‘Qala’ is a psychological drama that follows the titular Qala, a renowned late 1930s singer still haunted by events of the past. The film is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Qala Manjushree is shown to be a well-respected singer in the Indian film industry during the late 1930s. When a journalist asks her about her mother attempting to launch her brother in the past, it opens up psychological wounds, as Qala states she is her mother’s only child.
During birth, Qala’s twin brother failed to survive due to a phenomenon where the stronger sibling absorbs nutrients from the weaker one. Her mother, Urmila, had inherently blamed her for this and even thought of killing her in moments of weakness.
However, Qala grew up and Urmila encouraged her to work hard, as it would take a lot for a woman to be successful as a singer compared to a man.
While she was extremely harsh on her, she did want her to succeed. One day, she arranged a performance in front of an audience for Qala. She was informed that a young boy would be the following act.
While Qala’s performance was decent, the boy, named Jagan, completely mesmerised the audience with his voice and vocal abilities, including Urmila.
She claimed that Qala didn’t have what it takes to be a ‘Pandit’, while the boy did. To Qala’s shock, she brought Jagan to their house to live.
Following this, Qala was reduced to playing alongside him and bringing milk for him. She kept yearning for her mother’s attention, and Jagan was sympathetic to her plight.
In the present day, Qala has started breaking down after the interview and is being haunted by visions of Jagan, who claims that all her success should have been his.
She is informed of the death of Chandan Lal Sanyal, a famous playback singer in the film industry, whom she claims to never have sung along. But this is a lie.
In another flashback, Urmila befriends Chandan to help Jagan succeed in the film industry, as he could use his network and find opportunities for him. Urmila also sleeps with Chandan to ensure his support.
Jagan confides this in Qala, but she is only envious of how much her mother is doing for Jagan, while she yearns for the same in her life to make her proud.
The favouritism reaches its peak when Urmila decides to guide Jagan herself while sending Qala to live with another family in an attempt to get her married.
Chandan organises a performance by Jagan in front of an audience from the film industry, including actor Sumant Kumar. However, his voice breaks down midway.
To prevent disappointment within the industry, Chandan asks Urmila to ensure they’re entertained. Qala steps in and impresses everybody present with her song.
Sumant meets Urmila and tells her he was moved by Jagan’s performance and he will be offered a film as soon as he regains his voice. Qala is neglected once again. Although there is a feeling that Jagan might never get his voice back.
To ensure this opportunity doesn’t slip from her hands, Qala sleeps with Sumant, who offers her the chance to sing in a film instead of Jagan.
Urmila is extremely critical of Qala’s predatory move, and how she snatched someone else’s hard-earned opportunity. To Qala’s horror, Jagan commits suicide by hanging himself from a tree due to losing his voice forever.
Qala is asked to leave for Kolkata to record the song. When she informs Urmila, she tells her never to return. Qala bursts out at her mother for never loving her even though she is her own daughter.
It is also revealed that Urmila had to leave music to live the life she has right now, and Qala believes she has been venting out her frustration on her. Urmila does not respond and simply leaves.
Qala arrives in Calcutta for the recording. But she is just unable to get the notes right. Sumant takes her out and asks for sexual favours to give her further chances.
She remembers a conversation with Jagan, where he told her that she should sing for herself, not her mother. With that inspiration, she excels in recording the song.
This propelled her towards her present-day success. Although she had to continue with the sexual favours for Sumant, her writer, Majrooh, ensured her that she would be on top someday and the tables would turn.
In the present, she completely avoids Sumant, who keeps chasing her and claims he is the reason she became successful.
Qala ending explained in detail:
Did Qala inadvertently kill Jagan?
The memories of the past have started taking their toll on Qala. Her attempts to contact her mother for help are ignored, while her health deteriorates.
She is even unable to record songs anymore, as she faces hallucinations of Jagan. During a disturbing interview, she talks to visions of Jagan in front of the journalists, who asks her if she’s happy with living his life.
She replies that she isn’t as her mother is still not with her despite all her success. Urmila listens to the interview, and ponders whether to call her, but ends up refraining.
Qala’s hallucinations reveal a dark secret. She mixed mercury in a glass of milk that she gave to Jagan, which resulted in him losing his voice, and indirectly, his suicide.
Does Urmila warm up to her daughter?
With Qala’s condition worsening by the day, the doctor calls Urmila to inform her that her daughter is losing mental stability and recently attempted suicide.
She remembers her daughter’s pleas for help. Finally, Urmila decides to be at her daughter’s side, unable to see her fall down this tragic pit. She travels to Qala’s home.
Upon her arrival, the doctor asks for permission to move Qala to a psychiatric ward to help her regain mental stability, but Urmila rejects this and states that she will take her daughter home with her.
Does Qala die at the end?
Alas, this is far too little, too late. When Urmila finds Qala, she has already hung herself to death, leaving her distraught. She looks at her daughter’s records and remembers her. A montage of Qala is then shown, at the end of which, she bids farewell.
She was finally about to reunite with her mother but never did. Ultimately, the years of neglect she faced resulted in her undoing.
Urmila, on the other hand, couldn’t save either of her ‘children’ and was potentially the reason for their deaths. Her remorse came too late to change anything.