Art&Film 1/20 – Pather Panchali

Friday, January 20th at Randall Museum (199 Museum Way) will be:

Sayajit Ray’s PATHER PANCHALI (1955, India)

The debut film from India’s most famous director was made with few funds and loads of talent and faith. It takes two children in rural India through their childhoods and into adolescence, capturing the atmosphere and rhythms of daily life with exquisite detail. Another genuine masterpiece you’ll be glad you didn’t miss.

This is the first film of the famous Apu Trilogy, but it also holds up on its own. The characters, mother, father, grandmother and neighbors, rich and poor, are brilliantly etched. You feel you are visiting India and are vividly a part of the images, the rituals, the texture of daily life and this bonds you to the the characters. It is an old fashioned “story film” as good as they come.

Ray studied painting and art history at the University of Calcutta. He started his career as an illustrator; one of the books he illustrated, 
Pather Panchali, left a deep impression on him. He dreamed of filming it but in 1940’s India being a film maker was an unattainable dream. In 1950 he visited London and while there saw a film by Vittorio De Sica called The Bicycle Thief. This classic neo-realist film was filmed on location with non-actors, and on a tiny budget. Ray was so moved and excited, he returned to India and tried to raise money for his film. Unsuccessful, he nonetheless began filming with friends on weekends with the encouragement of a French film maker, Jean Renoir, who was in India making a film. To fund the film, he spent his salary and sold all his possessions. He was in despair, almost at the point of abandoning the project, when the Bengal government stepped in and gave him money to finish it.

The story of the making of this film is an inspiration to all desperate young filmmakers. In 1955, Pather Panchali was shown at the Cannes Festival and caused a sensation. It introduced Indian cinema to the West and won the Jury prize. Encouraged, Ray went on to complete the trilogy with Aparajito and The World of Apu. He continued making masterful humanist films about India for the next thirty years, and was given an honorary Academy Award the year of his death in 1992.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s