This film was made between the second and third parts of the Apu trilogy. Where the trilogy shows the gradual breaking up of the simple traditional family life and religion, and their replacement by a more vigorous way of life, Jalsaghar gives a picture of the complete breakdown and final decay overtaking a refined and cultured aristocratic family. The central figure is a once-wealthy landowner whose main interest in life, after the deaths of his wife and son, lies in the performances of music and dancing of the greatest refinement, given in the music room in his decaying mansion. These performances mark progressive stages in the landowner's ruin, as his money-lender neighbour steadily takes over the property. A final superlative performance takes the last of the remaining money, and he leaves his home on his horse to meet his death.
By Western standards, the tempo of the film is slow, and its mood is nostalgic. As do all Indian films, it contains a great deal of music, but in Jalsaghar this traditional ubiquity of music forms an integral part of the story, and is an expressivs contribution to the unfolding of the drama. For these reasons perhaps, the film is regarded as more purely Indian in character by the critics in India, than is the Apu trilogy.