Saturday, January 19, 2008

‘Pather Panchali’ (Song of the Little Road)

Today I watched the Satyajit Ray classic ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song of the Little Road) for the very first time. It is based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s novel of the same name. Now I know what all the hype is all about. I was on purpose postponing viewing this famed movie, perhaps building up expectations and for sure I can confess: I wasn’t disappointed. It is undoubtedly one of the best films ever made, a brilliant almost lyrical exposition of a rather poor family in a village, in the hinterlands of Bengal.

Here was a film, back when it was made, with no melodrama, no violence, no romance or song and dance sequences, simple and plain. An uncomplicated, unadulterated straight-forward story, told from the depths of the heart, yet very potent and full of analogies and with a focus on the human condition of poverty. The screenplay is beautiful and evokes a sense of warmth within – for example, at times, you almost feel you want to hug Apu!



The little Durga and later the grown up one, both have a slightly different feel to them. The little Apu and his elder sister Durga when younger are both so cute and childish, though when Durga grows up she is portrayed as a bit more mischievous although playful as ever. Apu is more of a good boy character, inquisitive and bright! Indirthakuron, the aged, old lady also plays a crucial though side-role throughout the movie. The solid performances by the central characters of husband and wife are played out very emotively and there is hardly any form of exaggeration except perhaps sometimes when the wife admonishes the old lady!

I felt the most tragic scene was the one in which Harihar gets a sari for his daughter Durga and his wife Sarbajaya grabbing the same and unable to control herself, breaks down crying and collapses on the floor - as Durga has died only a few days back due to a prolonged illness; at this point Harihar shocked, eyes wide, gives a loud cry of extreme grief and excruciating pain. Almost undoubtedly your eyes will well up with tears at this scene, especially if you are watching it for the first time, I guess.

Even though a tragic movie at its core, it is laced with instances of subtle humour at various points, highlighting the aspects of poverty, family, death, and essentially life – the film leaves you experiencing a strange sense of joy and is extremely thought-intensive. You cannot but appreciate the maestro that was Satyajit Ray!

A must, must, must watch!

More in-depth article from the SatyajitRay.org website.

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