Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pather Panchali (1955)

DVD Box - The Apu Trilogy
This film is not in the Empire 500 - it is part of The Apu Trilogy which is in the Empire 500.

Film in black and white. Film is more than 50 years old. Film in Bengali with English subtitles. Film pretty slow going. If you hate any of the above, move onto another post. Pather Panchali is not for you.

Pather Panchali is widely acclaimed for being India's finest cinematic export. Satyajit Ray built his film around the famous Bengali novel of the same name (written by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay). It follows from the birth of Apu and his life in near-poverty in the Indian countryside.

Theatrical Poster
He is accompanied by his Aunt (who is a little crazy), his sister Durga (who acts as his playmate while he is growing up), his mother who looks after the household, and his father who struggles to keep the family alive on a pitiful wage as a poet and priest.

Although the story is a little slow in places, it is almost essential to the story that it be that way. Throughout the film, emotions are high as a number of factors take their toll on the already struggling family. These conditions were not - and in fact are still not - uncommon in India, which makes it easy for the countries audience to relate to. In the West, these conditions are less relatable, but the film still has it's character appeal which has much to do with it's critical acclaim.

The film was made on a budget of around $3,000 - a shoelace budget in comparison to James Cameron's $237,000,000 Avatar. Despite this, Ray makes the most of the scenery he has available - especially during the recreation of the devastating storm. Based on this as well, the actor's wages were low, but it doesn't stop their conveyance of a fabled Indian tale as some of the highest quality I've seen.

A humbling, yet beautiful film.


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