Narrator: Finally, the sun started to set, and Gupi decided to spend the night in a nearby bamboo grove…

Gupi: Phew, I’m so tired! I’m hungry, and thirsty, too, but those dumb villagers threw me out without anything for that! Oh, well. I guess I’ll just have to sleep here. (Sits down, and starts humming)

Bagha: (snores loudly)

Gupi: (afraid) Aah, what’s that noise?!? (looks around himself) This place is so creepy at night. (He starts to scare himself) Who knows what’s hiding in the bamboo! Anything could be here! Demons, spirits, ghosts? Is that noise a tiger growling? Or is it three tigers? Or worse, is that the noise ghosts make when they come to take people away? (totally terrified now) Please, please I don’t want to die! (Closes his eyes and starts wailing)

(Bagha wakes up, and sees Gupi. Angry at being woken up, he attacks Gupi with his drum.)

Bagha: (furious) Hey, what are you doing disturbing my sleep! Here I am, not bothering a soul, but no, you have to come shouting and waking me up. I’m trying to sleep here, idiot! (Hits Gupi with the drum) Hey, listen to me!

(Upon being hit with the drum, Gupi shuts up.)

Gupi: (rubbing his head) Aah, what hit me? (opens his eyes) Oh, a man!

Bagha: (grumbling) Of course I’m a man. Now shut up, and let me sleep. (lies down and closes his eyes. Resumes snoring, but more artificially.)

Gupi: (exclaims) Oh, so that’s where the noise came from! (grins, and squats down next to Bagha) Wow, snoring guy, you sure gave me a fright! I thought a tiger was coming to get me, or something!

Bagha: (grumpy) Do you think I didn’t hear you? (continues snoring)

Gupi: (shrugs) Well, you were asleep.

Bagha: Not for long. (desperate) Look, are you going to let me sleep, or not?

Gupi: (cheerfully) Nope.

Bagha: (exhales angrily, and sits up) Well, If you’re not going to let me sleep, I’m not going to talk to you either.

(Bagha stands up, and angrily snubs Gupi. Gupi grins cheekily, and runs in front of Bagha, and imitates him. Bagha turns around. Gupi runs to face him again. Bagha glares at Gupi, and Gupi reciprocates. They stand glaring for a few minutes, until Bagha breaks eye contact by shaking his head. Gupi, of course, copies him. Bagha turns a quarter-turn, and looks at Gupi out of the corner of his eye. Gupi copies. Bagha sits down carefully. Gupi copies. Bagha scratches his head. Gupi copies. Bagha yawns. Gupi copies. Bagha stares. Gupi copies. Finally Bagha breaks into laughter. Gupi copies.)

Bagha: Ok, you win. What’s your name?

Gupi: I’m Gupi Gyne, the best singer in all of India!

Bagha: (skeptically) Really?

Gupi: Really! Would you like me to sing?

Bagha: Mm, ok. It’ll keep the tigers away, anyway.

Gupi: (fearfully) Tigers?

Bagha:  You don’t know there are tigers here?

Gupi: No…

Bagha: Stupid! Why, I even saw one sniffing around earlier. I beat my drum at it and shouted, and it ran away with its tail between its legs.

Gupi: Wow, you’re brave! I think it would have got me…

Bagha: Of course it would have got you! But not me! (Boasting) I’m too tough for a tiger! I bet all the tigers see me coming and say “Oh, look it’s Bagha! Let’s run away!”

Gupi: (interrupting) So, your name is Bagha, then.

Bagha: (starts drumming badly) YES, I am the great drummer, Bagha Byne, the greatest drummer ever! Unfortunately those dumb people from my village didn’t appreciate me and--

Threw me out with nothing but my drum!

Gupi: I can see why! (Laughs) You’re awful!

Bagha: (furious) Eh! Let’s hear what you can do then!

Gupi: (claps in time to his song)


            Tigers in the forest,

            Really are the cruelest,

            But we are the baddest,

            And we will get them all!


            Ghosts are really creepy,

I should hide in a tree,

So that they don’t see me,

Or they will eat me up all!

