1956, the Cannes Film Festival, a Bengali filmmaker got the award of “Best Human Document” for his low budget film “Pather Panchali”. The greatest film ever made in Indian History of Cinema. A novel turned into a motion frame just became eternal at the hands of legendary film director “Satyajit Ray“.
Produced by the Government of West Bengal, it was a directorial debut for Satyajit. The promising movie brought him fame that lasted until the day he won the Oscar.
The film is an adaptation of the 1929 “Bhibutishan Bandhopadhyay’s” Bengali Novel of the similar name. “Pather Panchali” is the first sequel of “The Apu Trilogy” by Satyajit Ray. It shows the early life of Apu showing his childhood days that he spent with his family in “Nishchindipur”.
If you ask me about the cast and crew, I will say that they were the gems of the film. Who turned them into gems? It was Satyajit Ray, his Midas touch made the amateur and novice actors and his crewmembers get fame for their whole life.
A Frame So Real
Satyajit was strongly influenced by Italian Neorealism, and he impoverished his own lyrical style in the film to give it more depth. It was the first film from India that won major International acclamation, making India proud.
The young protagonist in the film “Apu” (Subir Banerjee) who stays with his father “Harihar Ray” (Kanu Banerjee), mother “Sarbajaya” (Karuna Banerjee) and his elder sister “Durga” (Uma Dasgupta) another member was elderly aunt-in-law “Indir Thakurun” (Chunibala Devi).
A dilapidated family, which runs on a meager income as their father, is a poor priest in the village of “Nishchindipur”. From the beginning of the movie, what we view is the beautiful rural settings. The place is very near to Kolkata, (the then Calcutta) the village is called Boral. I think it’s the location, that has framed the entire movie to have a mass appeal worldwide, making it humanistic and spread the earthly smell.
Let us get a little into the skin of the characters.
Sarbajaya, Apu’s mother, has strong resentment against Aunt Indir, but the old woman is the best partner of young Durga.
Durga is the easy-going girl, but her mischievousness harasses Sarbajaya. As the elder sister to Apu, she nurtures him with motherly affection that he deserves.
A simple source of joy made the duo (Apu and Durga) happy. Cinema exhibits the childhood days of both of them and their activities like running after the candy man, watching “Jatra” (local theater), watching pictures in the bio-scope, finally comes the great scene where they both views a train passing by “Kaash” (a herbaceous flower grown in the autumn ) fields. The remorse stricken scenes follow next where we see Indir Thakurun pass away.
After this Harihar explores outside his village to make some extra earnings, his absence makes the family suffer deeper consequences.
The monsoon appears soon and with the downpour, their house gets the extreme setback, loss of Durga, due to high fever. Harihar returns home making money and faces the reality with a heavy heart. The family decides to leave their very own “Nishchindipur”.
The movie has a lovely ending, No, I am not talking about that slow moving ox-drawn cart rather the snake, which hissed and entered the house of those poor souls.
Why Ray Chooses “Pather Panchali”?
Ray chose the novel practically for two reasons: one because of its humanism and the next is the bitter truth of real life, which he showed through his reels. In English, “Pather Panchali” means “Song of the Road” and I think the title is apt enough to depict the real essence of being a human.
Renoir, the French director was there in Calcutta just before Satyajit began to shoot and he became the source of inspiration for him. Finally, it was the neorealist film Bicycle Thieves, that made his realistic cinema become a success that too with an amateur cast. Apart from the foreign influence, classical Sanskrit dramas do have a good impact on Satyajit.
Renowned Sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar, who featured all the ragas and themes from Indian Classical music, arranged the background score for the movie. “Pather Panchali” was also the first Indian film after independence to receive international critical acclamation. The film received lovely praises from the newspapers and film critics, and got 17 different category awards in various Award ceremonies.
A creation that did justice to the novel in all aspects, I think hardly a director could have done that. Salute to Satyajit the man with the Midas touch and he will remain the legend of Indian Film Industry.