Pather Panchali - A Unbridled Realism


                                    "I watched "Apu Trilogy" recently over a period of three nights, and found my thoughts returning to it during the days. It is about a time, place and culture far removed from our own, and yet it connects directly and deeply with our human feelings. It is like a prayer, affirming that this is what the cinema can be, no matter how far in our cynicism we may stray." -- Roger Ebert (American Movie Critic) 

                                     In 1952, a 31-year-old commercial artist in Calcutta went down to the pawnshop with his wife's jewels. Then he rented a camera, and on the first fine Sunday after that, he rounded up a few actor friends, piled them into a taxi, and headed upcountry to a picturesque village he knew.There, the guy who had never shot a foot of film in his life, shot a movie, which changed the Indian and World cinema. The man : Satyajit Ray, and the movie : Pather Panchali


Plot
       It's a quiet, simple tale, centering on the life of a small family living in a rural village in Bengal. The father, Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee), is a priest and poet who cares more about his writing and spiritual welfare than obtaining wages he is owed. The mother, Sarbojaya (Karuna Bannerjee), worries that her husband's financial weakness will leave her without enough food for her two children, daughter Durga (Uma Das Gupta) and son Apu. Harihar's family often lives on the edge of poverty, coping with the unkind taunts of their neighbors, the burden of caring for an aging aunt (Chunibala Devi), and the terrible aftermath of a natural catastrophe. 

                       Pather Panchali starts slowly, but builds inexorably towards a powerful climax as we come to know, and empathize with, the characters.

Analysis
              Pather Panchali inaugurates Ray’s legendary Apu Trilogy. This first installment introduces us to Apu, an innocent, sensitive Bengali boy. The second installment of the trilogy, Aparajito portrays Apu’s budding adolescence. The third emotionally dominating movie was The World of Apu. Satyajit Ray wields a sure and steady directorial hand. Ray’s imagery, as photographed by Subrata Mitra, has a pure poetic beauty whose rhythms he modulates precisely. He paces his sequences out slowly and surely, then storms us through a emotional and genuine music. Ravi Shankar’s music score throughout the movie is sweet, simple, and devastating. 

                   The effect of Ray's work goes deep and stays with you for a life time. Karuna Banerji is touching as the mother who is most distressed by poverty and Uma Das Gupta as Durga is lovely and sensitive as the girl. Subir Banerji is charming as the small son of the family. 



                    The most extraordinary performer in the film is Chunibala Devi, who plays the deeply wrinkled old aunt. She was 80, when the shooting began. Bigraha (1930) was the the first film in which Chunibala Devi acted. However, after one or two more films she retired as an actress. She was hired for Rs. 20 per day. The old aunt has no home, no possessions except for her clothes and a bowl. She walks from the doorstep of one relative to another, asking "Can I Stay", without any desperation.  

                    Apu's first encounter with death is very childlike-- coming as no surprise to the audience since Auntie hints strongly that she's not long for this world. Apu can only stare at her with mouth open. In reality, Chunibala Devi, died of influenza in the year 1955, before the release of the film.    

                     Ray, touches the souls and minds of viewers, transcending cultural and linguistic barriers. Many viewers complain the movie is paced slowly. But, Pather Panchali would not have been the same experience had material been cut. Each scene builds upon what has come before. Many criticise Ray that, he glorified poverty in his films, but it is illogical as rural India was primarily poor then. Pather Panchali doesn't have a single sequence, where the characters cry loudly, like you see in the mundane and idiotic TV-serials nowadays.



                     Ray might have shown poverty , but he celebrated life, not distress and deprivation. It focusses on the enduring human spirit.  It's the type of film that requires surrender, an acknowledgment that life has its ups and downs. In fact, we all re helpless when presented with a death but what's important is that we continue to try and to live. 

                      Pather Panchali is a cinematic meditation for a true movie-lover.

Pather Panchali - Imdb 

Making of Pather Panchali 

19 comments:

vinay said...

Thanks for reminding...
I mean its been months since I'm waiting to see Apu Trilogy but I never saw. Now I would be watching it soon. :)

Arnab Maity said...

Thanks for this post Arun! I have grown up watching these films and they still have a deep impact on my mind.

KayEm said...

You write the most beautiful and insightful reviews.

Arun said...

@Vinay, Thanks for your comment and watch it soon

@Arnab, Thanks. unlike other movies, this one grows upon you every time you watch

@KayEm, Thanks for your comment

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

Thanks for this nice insight into PP and the trilogy. There is something timeless about these films, and reading this post, I think it is time to watch them over again.

There was something that I wanted to add. Ray was already an avid student of cinema, screenplay, cinematography and editing before he set out to make the film. Additionally, the strength of the story and the absence of a need for a big budget also helped make the film what it became.

I noticed you haven't done a post on Ritwik Ghatak or Mrinal Sen on this blog.

Arun said...

@Subhorup, Thanks for your comment and information. I will surely write about Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen in the future.

Sujatha Sathya said...

very good review

Raj said...

This is a movie that will stay forever in my mind and heart. Sheer genius of Ray. A very nice review. :)

AmitAag said...

Satyajit Rai one of the greatest talents of our times! 'Pather Panchali' one of the greatest movies ever...A Great Review indeed! Thanks!

chitra said...

thanks...! for refreshing lil faded things.
http://chitranavada.blogspot.com

Arun said...

@Sujatha, Thanks for ur comment

@Raj, Thank you. It's a wonderful experience to watch Ray's movies.

Arun said...

@AmitAag,Thanks for your comment sir.

@Chitra, Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment.

Divenita said...

Loved this one. :)

A small grammatical error [an camera]
Must be a camera.
Other than that, this one was flawless. Urges one to watch the movie. :)!

I like the introduction and the way it flawlessly drags into the story and then your thoughts.

Worth learning and emulating.

Arun said...

@Divenita, Thanks for your comment and for pointing out the error. I have changed that.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

Your review forcing me to watch it immediately..:-)..Thanks for sharing..:-)

Arun said...

@Homemaker's Utopia, Thanks for your comment, and do watch it soon.

anu said...

Nice post. :)

Mansi said...

Its been on my to-watch list for quite a while... your review makes me want to watch it NOW!

Thanks for sharing...

cheers!
http://eatpraylovemovies.blogspot.in/

Debashish Saha said...

Pather Pachali had changed my life and my view towards Indian Cinema.. and my one and only inspiration...