(Bagha joins in with his drumming. As they sing and dance darkness descends and ghosts appear and dance. King of Ghosts appears and ghosts become reverent. Gupi and Bagha are afraid)

King of Ghosts: Goopy Gayne, Bagha Bayne, don’t be afraid! Pay your respect to the King of Ghosts.

(Gupi and Bagha kneel, awestruck.)

KoG: We are highly pleased with your music! We may even bestow upon you three wishes.

What would you choose, oh masters of musical might?

(Gupi and Bagha look at each other. Bagha points at Gupi, and indicate towards the KoG)

Gupi: (holds his stomach) Oh Mr. King we are very hungry.

KoG: I grant this first wish, wherever you are, and whenever you want, clap your left hands together, and ask for whatever food you want. My ghosts will be at your service!

Bagha: (wistfully) I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world!

KoG: Here are two pairs of magic shoes. Put them on and clap you left hands together and name a place. You will be transported there instantly!

Gupi: We like to sing and play, but nobody seems to like it!

KoG: What a shame! We did so enjoy your ghastly music! From now on, all who hears your music will be spellbound!

Gupi & Bagha: Thank you, thank you... 

(Scene goes dark)

Act II: Gupi and Bagha go to Shundhi

Narrator: The next morning, our heroes woke up and thought it was all a dream, but the magic shoes were still there. They decided to test the magic, and clapped their left hands together. Lo and behold, a feast appeared! 

After their feast, they packed their meager belongings and left down the road. A little while later, they caught up with a procession led by a famous singer. One of the men in the procession told Gupi and Bagha that they were headed for a competition in the far away country of Shundhi, and Gupi and Bagha decided to take part in it.

(Lights go on. Gupi and Bagha run onstage and clap their left hands.)

Gupi & Bagha: (loudly) Shundhi!

(Gupi and Bagha run off stage. Lights go off.)

Narrator:  Thanks to the King of Ghost’s generous gift, our heroes won the competition. The prize was that they were appointed court musicians.

Shundhi was a large peaceful country. It was so peaceful, its army was actually a huge orchestra! So when the neighboring country, Halla, declared war on Shundhi, the good king was very troubled indeed…

(Lights go on. King of Shundhi, Gupi, and Bagha enter)

KoS: (worried) My musicians, I have some very bad news. My little brother, the ruler or Halla, has declared war on our precious country. (Shows scroll) He has sent me this scroll, which says that he will be attacking us in three days’ time. You know as well as I do that we are unprepared. None of my ministers know what to do about this.

Gupi: That’s a big problem. What do you want us to do about it?

KoS: Nothing, nothing. I was just letting you know, so that you can escape our country before it is crushed to smithereens.

(Gupi and Bagha look at each other and grin)

Bagha: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Gupi: Probably not.

Bagha: Oh, shut up. (To KoS) Your Majesty, I have a plan! Gupi and I will go and bring your brother right here, so you can knock some sense into him!

Text Box: (Together)KoS: You!?

Gupi: Us!?

Bagha: (glares at Gupi) Yes, your majesty.

KoS: (sighs unhappily) I suppose it’s the only thing to do. Very well, you have my permission, but do be careful.

(Exit King of Shundhi)

Gupi: You know, I think I’m going to like this. Finally, an adventure!

(Gupi and Bagha clap hands)

Gupi & Bagha: Halla!

(Scene goes dark)

Act III: Halla

Narrator: Gupi and Bagha reach Halla quickly, but unfortunately they land a few miles from the palace. Our Heroes make their way toward the palace. Using their spellbinding music, they manage to gain entrance to the courtroom…


(Light returns. Gupi and Bagha creep into the courtroom.)

Gupi: Well, we’re in here at last! (Looks around) It’s not as nice as Shundhi, is it?

Bagha: Of course it isn’t! Didn’t you see all those half-starved people living in huts on the way here? Do you think you’d see that in Shundhi?

Gupi: Of course not! Shundhi is a great place, not like here--

Bagha: (interrupts) Shh!

