Pather Panchali (1955)    3 Stars



Pather Panchali (1955)
Pather Panchali (1955)


Director: Satyajit Ray

Cast: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Subir Banerjee

Synopsis: Impoverished priest Harihar Ray, dreaming of a better life for himself and his family, leaves his rural Bengal village in search of work.






Pather Panchali is one of those movies that, as a lover of film, I felt obliged to watch because of its status in film history rather than any real burning desire on my part. That’s what is so wonderful about cinema – it can surprise and beguile you when you least expect it. Pather Panchali, although steeped in Indian culture, tells a universal story of the human condition. Apu (Subir Bannerjee) is the only son of an impoverished family whose father must leave home for months in order to find work. While he is gone life grows even harder for his wife and two children, Apu and his older sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta).

Pather Panchali won’t appeal to all tastes. It’s nothing like the ultra-colourful Bollywood output we’re all familiar with to some degree today. No songs or dances, for a start. Instead, it is a measured, contemplative reflection on the beauty that can be found in the world regardless of the hardship of life. Subrata Mitra’s reflective camera dwells on something as mundane as gnats skimming across water, for example, and by forcing the viewer’s attention in the desired direction, somehow turns them into things of beauty. Similarly, the close relationship between Apu and his ill-fated sister, while as understated as the rest of the film, is both heart-warming and devastating. Definitely one to catch if you can – even if it doesn’t really appeal at first glance.

(Reviewed 1st March 2012)

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