| 1955, India. 115 min, B/W, In Bengali
||Government of West Bengal
|Screenplay & Direction:
||Satyajit Ray, based on the novel "Pather Panchali" by
||Pandit Ravi Shankar
||Merchant-Ivory/Sony Pictures Classics
|Harihar, the Father:
|Sarbajaya, the Mother:
|Durga, young girl:
||Uma Das Gupta
|Indir Thakrun, Old Aunt:
The time is early twentieth century, a remote village in Bengal.The film deals with
a Brahmin family, a priest - Harihar, his wife Sarbajaya, daughter Durga, and his aged
cousin Indir Thakrun - struggling to make both ends meet.
Harihar is frequently away from home on work. The wife is raising her mischievous daughter
Durga and caring for elderly cousin Indir, whose independent spirit sometimes irritates
her... Apu is born. With the little boy's arrival, happiness, play and exploration uplift
the children's daily life.
Durga and Apu share an intimate bond. They follow a candy seller whose wares they can not
afford, enjoy the theatre, discover a train and witness a marriage ceremony. They even
face death of their aunt - Indir Thakrun. Durga is accused of a theft. She fall ill after
a joyous dance in rains of the monsoon. On a stormy day, when Harihar is away on work,
On Harihar's return, the family leaves their village in search of a new life in Benaras.
The film closes with an image of Harihar, wife and son - Apu, slowly moving way in an ox
Pather Panchali is Ray's debut film, and the first film of his 'The
'. The remaining two films of the trilogy, Aparajito
, follow Apu as the son, the man and finally the father. Pather Panchali has
a universal humanist appeal. Though the film deals with the grim struggle for survival
by a poor family, it has no trace melodrama. What is projected in stead is the respect
for human dignity.
The most loveable character is that of Indir Thakrun, an old, cynical, loving and storytelling
aunt of Apu and Durga. It was played by an 80-year-old Chunibala, a retired theatre performer
who relished coming back into the limelight after 30 years of obscurity.
The sequences of Apu and elder sister Durga, exploring their little world and sharing secrets
are most remarkable aspect of the film. These include the scenes of - discovery of train
by Durga and Apu in field of white Kash flowers, the candy seller sequence, and Indir Thakrun's
In the inspired 'candy-seller' sequence, as Durga and Apu secretly relish tamarind paste,
their mother is complaining about hardships to their father. Durga hears a faint bell.
She knows it is the candy-seller. Both go out and look longingly at the the pots with sweets
in them. Durga sends Apu to ask for money from their father. Mother intervenes, and Apu
returns empty handed. But the site of the pot-bellied candy-seller caring two bobbing pots
of sweets is too tempting to resist. Both start following him. A stray dog joins the procession
as it is reflected in a shimmering pond.
The film develops its characters and the atmosphere slowly and resolutely. The narrative
builds up to a powerful climax as we begin to empathise with the characters.
Some critics found the film to be too slow. Satyajit Ray wrote about the slow pace -
"The cinematic material dictated a style to me, a very slow rhythm determined by nature, the landscape,
the country. The script had to retain some of the rambling quality of the novel because that in itself
contained a clue to the authenticity: life in a poor Bengali village does ramble."
Towards the end of the film, after death of Durga, we see Apu brushing his teeth, combing
his hair... going about performing tasks, which would have involved his sister or mother.
Sarbajaya (mother) has a lost look...
Harihar returns, unaware of Durga's death. In a jovial mood he calls out his children.
Without any reaction, Sarbajaya fetches water and a towel for him. Harihar begins to show
the gifts he has brought for them. When he shows a sari that he has bought for Durga, Sarbajaya
breaks down. We hear the high notes of a musical instrument "Tarshahnai" symbolising
her uncontrollable weeping. Realising Durga's loss, Harihar collapses on his wife.
We see speechless Apu, for the first time taking the centre stage in the story. Till now
the story was seen through the point of view of either Sarbajaya or Durga. It is only in
these final moments that we see Apu as an independent individual.
In the USA, Pather Panchali played at the 5th Avenue Playhouse for a record 36 weeks, breaking
the previous record held by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
What others say...
"The first film by the masterly Satyajit Ray - possibly the most unembarrassed
and natural of directors - is a quiet reverie about the life of an impoverished Brahman
family in a Bengali village. Beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love, it brought a
new vision of India to the screen."
- Pauline Kael
"A beautiful picture, completely fresh and personal. (Ray's camera) reaches forward into life, exploring
and exposing, with reverence and wonder."
- Lindsay Anderson
"One of the most stunning first films in movie history. Ray is a welcome jolt of flesh, blood and
- Jack Kroll, Newsweek
" As deeply beautiful and plainly poetic as any movie ever made. Rare and exquisite."
- Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, L.A. Weekly
- President's Gold & Silver Medals, New Delhi, 1955
- Best Human Document, Cannes 1956
- Diploma Of Merit, Edinbugh, 1956
- Vatican Award, Rome, 1956
- Golden Carbao, Manila, 1956
- Best Film and Direction, San Francisco, 1957
- Selznik Golden Laurel, Berlin, 1957
- Best Film, Vancouver, 1958
- Critics' Award - Best Film, Stratford, (Canada), 1958
- Best Foreign Film, New York, 1959
- Kinema Jumpo Award: Best Foreign Film, Tokyo 1966
- Bodil Award: Best Non-European Film of the Year, Denmark, 1966
Other Films of The Apu Trilogy
Other Online Reviews
- Pather Panchali,
by Murali Krishnan
- Pather Panchali,
by Damian Cannon
- Pather Panchali, by
Roshmila Bhattacharya, Screen, Indian Express
- Pather Panchali,
by James Berardinelli
- Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray
Film & Study Collection
- Pather Panchali,
After Derridean Deconstruction, by DR. Arup Ratan Ghosh
- The Apu Trilogy, by
Roger Ebert. March 4, 2001. Chicago Sun Times
- The Apu Trilogy, "Art
wedded to truth must, in the end, have its rewards". by Richard Phillips
- The Apu Trilogy,
by Rob Mackie. March 21, 2003. The Guardian
- The Apu Trilogy, etc.,
by Martin Paule Micro Movie Reviews collection for Shelterbelt Cinema Channel, world
Buy Video (NTSC)
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Sarbajaya, Durga and Harihar ©Teknica
Indir Thakrun, Harihar's aged cousin ©Teknica
Little Durga and Indir Thakrun
Sarbajaya and Indir Thakrun ©Teknica
Sarbajaya, Durga and Apu
Durga and Apu in the field of Kash flowers ©Teknica
Durga and Apu discover train, a sketch by Ray
Durga and Apu discover train
Sarbajaya and Apu
Unaware of Durga's death, Harihar shows Durga's Sari to Sarbajaya,
Sarbajaya breaks down ©Teknica