Gupi: What?

Bagha: I hear footsteps. Let’s hide.


(Gupi and Bagha hide behind throne. King of Halla runs in shouting, laughing demoniacally. Minister follows. KoH leaps onto throne.)

KoH: (shouting gleefully) War is on its way! War! War! I can smell the blood already, ahaha!!!!

(to Minister) When does war start, huh?

Minister: (nervous) Um, three days, your Majesty.


Minister: (Gulps) Yes, your Majesty. It’s the normal amount of time we give a country before we plunder and pillage our way--

KoH: I know that, you fool of a minister! But why bother waiting?!?

Minister: I, um, I don’t follow.

(KoH leaps off his chair and pins the hapless Minister to a wall.)

KoH: Listen, I’ll spell it out nice and easy. (Shouting) Why wait three days to attack a country with no real army or weapons or anything when we could take it right now, this very second?

Minister: (afraid) Your Majesty, please, it’s courtesy! Don’t hurt me!

(KoH releases Minister and gnashes his teeth together evilly.)

KoH: I hate courtesy. We leave tomorrow at dawn. Get the army of Halla ready!

Minister: Y-yes, your Majesty.

KoH: And stop stammering, you worm!

Minister: (nods) Yes, Your Majesty!

(KoH growls and sweeps out of the room. Minister visibly relaxes, his face gains a sullen expression and he begins to pace. After a while he pauses.)

Minister: (loudly) Borfi! Borfi!

(Borfi shuffles into the hall cackling)

Minister: Take a seat! 

(Borfi sits, cackling. Minister sits in throne.)

Minister: Stop that cackling, it’s putting me off!

(Borfi gives one extra-loud cackle, and becomes quiet).

Minister: That’s better. Now, we’ve got things to talk about, magician. Firstly, the King’s medicine is running out. He has not been tyrannical or violent enough recently. He was, in fact, horribly tame today. How long will it take you to get more medicine for him?

(Borfi cackles a bit and throws a bag at the Minister. The Minister misses, and picks it up from the floor. He looks in it.)

Minister: Ah, more medicine! Wonderful, wonderful. I’ll put this in a safe place. (Conceals the bag on his own person.) Now, the second matter: The people in Halla are starving. Even the army is weak and hungry. It’s so famished, in fact, that it won’t get up to fight. Can you do anything about those worthless people?

(Borfi cackles and makes signs at Minister. The Minister looks shocked.)

Minister: You only have two spells left before dying? Does magic work that way?

(Borfi nods and cackles)

Minister: I had no idea… still, the country’s fate is more important than you, and I do need all those riches and products from Shundhi. Do you have enough magic to get the army going?

(Borfi nods more and cackles louder.)

Minister: Very well, then. Go. Come to the palace gate before sunrise tomorrow for your instructions.

(Borfi nods and cackles. He gets up and bows to the Minister, and then shuffles out of the room the way he came in. He pauses at the door and makes some signs pointing towards the chair.)

Minister: What? There’s someone hiding in this room?

(Borfi nods, cackles, and raises two fingers. Then he leaves. Minister looks behind the throne. Gupi and Bagha jump out.)

Minister: Trespassers! Guards!

(Guards rush in.)

Gupi: (To Guards) Stop, stop, stop! (To Minister) You stop!

            “Oh, Minister man, you sinister man,


            You sit there making evil plans inside of your head.

            Evil plans that will leave all the innocents all dead.

            But tomorrow morning all your plans will drop.

            Your plans, you will see, will all be shot!

All shot! So stop!

            So Minister man, you better stop!

Oh, Minister man, we’ve heard your evil plans,

Oh, Sinister man, we’ve heard your evil plans,

And they all will be shot. So stop!

Bagha: (loudly during long note at the end of song) Keep singing!

Gupi: I can’t! Drum at them!

(Bagha drums.)

Gupi: Keep drumming. I’ll sing and look for the medicine!

Bagha: (drums intro to song) You do that!

Gupi: (searches while singing)

            “Once there was a king.

            Once there was a king sitting sadly, sadly.

            And that King, that poor King, felt very lonely, lonely.

            What makes people sad?

            What makes people sad?

            Piles of money rotting slowly,

            Walls of bricks covered with ivy,

            Made him sad, made him sad.

            If that King could leave his palace,

            See his country, leave his terrace,

            He’d be glad, he’d be glad.

            What makes people sad?

            What makes people sad?

            No smiles ‘cos his house is prison,

            Why’s he sad, why’s he sad?    (Finds medicine. They slowly leave during last lines)

If that king could leave his palace,

            See his country, leave his terrace,

            He’d be glad, he’d be glad.”

(Song ends with Gupi and Bagha offstage. Minister and Guards come to life again. Minister storms around angrily.)

(Light goes off)

Act IV: The Beginning and End of the War

Narrator: Just as easily as they had gotten in, our heroes escaped the palace. They spent the night in what had once been a field. They didn’t sleep long, though. They were up before dawn, and hiding near the gate as the Evil Minister and Borfi arrived…

(Light goes on. Minister paces agitatedly. Borfi sits happily in chair, cackling quietly.)

Minister: (furious) I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all. When those two men started their singing yesterday, I just couldn’t move an inch, and neither could the guards. If only I had gotten them. They’d be dead right now! But they got away. (To Borfi) And you know the worst of it? The King heard their singing, and it went right to his brain. There’s not a drop of violence left in him now. He’s like a little child!

(Borfi nods and signs at the Minister.)

Minister: (Even more furious) WHAT? You never told me music was the only weakness of your medicine! Why didn’t you tell me, you fool of a magician?!?

(Borfi shrugs and signs at the Minister. Minister seems to calm down.)

Minister: Oh, so you’ll make him more medicine. Can you do that and still have enough powers left to make the army go?

(Borfi nods.)

Minister: Good. (To Guards) Guards! Bring Borfi’s cauldron!

(Guards bring Borfi’s cauldron. Borfi stands up and mixes things in it, chanting. Then he pulls out the Medicine and puts it in a little bag, which he hands to the Minister with a bow.)

Minister: Very Good. (to Guards) Guards! Take this dingy pot away, and bring me the King!

(Guards take cauldron away. They escort KoH in. KoH sees Minister and rushes at him.)

KoH: (shouting) Minni, Minni, is it my Birthy-day today?

Minister: Um, yes your Majesty.

KoH: (claps hands joyfully) Oh, goody, goody! Whad you get me?

(Minister gives the medicine to the King.)

Minister: Just some Chocolate for our little Majesty.

KoH: Oh, Chockies! Yum, yum!

(KoH tucks into Medicine. He instantly becomes warlike.)

KoH: War, War, Blood, Guts AND Chocolate! This is the  BEST Birthday ever, Ahahahaaah! Let’s trample Shundhi RIGHT NOW, Ahahaha!!!

Minister: You said it, your Majesty! Let’s go get the army!

(KoH, Minister, and Borfi leave. Gupi and Bagha pop out of their hiding place.)

Gupi: Did you hear that, Bagha? They’re going to attack!

Bagha: Of course I heard it, I’m not deaf!

Gupi: What are we going to do?

Bagha:  I don’t know! Think of a plan!

Gupi: You think, too!

Bagha: Ok, I’m thinking, I’m thinking.

(They think.)

Gupi: Ah, I’ve got a plan!

Bagha: Quick, the army’s coming!

Gupi: Let’s hide then, and I’ll tell you.

(They hide again. Minister, KoH, and Borfi return with army. Army promptly sits down and starts dying of hunger.)

KoH: Get up, worthless worms! IT’S TIME FOR WAR, WAR, WAR! AHAHAHA!!!

(King starts kicking soldiers.)

Minister: (To Borfi) You know what to do.

(Borfi salutes, performs spell, and dies. Army leaps to attention.)

KoH: All right! TO SHUNDHI!!!

(Army starts marching. Gupi and Bagha pop up, Bagha drumming, Gupi with a huge tray of food and sweets.)

Gupi: (singing)

“Look at all the soldiers going warring,

Look at all the soldiers going warring,

Many soldiers, tons of soldiers, look at all the soldiers going warring,

A-ha-re, a-ha-re, a-ha-re

Can you go and win a war if your stomach’s small and sore?

Small and sore?

Small and sore?

Empty stomachs all the way! A-ha-re!

Look at all the soldiers going warring,

Look at all the soldiers going warring,

Oh, the land of Halla’s army!

Oh, the land of Halla’s army!

Why do you fight; what are you fighting for?

Why do you want to fight when you know that you you’ll never see daylight?

Why do you want to fight when you know that you you’ll never see daylight?

How can you tempt your fate when all you need is a full plate,

Why do you fight; what are you fighting for?

The King of Halla screams and curses, Minister just fills his purses,

And you all starve and die, and only they are left alive,

Why do you fight; what are you fighting for?

Food, food, lovely food!

Yummy food, yummy food,

Cakes and candies, all the sweets you like!

From the heavens, from the heavens,

From the heavens, from the heavens,

For you!

(Gupi puts the plate of food on the ground and the hungry army falls upon it.)

KoH: (happily) Sweets!!! My Birthday feast!

(KoH falls upon sweets too.)

Gupi: (to Bagha) Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Bagha: You bet!

(Gupi and Bagha each grab one of KoH’s arms, and clap their left hands together.)

Gupi & Bagha: Shundhi!

(Lights go off.)

Act V: Return to Shundhi; The End

Narrator: And so our heroes accomplished their mission and brought the King of Halla back to Shundhi, restoring peace to the warring nations at last!

(Lights go on. Gupi and Bagha are standing in front of the King of Shundhi, holding the King of Halla between them. KoS jumps up from his throne in surprise.)

KoS: (surprised) Gupi, Bagha! You’re all right, and you have brought my brother back!

(KoH looks up from his food. Seeing the KoS, his mouth drops open.)

KoS: (to KoS) Do you remember me? Your big brother?

KoH: Yes, yes, it’s all coming back to me now… My evil Minister and some Magician made me forget everything and think you were my enemy. I can’t believe I fell for their trap! Can you forgive me, brother?

KoS: Of course, it’s all in the past now. Happy Birthday!

(Brothers embrace.)

KoS: Now, to celebrate my brother’s return, we must have a feast!

Bagha: We’re on it!

(Gupi and Bagha clap hands. Feast appears.)

KoH: So I do get a birthday feast! (to Gupi and Bagha) Thank you, Magical Musicians!

(The kings tuck in.)

Bagha: Hey, Gupi, listen to this.

(Bagha whispers to Gupi. Gupi grins.)

Gupi: It sounds good, but will it work?

Bagha: Of course it will, idiot! (to kings) Your Majesties, we have a little thing to ask from you. It’s a matter of payment.

KoS: Why yes, of course we must pay you!

KoH: Yes!

Gupi: Well, it’s not really money we want.

KoS: Oh, I’m so grateful, I’d give you guys anything in my realm!

KoH: Me too, in exchange for some more food!

KoS: (to KoH) Oh, hush. (to Gupi and Bagha) What do you ask of us?

Gupi: Weeeeeel…

Bagha: (interrupts) Have you got any princesses?

KoS & KoH: WHAT?!?!?  (Lights go out)  

Narrator: And they all lived happily ever after.

---The End---

Published in Parabaas, November, 2014

The original story "Gupi Gyne o Bagha Byne" (গুপি গাইন ও বাঘা বাইন) by Upendrakishore Raychaudhury was first published along with several others in the monthly children's magazine Sandesh (সন্দেশ) started by Upendrakishore himself during 1913-1915.

Abridged, dramatized, and re-told in English by Pia Salter-Ghosh. Pia was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, of a Bengali mother and a British father. Her school education... (more)

Illustration, by Dipankar Bhattacharya, is taken from the cover of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne: Magical world of Upendrakishore Roychoudhury translated by Swagata Deb.

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